If you notice a change of language the next time you add a series in Apple Podcasts, you won't be alone. Podnews and 9to5Mac report that Apple is changing the option to "subscribe" to a podcast to "follow" as of iOS 14.5 and its iPadOS counterpart While Apple hasn't explained the change (we've asked Apple for comment), it's likely a simple matter of perception. "Subscribe" implies that you're paying a recurring cost, and that might put off new listeners who might not realize most podcasts are free. Nearly half of people who don't listen to podcasts think it will cost money, Edison Research's Tom Webster found. Apple isn't first to use "follow" language.
With so many podcasts out there, how can anyone manage them all? Luckily, there are a number of great iOS apps out there to help in that department. I'll break down some of the best podcast apps available on iOS. To be honest, the podcasting game is still begging to be reinvented, so while the apps listed are all great in their own right, there's no single standout platform. However, each recommended app does have its own unique style and set of features.
"With Apple making its move into subscription, there is this platform war emerging," said Josh Lindgren, head of Creative Artists Agency's podcast department. Podcasting, already on a tear before the coronavirus pandemic, exploded in popularity during the lockdown, and is on track to bring in more than $1 billion in revenue this year from advertising in the U.S. for the first time. An estimated 116 million Americans, or 41% of the U.S. population over the age of 12, are now monthly podcast listeners, an 11% increase over 2020, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital. For years, competition in podcasts has been a lopsided one: Apple--responsible for the namesake of the industry, a portmanteau of "iPod" and "broadcast"--enjoyed its status as the default destination for listening while doing relatively little to enhance offerings or profits. Spotify, meanwhile, has lavished hundreds of millions on popular creators and companies--sparking an arms race among iHeartMedia Inc., Audacy Inc. (formerly Entercom), Sirius XM Holdings Inc., and Amazon.com
Some are calling it the second golden age of audio. Podcasting, once viewed as a niche industry that catered to public radio fans, got a major boost this month when Swedish streaming giant Spotify agreed to pay around $230 million for Gimlet Media, the New York producer of such audio dramas as "Homecoming" and the documentary series "Crimetown." The deal -- the largest to date -- comes during a period of rapid growth in podcasting and could transform the industry in much the same way that Netflix changed television, analysts and executives said. Spotify's foray into the business is expected to bolster the value of podcast firms, generate higher licensing fees for producers, and potentially create a more consumer-friendly model built around subscriptions rather than advertising revenue. "It sends a signal that podcasting's time has come in a big way," said Kelli Richards, chief executive of All Access Group, a digital music and entertainment consultancy.
Paid podcasts are coming to Apple. However, the new subscription service is missing something crucial. At Apple's big 420 event this week, the biggest player in the podcast distribution space announced that creators will be able to sell subscriptions to their shows right on Apple Podcasts as early as next month. As interesting as Apple's platform looks (and we'll get to that in a second), there's a major component it's lacking: The company will not be providing podcast creators with their subscribers' details. That means no names, no emails, no way to reach out to subscribers outside of the podcast content.