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Apple Podcasts monetization, and the future of audio – an interview with James Cridland

On a special episode of the AppleInsider podcast, editor of Podnews James Cridland, joins us to discuss the current state of Apple Podcasts monetization, platform exclusives, and the future of audio.

James has worked in radio over 28 years, and in 2005 James helped launch the first daily podcast from a UK radio station. As the curator of the Podnews website, he analyzes the state of podcasting around the world and reports the latest news through his daily newsletter.

During our interview we discuss the rise of exclusive shows, such as Joe Rogan and Dax Shepard moving to Spotify only, and what it means for the industry. While companies like Spotify are more likely to promote shows available only on their platform, it means listeners would have to juggle multiple podcast apps just to hear their favorite personalities.

We discuss monetization and the new Apple Podcasts subscriptions, which also locks listeners in to the Apple Podcasts app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Listeners may be more likely to sign up through Apple’s payment system, and subscription tools for creators offer greater flexibility. On the downside, listener data such as contact info is hidden from creators and it’s impossible to deliver any exclusive content aside from audio through Apple Podcasts.

Live audio, popularized by the app Clubhouse, has also spread throughout podcast platforms, including Twitter Spaces, Spotify Green Room, and Facebook Live Audio Rooms. We discuss the staying power of this new live audio medium, and go on to comment on the future of podcasting for the small and individual creator.

If you have questions or comments on the show, tweet at @stephenrobles. Find us in your favorite podcast player by searching for “AppleInsider” and support the show by leaving a 5-Star rating and comment in Apple Podcasts.

Podcast platforms, monetization, and live audio – interview transcript

Stephen Robles: Welcome to the, the AppleInsider podcast. Today. I have a special guest with me, James Cridland. He’s the editor of Pod News, a daily podcast newsletter, and you’ve written and spoken a lot on radio and podcasting doing copywriting and all that. And so, James Cridland thanks for joining me today.

James Cridland: Oh, it’s a great pleasure. Thank you so much for asking.

Stephen Robles: And you also have a great accent for podcasting. Let me just say, I think you’re the first. Well, you’re originally from the UK, you’re now living in Australia. So, which is your accent is UK or is it Australian?

James Cridland: It’s most definitely a UK accent. I’ve had 50 years of doing a UK accent, I can’t possibly change now.

Stephen Robles: That’s right. And because you’re currently in Australia, we are podcasting across time. You are living in the future. It’s 7:00 AM for me. And what time is it for you?

James Cridland: Yeah. And it’s 9:00 PM for me. So, yes. It’s been a — it’s been a long day, but you still have to experience.

Stephen Robles: Did anything earth shattering happen today that I need to look forward to?

James Cridland: Not really? No, not really. We’re currently currently in lock down again. So therefore, frankly, there’s been very little going on, which is probably a good thing.

Stephen Robles: I thought Australia was doing like really well with the whole pandemic a number of months ago. And were kind of showing how everything was opening back up again.

James Cridland: Well we’ve been doing pretty well in terms of not allowing anybody else in it’s almost as if it’s some kind of a prison colony, I don’t know. But anyway, um, so we’ve been doing pretty well in terms of that just over the last week or so there’s been a spate of cases. So there’s two cases in the entire state of Queensland.

I think maybe there are three. Now the whole three of those, uh, cases means that, um, much of the state is in complete lockdown and we’re not allowed to go anywhere, do anything only for, you know, maybe three days, maybe five days. So it’s going to come out okay. But that’s the first lockdown that we’ve had since April I think.

Stephen Robles: So just three cases and the country is like, “Everybody stay home.”

James Cridland: Yeah. And so three cases in the state stays home. So, you know, it’s a big deal. We’ve basically had very few cases, very few deaths, thankfully, but that is common with the downside of the borders just simply not being open.

So if you’re an Australian and you’re wanting to come home, it’s really hard. And if you’re, you know, Britain, you’re wanting to go home every so often, it’s impossible. Yeah. So still there we are.

Stephen Robles: Well, we hope that it will pass as quickly for sure. I wanted to have a very meta podcast on the Apple Insider podcast today because it’s going to be a podcast about podcasting because of all the stuff that’s been in the news and Spotify and Facebook.

