Apple and Spotify podcast war

Alas, it’s not all fluffy painted unicorns among large gajillion-dollar mega-corporations. According to Josh Lindgren, new podcasting department head at Creative Artists Agency, “there is a platform war emerging.” Apple and Spotify are essentially headed for Podcast Smackdown! And Lindgren’s saying, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

Why are Big Apple and Big Spot headed for the squared podcast circle?

Cash, of course—and lots of it! Seems there’s gold in them thar podcast hills!

According to Insider Intelligence, advertisers will spend $1 billion on podcast ads by the end of 2021. Why are they planning to spend large? Because podcast audiences got large.

Roughly 28% of Americans over age 12 now listen to weekly podcasts, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital. That’s an 11% growth in podcast listenership over 2020, all driven by the pandemic.

When you’ve got that kind of festival-size audience, it was inevitable that companies would shift their ad spend away from radio and direct it into podcast ads. With a billion-dollar pie baking in the oven, Spotify and Apple are basically in a shoving match to grab the biggest slice, and right now, Big Apple and Big Spot are evenly matched.

One-time reigning champ Apple used to dominate podcasting by default when they first introduced the iPod (where the “pod” in “podcasting” comes from). Then Spotify showed up in the contender’s trunks, and now they have roughly 28 million monthly podcast listeners apiece, according to Statista.

So, what are their plans to wear the podcast belt?

Last April, Apple announced a new paid podcast subscription service—Apple Podcasts for Creators—that “deepens its competition with Spotify,” according to The Wall Street Journal. For $19.99 per year, podcast creators can offer listeners premium subscriptions. By providing podcast creators with revenue tools, Apple hopes to retain existing podcast producers and attract new ones away from Spotify, like a record label trying to attract new talent while keeping their existing roster happy. In exchange for the service (per The Hustle), “Apple takes 30% of subscription revenue in year 1 and 15% thereafter.”

Spotify similarly introduced new podcast creator tools for show producers to earn revenue through paid subscriptions, plus an attractive offer that falls under the category Switch and Save! As announced by Spotify in April 2021, “For the next two years, this program will come at no cost to the creator, meaning that participating creators receive 100% of their subscription revenues (excluding payment transaction fees.” Spotify also said they’d only introduce a 5% fee for creators starting in 2023.

What does this mean for podcast creators?

Deals, tools, and perks aside, it means careful consideration.

Apple and Spotify have both set out some enticing podcast buffets and they both want you to dig in. Yet they want many (if not all) podcast creators to dig in, and unless you’re the Kardashians or Joe Rogan, the “arms race in the podcast content field” can only create more competition on Apple and Spotify for podcast creators who don’t have their own UFC or TV show stardom behind them to attract listeners, sell subscriptions, and make Apple and/or Spotify fees and payouts worth it.

So, the competition question becomes the central one for any podcast creator:

  • Are fees and payouts for a paid subscription service worth it to you?
  • Are they worth your time (which has value) to try to cut through platform clutter and noise to get noticed?

Apple and Spotify certainly have an American Idol allure and having one or both as a broadcast channel can feel like high marquee value, but they are not promoters. All that time, trouble, and potential cost to get noticed falls to you. Does the expense feel like it’s worth it?

Making an honest assessment of this question will help you decide whether to add paid Apple and/or Spotify subscriptions to your podcast channel mix or leave one or both to another time that makes better sense to you.

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>> Are you a podcaster who also offers audio engineering? Read our recent blog, Opportunity Report: 78% of Companies Now Ready to Invest More into Audio.

>> Are you someone who’s been tempted by those sponsored posts that basically go, “Get your music heard on official Spotify playlists by paying us!” Before you consider shelling out one penny, read Spotify Sets the Record Straight on Pay-for-Play Scams.