The mixed up world of podcast subscriptions

Apple has just launched subscriptions in the Podcast app and at first I was sceptical. This scepticism comes from the thought that podcasts, just like the internet, should be free. I am not saying that this view is correct, but it is a hard sell to people like me who have listed to thousands of hours of podcasts for free.

I have learned to live with adverts and all podcast apps, including the Apple offering, include skip buttons anyway so it is not a huge deal to listen to a few ads as a price for the amount of entertainment and education on offer.

On Apple Podcasts you get to subscribe to publishers which can include a number of podcasts without adverts for a monthly charge. This is fine, but the randomness of the value on offer is concerning. I found one publisher that offer 4 podcast episodes a week for £4.99/month which seems high to me and other publisher’s content is all over the place in terms of volume and pricing. Potentially you could spend a lot of money if you like the content from a few publishers and you have to remember that you are merely removing adverts on the whole with some offering exclusive content to subscribers.

It gets more complex when I look at Wondery, who offers lots of fantastic content, because there is no subscription offering. You can, however, download the Wondery app and pay £34.99/year for 14,000 ad-free episodes, early access to some content and exclusive content that can be binged immediately. Wondery is an exception because the content is superb, but you can only listen in the app and so you would have to use at least two podcast apps to listen to paid and free content.

The complexity gets higher if you have a preferred podcast app that is not made by Apple. You could be in a position where you have to user a publisher’s app to access subscribed content, Apple Podcasts for other subscribed content and then your preferred podcast app to listen to free shows in the way that you want, and on your Apple Watch.

Apple changed how we buy software and took the hassle away from the process (not convinced that is worth 30% of a developer’s income though), but for podcasts it is entering an uncontrolled market that will only get more confused through subscription models.

My advice at this time would be to not subscribe, live with the adverts and enjoy the content. When this mess is sorted out it could be well worth a monthly subscription or two.

UPDATE: You can listen to Wondery+ content in other podcast apps (help article), but the process is a bit of a bind. You need to go to the Wondery app, find the podcast, tap a link, open it in the other app and then subscribe. It’s hardly the end of the world, but it does highlight the manual nature of subscribed podcasts today. Also, Wondery is being sold to Amazon so not sure where that leaves subscribers either…

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