And we’ll get all into that. But for you yourself, you’ve been in radio for a long time. What made you make the transition to get into podcasting? And why are you so passionate about it that you would write about it, you know all the time?

James Cridland: Every single day. Yeah. Well, I mean, I’ve being involved in radio since the late 1980s, a long, long time, but I started being involved in what the future of audio was in the early two thousands.

So I was looking after a website for a Virgin radio in London, which was Richard Branson’s radio station, and one of the things that we were doing is we were the first radio station to stream online in Europe. We were the first radio station to do a bunch of really interesting things. And one of those was to have the first radio app in the world where you could tune into us in glorious nine kilobits per second.

Oh, the audio quality. Feel the quality. Um, but also, uh, that same year, which was 2005, we launched the first daily podcast from a radio station. So just to put that into context, that was, um, January of 2005, Steve jobs only put podcasting into the iPod in the middle of the year in June. So it was very, very early times.

So I’ve been, you know, sort of really involved in, on demand audio and podcasting ever since then. Really.

Stephen Robles: So because you have this great experience and I think you really have great foresight into what’s coming, what are your thoughts on Spotify first? And so Spotify has been making the play, I would say the past two years to really go with those exclusive shows.

You got Joe Rogan, armchair expert with Dax Shepard, and they’re announcing more and more exclusive seemingly every month. These exclusives are a little different than what Apple has now offered. And we’ll get to that in a moment. Just to be clear, these exclusives are not things you have to pay for, they’re just shows that you have to listen using Spotify app. And so it is a platform lock-in play, not necessarily a subscription play, at least just yet. What are your overall thoughts about these kinds of exclusives going on Spotify?

James Cridland: Yeah, I mean, you know, Spotify has a number of different plans here. Some of them are exclusive.

So if you listen to Joe Rogan, the only way that you can get Joe Rogan is on the Spotify app and that’s all fine. And then you have things like Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen, where that show is available everywhere, including Apple, but there is a window, um, where you can only get it exclusive in the Spotify app.

And then you also have Spotify. Um, they own a couple of big podcast hosts, Anchor and Megaphone. And so therefore they are also making a bunch of their shows available, you know, of course, across the internet. But paid for by Spotify, with Spotify advertising in them. So there’s a bunch of sort of different things that they’re doing.

It seems to be working very well for them. So if you have a look at human beings, people who listen to podcasts, then you can see that there’s a good amount now who are using Spotify. Possibly more people using Spotify to listen to podcasts than Apple. And that’s a big deal. Now that’s not the case in terms of downloads, uh, because people who use Apple podcasts tends to download quite a few different shows.

But in terms of, you know, human beings using Spotify. There’s a bunch of people now who are consuming all of their podcasts through Spotify. And that of course is where Spotify wants to bait, wants to go, because that way Spotify can sell advertising to those people. Can lock people in to the platform where of course they can also get music if they pay for that as well.

And so it’s beneficial for them to keep people within the Spotify ecosystem and their plan is to be the destination for audio.

Stephen Robles: So I’ve been in podcasting for a while back when you had to hardcode your RSS feed and XML and upload a text file to a server. I think in the indie podcast world, especially a lot of us who have been in it a long time, we loved it because it was an open venue.

Like it was an open media, you know, you can use any app you want, even, you just want to download MP3 files to your computer and podcasts were that. Podcasts by definition were MP3 or audio files served through an RSS feed that’s publicly available on the internet. And some people now feel like these exclusive shows is not really a podcast anymore.

This is something different. Do you feel like there’s a distinction there? Are we losing something because we’ve lost some openness with these shows?

James Cridland: Well, I mean, I think the two sides of that conversation, I think one side of that conversation is very much focusing on what a podcast is and what we might think a podcast is from a technical point of view, isn’t necessarily what normal human beings think a podcast is.

The most popular platform to listen to podcasts in the US by quite a margin is a thing called YouTube. Now YouTube is not a podcast app. It doesn’t use RSS feeds. It doesn’t use enclosures in MP3 or a C format. Um, it doesn’t use, you know, non DRMS, you know, downloadable, uh, stuff. It’s a very different experience, but for audio first, that is what a lot of people are saying that they listen to podcasts on.

