Although podcasts are widely available on Android and PC, the medium has a special link to Apple. Even the word 'podcast,' first coined in 2004, exists because of the overwhelmingly popularity of the top selling mp3 player of the time, Apple's iPod.
Now it appears that Apple is considering taking its relationship with podcasting to the next level, as both Bloomberg and The Information (opens in new tab) have independently reported that the company is considering a premium service that charges people to listen to original podcasts.
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The details aren't exactly clear, and while a straight subscription service is one option, The Information report states that it's possible that the company could charge for individual podcasts, giving "creators a chance to make more money," which could in turn entice them to provide exclusivity. Other possibilities include bonus content or a scenario where paying members could get episodes before non-paying fans.
Whatever form it takes, it's far from a done deal. As Bloomberg originally wrote: "it’s unclear when — or whether — Apple will launch the new service," adding that "Apple mulls over many ideas for media services and doesn't always proceed with them." Since publication, the report has been updated to suggest a 2021 launch, so perhaps it's more definite than originally thought.
While it's true that Spotify’s exclusive podcasts — such as The Joe Rogan Experience — require Spotify membership, that model also covers all the music you can listen to. Amazon owned Audible also has original podcasts for paying subscribers customers, but that’s more of an added bonus for people who enjoy getting a new audiobook each month. For that reason, it might make sense for Apple to include whatever shows it likes in its Apple One pass, where all its subscriptions are bundled together.
Still, the news will alarm Spotify, where shares fell by more than 7% on the news emerging, according to Bloomberg. The Swedish music streaming company has spent millions of dollars on podcasts in recent years, not just in making Rogan an exclusive but also purchasing networks Gimlet Media (Reply All, Crimetown) and The Ringer (The Bill Simmons Podcast, Binge Mode) and Parcast (Crime Countdown, Unsolved Murders). It also purchased Anchor FM — a podcast creation and distribution platform — back in 2019.
If Bloomberg is correct, we should find out this year if Spotify has anything to worry about.