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March 10, 2021, 11:36 a.m.
Mobile & Apps
LINK: podnews.net  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   March 10, 2021

On Apple Podcasts, listeners will now be prompted to “follow” — rather than “subscribe” — to their favorite shows.

Podnews, which first reported the change, noted that the terminology was confusing to listeners, who hear “subscribe” and think “not free.”

Tom Webster from Edison Research says 47% of people who don’t currently listen to podcasts think that ‘subscribing’ to a podcast will cost money, describing it as a stone in the shoe of podcasting’s growth run. He tells Podnews: “Today, Apple, Spotify, and YouTube are the three most widely used services to play podcasts, and now the word Subscribe means ‘automatically download for free’ in exactly none of them. Podcasters will have no choice but to adapt their language accordingly or risk confusing listeners.”

With so many news organizations pushing readers to “subscribe,” it’s not terribly surprising that people have come to associate the word with coughing up some cash. The change will appear in iOS 14.5, scheduled to be released later this month.

The Podcasts app, a default for many iPhone users, is currently the most popular choice for U.S. listeners. Apple’s share of podcast listenership has dropped from 34% in 2018 to 27.6% in 2020, however, and Business Insider’s eMarketer recently forecast it’ll be surpassed by Spotify — which has been investing in exclusive content and podcast technology left and right — within the year.

Other apps have already introduced similar language. Spotify and Audible use “follow,” Stitcher uses “+ follow,” and Amazon Music uses “♡ follow,” noted Podnews. (Google Podcasts, Castbox, Overcast, and Castro still use some version of “subscribe.”)

But is this merely a tweak in language? Or setting up Apple Podcasts to roll out paid podcast content in the future?

Currently, Apple doesn’t support paid subscriptions and doesn’t allow shows to charge people to download episodes. (Podcasters can get around the model by creating private feeds that they open to Patreon donors or other paying subscribers.) For such a seemingly small change, the news caught a lot of people’s attentions.

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