Now, quite a lot of people will turn around and say, “Well, James, that’s not a podcast.” Well, that’s fine. But if people are calling something a duck, it’s probably a duck. So at the end of the day, I kind of am guided by what normal human beings are saying on this.

But to come back to your point around, you know, podcasting has always been a very level playing field, anybody can get involved. That really hasn’t changed. If you have an RSS feed and you have MP3 or AAC files, you can get that into Spotify. You can get that into Apple Music. You can get that into Amazon Music, into a bunch of these individual apps, and you can still do that now.

And in fact, I still write my own RSS feed and upload audio onto my own server. And it’s available on Spotify and on Apple just as well as everything else is. So you can still do that. I think one of the difficulties. If you’re getting involved into podcasting now is that there are an awful lot of podcasts out there.

So Apple has broken the 2 million mark recently. And in fact, if you have a look overall, um, including the podcasts, which are available only on Spotify and podcasts, which are available in other platforms as well, then there are over 4 million RSS feeds with podcasts out there. That is an awful lot of content.

And it’s therefore much harder to find a great show than if you were going to find “This Week in Tech,” back in 2006, that was an awful lot easier than it is now. So, you know, clearly it is much harder to be a small creator. It really helps if you’re part of a large podcast network. If you’ve got, you know, iHeart radio promoting you and all that kind of stuff, then that certainly helps.

But it doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved if you’re just, you know, one person by themselves. And I think, you know, the advent of free podcast hosts like Anchor, which Spotify owns like Red Circle, uh, Launchpad, which is owned by Podcast One and so on and so forth. Those free podcast hosts are again, That playing field so that you don’t even need a credit cards to start being involved and get getting your show out there. And that’s a great thing.

Stephen Robles: Yeah. And I think for people wanting to get into podcast creation, you’re absolutely right. You know, the tools we have today make them much easier. Again, 10 years ago, 15 years ago it was difficult. Yeah. You have to learn how to XML and RSS. So I think as a creator, it’s, you have more tools and access to get to listeners.

But as far as discoverability, like you were saying with exclusivity, you know, Apple now has a podcast subscription service, and there are certain shows, either paid for exclusive content or what have you, but you could only use or listen in the Apple podcast app. Then Spotify has their exclusives. Amazon Prime is now making their play for their exclusives for the typical listener or user, not someone creating podcasts, but just one who wants to listen to shows that they would enjoy, do you think that this kind of fracturing of podcasts, meaning you have to go to this app for this one, and this app for this one, is that going to make it a worse experience for the average listener? I don’t know about you, but I mean, I have, you know, four podcasts apps on my phone, but most people do not.

Most people are going to use one app, listen to podcasts. And if your show your podcast, your exclusive subscription is not in that one. You’re probably not going to reach that listener. So I guess I’m asking is that fracturing of this podcast space, is that good for discoverability and for ease of listening to podcasts?

James Cridland: Well, I think the answer is probably both yes and no. Um, so it’s bad for audiences if they have to be bullied into downloading specific apps to listen to specific shows. Although we are quite used to that in the video world. We’re quite used to shows only being available on Netflix or only being available on Hulu or on any of the other, um, platforms there.

So we’re kind of used to this in the, in the world of video, but maybe not so much in the world of audio. So it’s bad from that point of view. However, looking at it the other way round. It does mean that Spotify, for example, is much more likely to put serious money into promoting some of their shows. And I remember, you know, when I was in Chicago this time a year and a half ago, I was seeing ad banners all over town. Um, they’re not called ad banners, are they? Those big things next to the bus stops

Stephen Robles: Billboards?

James Cridland: Yes. Billboards. Thank you. It’s been a long day, you know, I would say got a bunch of those for individual Spotify shows, you know, that, uh, that Spotify were really piling some cash into.

Now would they have done that as much? If they were. You know, just pushing a show, which you could get anywhere. I don’t think so. So I think it’s probably a good thing for getting the understanding of what a podcast is and how to find individual shows and all of that. I think it’s a good thing from that point of view.

I think Adam Curry, for example, is very, very keen on not calling these things podcasts and calling them netcasts or something else instead, because he thinks that they don’t qualify as being a podcast if they’re not open anymore. Again, I’m not so sure about that, but I can see where he’s coming from.

