What You Should Know About Making Money With Apple Podcast Subscriptions

Apple recently announced the addition of paid content subscriptions to its popular Apple Podcasts platform, allowing content creators to offer  listeners several types of premium audio content.

Read on to learn:All the bells and whistles that come with Apple Podcast Subscriptions, from free trials to supported types of paid content.What participating in Apple Podcast Subscriptions costs and how to decide if it’s right for you.How to set up a paid podcast with Apple, whether or not you use a third-party hosting service.

Apple Podcast Subscriptions is the next step in Apple’s growing services revenue efforts (following the launch of AppleTV+ in late 2019), and it opens the door for podcasters to make money from the content they create without requiring a lot of technical know-how.

That said, participation in the new Apple Podcasters Program is not cheap — on top of a $19.99/year flat fee, Apple takes up to a 30% cut of subscription revenue. And there are several important things to understand before you put all of your premium content eggs into Apple’s basket.

Let’s take a closer look at Apple Podcast Subscriptions, how it works, and how to decide if it’s right for your podcast:

What Apple Podcast Subscriptions can do

At its core, Apple Podcast Subscriptions is a platform for uploading and restricting subscriber-only audio content, and there are a handful of subscriber benefits that you can offer:Ad-free episodesBonus/additional episodes that are not available to free listenersEarly access to episodes, before they are available for freeSubscriber-only shows with 100% paid contentAccess to past episodes, which would disappear from the free feed after a time

Creators can set their own pricing for subscriptions, including a monthly and optional annual price. The platform also allows you to set up a free trial for a duration of time ranging from three days to one year.

If you already publish ad-supported content on Apple Podcasts, you can continue to do so without interruption. Creators keep 100% of ad and sponsorship revenue. Just remember — if you offer ad-free listening as a subscriber benefit, you may need to adjust your sponsorship agreements based on the decrease in ad-supported downloads.

On the listener’s end, there have been a few changes to the Apple Podcasts platform. The old “subscribe” button has been replaced by “follow,” clarifying the difference between free and paid content. 

New channel pages display subscription information, and creators can even upload a custom promotional banner that non-subscribers will see if they try to access paid content.

How to know if Apple Podcast Subscriptions is right for your content

All of these new features sound great, but it’s important to understand the cost and read the fine print before signing up.

My take: The Apple Podcaster Program is probably best for creators who don’t have the time, money or ability or set up their own platform. 

We’ll dig a little deeper to see why.

It’s expensive — Apple vs. other paid podcast platforms

Ease of setup is a huge selling point here — your time as a creator is valuable! But Apple’s costs are significantly higher than comparable membership and subscription platforms that have been in the game for much longer.

In order to offer subscriber content on Apple Podcasts, you have to sign up for the Apple Podcasters Program, which costs $19.99 (US) per year. On top of that, Apple takes a 30% commission on every subscription payment for the first year, which then drops down to 15% after the subscriber has accumulated one year of paid service.

This is the same pricing structure that Apple uses in its App Store. I’ll be blunt: I think the pricing is obnoxious. 

For the sake of comparison, let’s use the Build Something Club’s pricing model of $5/month and say we have 100 subscribers. With Apple Podcasts, $1.50 per subscriber would go to Apple each month, or $150 in total. With those 100 subscribers, I would be sending Apple $1,800 in commission in the first year.

Memberful, which is one of the platforms I considered when I created the Build Something Club, offers a basic set of features for $0/month with a 10% transaction fee, or a pretty robust plan for $25/month plus 4.9% of transactions — plus payment fees from Stripe. Using the same example of the Build Something Club, I could keep much more of the $5/month fee, and I’d have to pay Memberful about $65/month with either the free or paid plan.

Likewise, Patreon, which has been in the premium content game for a long time, takes a 5-12% cut based on your selected plan, plus payment processing fees. During my failed Patreon experiment, I tended to pay somewhere between 10% and 15% in total, which would cost $50-75/month given our example.

As an experienced developer, I chose to set up my own membership platform using several complementary tools, but that won’t be a feasible option for everyone. 

Both Patreon and Memberful offer easy, non-technical setup for at least half the price compared with Apple’s new subscription program.

You’ll still need to pay for podcast hosting

It’s important to remember that Apple Podcasts is just one of many popular podcast platforms, and recent statistics indicate less than 50% of listeners use Apple to access their podcasts. 

So while offering premium content exclusively on Apple may be a great choice, choosing not to publish your free content on other platforms could mean leaving money on the table. And this means you’ll need to calculate the cost of a podcast host like Castos into your total budget.

One interesting note: Apple’s subscriber content is uploaded directly to Apple Podcasts Connect (more on that below), so it’s possible that you could host your content on Apple directly if that is the only platform where you want your podcast to be available. 

More from the fine print

If you take a close look at the Apple Podcasters Program agreement, it holds some clues to other important aspects of the platform (as reported on by Nathan Gathright):

  • By signing up, you’re authorizing Apple to create transcripts of your content. It’s not clear exactly how this will be used, but it could be a huge plus for 1) accessibility, 2) discoverability by keywords you may not have included in your description, and 3) cost — transcripts are expensive!
  • All subscriber audio must be uploaded via Apple Podcasts Connect, which allows Apple to protect it using its own digital rights management (DRM) software. Uploaded audio is restricted to WAV or FLAC file types.
  • Apple owns all of your subscribers’ data, which means there is no way for you to communicate with your own podcast subscribers via email or use their information to deliver non-audio subscriber benefits.

How to set up a podcast on Apple Podcast Subscriptions

There are a number of helpful support articles on the new Apple Podcasts for Creators website, but here are the basics:

  1. Sign up for the Apple Podcasters Program on your Account page within Apple Podcasts Connect.
  2. Set up your show to host subscription content. If you have an existing RSS feed for free content, you’ll submit that to Apple Podcasts Connect before you upload your subscriber content — the platform will match the paid and free versions of the same episodes (in the case of ad-free episodes, early access or archive access) and deliver the right one to the right listener.
  3. Create a channel. Channels are designed to display a curated group of podcasts in one place, and they are also the place your subscription metadata lives. Once you’ve set up your channel with info and artwork, you can set up the details of your subscription including subscriber benefits, pricing, free trials and custom promotional banners.

Once everything is approved, you’re ready to sell subscriptions to your premium content and make money creating what you love.

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