Apple Favors Podcasts with Subscriptions for Promotion, Study Reveals

Apple Podcasts favors promoting subscriptions
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Apple Podcasts favors promoting subscriptions
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Photo Credit: Apple Podcasts

A new study reveals that Apple is giving preferential treatment to podcasts taking part in its Podcasts Subscriptions revenue share program, rolled out in 2021 for shows to monetize bonus episodes and other special content.

Last week, five of the podcasts promoted on Apple Podcasts’ “browse” carousel were participating in the company’s Apple Podcasts Subscriptions. The program was introduced in 2021 to enable podcasts to monetize bonus segments, episodes, and other special content for listeners.

According to an independent podcast executive who spoke to Semafor, when asked how best to promote a show in the carousel, leaders at Apple suggested taking part in the revenue share-based subscription program.

While reportedly not “a huge moneymaker,” several podcast executives said that it was worth participating in the Apple Podcasts Subscriptions program just for the carousel placement, to which users’ eyes are immediately drawn upon opening their podcast feed.

Apple’s podcast team chooses which shows will be included in the carousel slots, and some of them are not participants in the company’s revenue share program. Nevertheless, since launching the program in 2021, Apple has directed many podcast teams down that route.

According to one Apple exec who spoke with Semafor, the Apple Podcasts app is designed to “offer more features to shows that opt into Apple’s subscription product,” such as reserving carousel slots for them at the top of the feed.

Apple isn’t the top dog in the podcast game by far, but between the heavily saturated podcast market and the clean aesthetic of the Apple Podcasts home page, promotional real estate is at a premium. That makes the carousel at the top of the “browse” landing page one of the primary vehicles available for shows on the platform.

In exchange for the preferential banner space, Apple takes a 30% cut of subscriber revenue in the first year a show is part of the program, then 15% each subsequent year. As a result, the carousel space is one of the few incentives for shows to use the service; those rates are far higher than competitors.

Patreon, who has a partnership with Spotify, takes only a 5-12% revenue cut, while Substack, who also has a budding podcast business, takes a 10% cut.