I think that we need to be a little bit more clear when we’re talking about exclusive podcasts, you know, spotty casts, um, Amazon, you know, casts so on and so forth. I think we just need to be careful.

Stephen Robles: Yeah. I think Leila Port really tried to make the netcast thing catch on too. And I don’t think it has. I think we’re, we’re with podcasts now for the long haul.

James Cridland: He did no, he did. He was doing that for a long, long time. And, um, but I think he had a very good point, which was that the word podcast, because it contains a bit of, a bit of the iPod in it. I mean, firstly, very out of date, um, because who listens to a podcast on an iPod anymore, but also secondly, he was worried that Apple might go away and trademark that particular name.

And I know that Apple have been quite cautious around people who have used the pod portmanteau. Um, way of actually, you know, naming things. Um, they haven’t talked to me about Pod News, but, um, they, they, I do know that they’ve talked to a bunch of folk so I can well see that his, his plan there was to actually make sure that netcast would be a trademark that could be used for all of them.

I can kind of see his point of view on that. Weirdly enough, LG ended up bagging that particular trademark for something to do with fridges, I think. What’s going on there anyway? Anyway, it’s available again, if you want it.

Stephen Robles: Very good. So Apple has long been kind of the silent curator.

I don’t know if curator would you call it, but you know, they’ve had the iTunes podcast directory, which powered many, many podcast apps through the years. It was the free directory. You could submit your show. There was no money changing hands. And they were kind of like the benevolent arbiter of like the podcast directory basically until recently.

And so now they have paid subscription content and you can offer exclusive or bonus content through Apple podcasts directly. Curious, there’s no Apple podcasts app for Android yet. So there’s a huge portion of listeners that couldn’t reach with those subscriptions or exclusive content. But you can do that now on Apple and they take the 30% cut from your subscribers, at least in the first year, 15%, the second.

James Cridland: Yes, at least right now they do, yeah.

Stephen Robles: Now, what are your thoughts on that? Okay. Now offering those kinds of paid subscriptions.

James Cridland: Well, look, I mean, I think Apple has done a couple of things this year. One of the things that they have done is redesigned the way that you get podcasts into Apple Podcasts.

They’ve rebuilt the Apple Podcasts connect, which was, um, which was a dreadful, miserable failure, and everything broke and people were, you know, I think what was frustrating to many podcasters was that it was completely broken. Apple knew it was completely broken and Apple never said anything. So as a result, if you were a podcast consultant and you were there saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t get you into Apple at the moment because Apple’s broken.”

They would turn around and say, “Well, where’s the, where’s the press? You’re just making this up. You’re just a useless consultant.” And so you ended up, you know, it ended up really hurting the industry. They also made quite a few changes in terms of the way that podcasts were actually appearing in their app to the point where if you had a daily podcast, It would take, uh, sometimes three days to update your individual show. So that was completely, completely useless.

So from that point of view, that was a pretty bad experience and a very Apple experience of not saying anything at all, not coming out and fessing up and saying we’ve messed up. We’re really sorry. Um, and that, and that was, and that was, you know, a bit sad. But on the other side, I think that the Apple subscriptions stuff that they’ve been doing, their paid subscription model has been really well thought out.

They’ve done it in a very good way where you can subscribe to channels. So you can get a bunch of different shows. You can subscribe to individual shows if you want. You can pay in certain ways, you can get money off for buying a year in advance. You can do all of this kind of clever stuff. And they’ve done that in a really clever way.

And in a way where they’ve obviously been talking to a bunch of different podcasters and come up with some really good plans. So I think, yeah, I think what they’ve done there is really good and really smartly done. And I think what excites me is that that then opens up alternative business models in podcasting for pretty well the first time.

No longer do I have to play a kid’s podcast to my daughter that has advertising in there. Right. You know, I can actually just pay money and get rid of the advertising. That’s a great thing. There are some people who are producing audio to meditate to. Um, there are some people who are producing, you know, different audio, which is just free from advertising free from the, you know, having to please every, every advertiser that is actually in there.

So I think from that point of view, that really opens up Apple Podcasts to be a very creative place and a place where you will hear some really innovative ideas for content in the future.

So I think Apple has done a fantastic job there.

