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Welcome, Apple, to Subscription Podcasting

Paying for podcast content is about to go mainstream. But who will own your subscribers?

April 20, 2021
Jason Sew Hoy

The giant has awoken.

After giving wings to the podcast ecosystem with iTunes in 2005, Apple has been seemingly happy to let podcasting do it’s own thing, with all the innovation coming from smaller players and more recently, from Spotify.

Well today, as Tim Cook announced, “Apple leads the next chapter of podcasting with Apple Podcasts Subscriptions”.

Apple's entrance into subscription podcasting is great news for the podcast ecosystem.

You can bet Apple will have a streamlined subscription process and it looks like they're creating a new marketplace for paid podcasts, which will benefit early creators as potential subscribers flood into the store.

But there are a few catches for podcasters.

  1. Your subscribers will have to use Apple Podcasts (sorry Android users)
  2. You won’t own your customers, or have access to their names and email addresses.
  3. You’ll be giving away up to 30% in fees.
  4. You probably can’t include any non-audio benefits (newsletter, merch, community) as part of your premium offering.

These drawbacks aren’t to be taken lightly.

We only have to look at Shopify vs Amazon to see the pitfalls of not owning the customer relationship.

Shopify knew early on that Amazon wasn’t going to be a fit for all the sellers in the world. While Amazon brings you customers, makes payment 1-click and even handles all your fulfillment and customer service, you pay a price for that convenience. 

And it’s not just the fees.

Amazon owns the customer. 

As a seller, it’s tough to develop any kind of loyalty or repeat purchase behavior when you don’t even have the emails of your customers. Amazon has the customer relationship, the credit card and all the power. It’s their brand that’s always at the forefront, not yours.

Shopify however, empowers sellers to create direct relationships with their customers and do everything under their own brand. No intermediary, no gatekeeper, no one to pull the rug out from beneath you. Every customer you win is a customer you keep for life.

Want to send out a newsletter? Launch a new product? Wish people happy birthday? 

When you own the customer relationships, anything is possible.

It’s no wonder that Shopify is the platform of choice for successful ecommerce brands, big and small.

Need another example? Just look at Disney+. When their movies were on Netflix, they were sending all their best content—and their customers—straight into the hands of a new competitor. After seeing the error of their ways, they launched Disney+ and have already surpassed their 2024 target of 90 million subscribers.

Bottom line: When you own the customer relationships, you’re in control.

The future of podcasting has never looked brighter.

A healthy podcast ecosystem depends on the creators who underpin it being able to make a sustainable living from their craft. And not just the Joe Rogans at the top, who can do exclusive licensing deals with Spotify for $100 million (though we think Joe could have done better).


As we've discovered helping podcasters like Sam Harris, Dr. Peter Attia, and Shane Parrish, paid subscription is a beautiful business model that creates strong alignment with your audience, because you’re giving them more of what they want: access to you and your content.

The top 10 creators on Supercast now gross a combined $9M+ annually and it has transformed their businesses.

Apple validating podcast subscriptions is a huge step forward in helping all podcasters understand the importance of diversifying their revenue.

Your true fans want more. 

And they'll pay for it.

The big question is:

Will they be your customers or Apple’s customers?

Choose wisely.

P.s. If you want to pay 30-70% less in fees, own the entire customer relationship and attract subscribers no matter which player they use, we’d love to chat. You can find us at hello@supercast.com. There's plenty more to talk about!

Jason Sew Hoy

CEO at Supercast and host of the Supercasters podcast. A Kiwi living in the US who stubbornly refuses to give up his accent.
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