Stephen Robles: So as getting into podcasting has been made easier for creators with all the free tools out there. Now, if you want to monetize your podcast through these kinds of subscription services and things like that, I know at least for me, it now feels like the work to produce an episode is exponentially increasing.

For instance, to offer an ad free version of the show previously, before Apple launched this, I would do it to Patreon because that was a platform that, you know, everybody knows patreon. And now there’s kind of a whole third step. You know, I have my free public episode. I have published that to our host.

And then I have the Patreon episode, which is an MP3. And I do that ad-free, edit that, but now I also have to do it in Apple, which Apple only accepts wave or flat file. They export a third file there. And because there’s notes have been broken as far as our HTML links and they haven’t really said anything about that publicly, but we all know it’s broken, you can’t click links in the podcast notes. So now I have to do that whole thing.

James Cridland: Well do we know it? Do we know it’s broken or is that just the way that it will always work in the future? We don’t even know that.

Stephen Robles: Supposedly when Apple podcast subscriptions were just launching, someone from Apple reached out to me to get like artwork together for our channel for Apple Insider.

And I did ask them directly, “Is this something that’s going to be fixed?” And they did say, “Yes, it will be fixed soon.” So I don’t think it will last this way forever. I really hope not. Because again, then you have to have two versions of your show notes to do that. And so if I want to offer a Spotify subscription, that would be a fourth thing.

Do you think that this is sustainable for podcast creators? To have to offer subscriptions everywhere so you can reach those listeners who would pay for your show? What do you think podcasts are just going to choose a platform, stick to it and just say, if you want it, you have to listen to it here.

James Cridland: There’s probably two things there. I think one thing is that Apple have been very clever in terms of their pricing. So it does mean that you can offer your show somewhere else, as long as they are price parity, um, then you can offer a show on, you know, Spotify as well as on Apple, as well as on a Patreon. And again, I think that that’s a bright place.

I think one of the weird things about podcasting in the whole Apple world is that Apple has never really been one for APIs. Never been one for, you know, any access into any of the Apple ecosystem. And what that essentially means, therefore, is that there’s no APIs into uploading a special version of your show directly from your audio editor or directly from D script or whatever it is that you end up using. And so there’s a lot of manual steps here and that’s a bit frustrating. There are also manual steps, of course, in actually going into the Apple Podcasts connect and grabbing the data, um, about who’s listening. And you know, how many people you have and all of this kind of stuff.

Cause there’s no APIs into that either. And that is, I think, a bit of a frustration. I’m sure that, um, well I’d like to think that it will get fixed, you know, eventually. I think that that’s something that Apple’s still working on. Is it getting harder? Yeah, absolutely, it is. And I think it’s certainly getting harder if you end up offering, you know, special, additional versions of shows, um, you know, ad free versions.

What you could do in terms of ad free, incidentally is you could use dynamic ad insertion, uh, and then you’re essentially making an ad free show, upload that one to Apple and just, um, and, and then upload exactly the same show with the ad points to your podcast host and then, Hey Presto, you’ve theoretically done no extra work, but it’s still, it’s still a little bit of extra sort of fiddling around.

So yeah, I mean, I think, I think some of the tools will, you know, clearly take a little bit of time to get there. I mean, if you edit your audio with D script is one example, then that has in built API for quite a lot of the podcast hosts so you can press one button and it just uploads the same for Hidenburg Journalist Pro, which is the audio editor I use. So, you know, so those do exist, but not yet for the Apple Podcasts premium, uh, host. And that’s something that, you know, clearly needs to be done.

I mean, I would probably step back a little bit and just say, I wonder I’ve not read all of the terms and conditions, but I do wonder whether you can offer a subscription version of your podcast, which is actually exactly the same, but it’s the version of your podcast where you want to allow your audience to help pay for it. And so if you like to, a little bit like Shareware, you can pay five bucks a month, and that will be a lovely thing.

The rules around using Patreon are, you don’t need to give people extra things if you don’t want to. And so it may well be that you can actually get away without doing that if you feel that that’s right for your audience, if your audience is comfortable enough. Maybe that’s an interesting way.

And that’s of course the plan. If you watch a Patreon supported YouTube show, then you know, quite a lot of the times you end up seeing people with their names up in lights at the end of a show and you think, well, that’s older, older, people are interested in.

Stephen Robles: That is one of the things that you can’t do with the Apple podcast subscription is say support the show, but there’s no bonus content or exclusive content. Like you said, with Patreon, you could do that. With Apple podcasts, when I first set up our subscription for Apple Insider, I tried putting two benefits, one being ad free episodes, which I had a couple waves loaded and early access, but because. In the middle of publishing episodes, I didn’t have one set for early access. And so Apple denied the subscription. I wasn’t able to put the subscription through, we’re going to have to change it. I had to take out that early access benefit because in the Apple podcast dashboard, you can choose the benefits from a dropdown.

And so they want it to really make sure that you had audio already loaded in podcast connect. That matched the benefit you are offering. And again, unlike Patreon, you don’t have access to your listeners as far as if you want to send them a message. If you want to send them merch or offer other benefits that are not audio related, you just don’t have that option in Apple Podcasts.

And that’s something I don’t know if they’re going to offer that in the future, because they are very big on privacy and don’t want, they don’t want to give you all these email addresses, you know, all these iCloud accounts from the thing. So again, that’s something that I don’t know, we’ll just thought we’ll have to see if they’ll actually have some kind of mechanism to do that.

But before we go too long, I want it to get your thoughts on this now, new wave of live audio, namely Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, and now even Facebook has gotten in on the game with live audio rooms. And this is, you know, we’ve had live stream video for a long time and we’ve had live stream audio. It’s just not been very prevalent. And so now we have live audio and it’s kind of the new hot thing.

As far as, you know, the exciting medium. What do you think about this? Is this something that you think is going to last a long time? Is this kind of like here to stay?

James Cridland: I think in some respects, it’s here to stay in quite a lot of respects I think it was born out of the pandemic and Clubhouse did a very clever job of, um, of, you know, signing up a number of influencers.

Now that those deals have all finished, Clubhouses beginning to be quite quiet. If you’ve ever been in there recently.

Stephen Robles: I have not, which is why I’m asking this question.

James Cridland: Oh, well, there you go. I’m on record as saying that Clubhouse is mostly full of the worst people from LinkedIn, just with a microphone.

Stephen Robles: I’m going to get tweets. I’m going to get tweets for that one. I’m going to get Tweets, that’s alright.

James Cridland: That’s possibly slightly over the top. But yeah, I think, you know, what, what I found interesting is Clubhouse has a certain vibe to it, of, you know, people who think they are experts. And to be fair people who think they’re experts more than people who are experts on that platform.

Twitter Spaces seems to be much more of a friends platform where you have people who know each other in I’m going to use the word meatspace. Sorry. Um, but people who know each other in real life, real life is a better phrase.

Stephen Robles: That’s M-E-E-T not M-E-A-T.

James Cridland: Well, I kind of actually meant, M-E-A-T but anyway, yes, yes.

Actually, you know, human beings, but anyway Twitter has a very different vibe. Facebook’s live rooms are only available to you folks in the US so therefore, the likes of us, don’t get to play around with those also, by the way, podcasts on Facebook are only available in the US as well, which is a mad, mad idea.

But anyway, let’s not go there. The one that I’ve been particularly impressed, I actually is a Spotify’s version, which is Spotify Greenroom, and what Spotify have done. They have a few additional features in there that actually makes it a really good place to record podcasts. And one of those additional features is you can send messages to people.

So you can, uh, there’s a sort of, there’s an ongoing chat, which is actually really handy for knowing which questions you want to actually take from the audience, but it will also automatically record everything and send you an AAC file after the event. So that’s really handy in terms of making a show.

So I’ve been quite impressed at the Spotify version and also by the way, it’s available on Android phones as well as on iOS phones, which Clubhouse wasn’t for a long, long time, so the 80% of the world that don’t use iOS could still actually play along, you know, so I’m, I’m really interested in those, I think, um, quite a lot of them haven’t yet had the correct tools to allow you to produce something that’s good.

I think that Spotify is beginning to get there. And my suspicion is because Spotify has so much access to big stars, particularly in the music world, my suspicion is that we will see a bunch more integration between Spotify as music product and their social audio service.

They announced a couple of weeks ago a sports podcast, which is going to be produced on Spotify Greenroom. So after every particular sports ball game, um, you’ll have a sports commentator coming on and, you know, taking questions and, you know, uh, after match reactions and all that kind of stuff, which will then be turned into a podcast afterwards, so that it clearly using the tool to make shows, which is really interesting.

So it’ll be interesting seeing how that works in terms of, um, what it replaces. I don’t think it replaces podcasts in particular.

What I do think is that it has the capacity of replacing is conferences. and there are a bunch of them. A bunch of conferences where there are some which are multi-day conferences, which you want to go to because you’ll bump into people in the corridors and everything else, but there are some shorter conferences that frankly, you don’t want to jump into an airplane and travel across, you know, half of the country for.

So if you can do that, In a, in an experience like a Twitter space or a Clubhouse room, um, and maybe even charge for them, then that seems to be quite an interesting plan for conferences, but maybe not for podcasting and that sort of thing.

Stephen Robles: Well, let’s look towards the future and what we think that might hold.

So podcasting, again in the past, has been largely small creator, medium individuals, or, you know, I think TWIT was probably the largest network for a long time, but now we have huge companies, you know, you have Gimlet, you have of Wondery, you have, you know, all these big names and Amazon, Spotify are producing their own first party content.

Do you think that there will be room in the future for the small individual creators or small networks as these large companies are kind of taking, not taking over, but really taking a lot of the AirWave space or like the mind space of the casual, podcast listener?

James Cridland: I mean, I think that, um, what we’re certainly seeing is a lot of vertical consolidation. What do I mean by that? I mean, companies who are buying a hosting company. So Amazon, for example, last week bought Art19, um, Amazon, uh, also owns a Wondery, uh, Amazon have just bought another podcast called Smartless. For 80 million us dollars for a podcast. And what they get for that is they get a whole week’s exclusive.

Wow, brilliant. But anyway, so there’s clearly an awful lot of money going on in, in terms of that. That essentially is how all of the big media companies are working. So Sirius XM owns some ad tech, owns a podcast host, owns a bunch of people. Making shows the same goes for iHeart radio. The same goes for Odyssey used to be called Entercom, another broadcaster.

So we’re seeing a bunch of that going on. My suspicion there is that the void that that’s left of not having large independent producers is probably a good. Because that essentially means that we will have far more smaller, independent production houses who are making niche content.

And that’s what podcasting is. It’s very different to broadcast. Broadcast is let’s reach as many people as we possibly can. Stephen Colbert we’ll sign him, we’ll sign, you know, whoever it is when you’re looking at podcasting, it’s a much more niche experience. And so therefore niche content works really, really well.

You couldn’t necessarily have an awful lot of broadcast TV about the new M1chip, but you could certainly have an awful lot of podcasts as I’m sure that you have, around that sort of thing. One of the things I’m particularly excited about is seeing the rise of audio fiction and the good old days, maybe of the sixties and the fifties, when you had drama on the radio and people used to sit around the radio and listen to Lone Ranger or whatever it was.

It’s that sort of thing, which is happening now. I think Cadence 13 is calling it, um, movies for the ears. And I just love that phrase. So we’re seeing a bunch of that sort of content happening from smaller, independent folks who are making independent shows. And I think that’s quite an exciting time.

And what we’re also seeing is we’re seeing a bunch of individual podcast hosts who are there to help smaller podcasters get in. I’m an advisor for one called Captivate, which is very good. Based in the UK, but there’s also, you know, everywhere from Anchor, which is specifically built for tiny podcasters.

To Libsyn, transistor simple cast through all of these individual hosts. What I think is interesting is we’re seeing more of those being owned by large media companies, but that means that they can spot you. And as you do an amazing podcast, That is beginning to trend and beginning to really take off, they can jump in and say, would you like us to help with your ad sales?

Would you like us to help with a bit of your promotion and so on and so forth? So actually that may help get more interesting of voices and interesting content into the podcasting world. Yeah, that’s great.

Stephen Robles: Well, do you think podcasting is here to stay and is there anything you haven’t mentioned that you think the future holds for the podcasting industry?

James Cridland: The other big thing that we will see is historically, as you were saying earlier, Apple has been basically in charge of podcasting. I think quite a lot of people have been calling them a benign dictator, right. They’ve basically been making the rules because nobody else was. Um, but they’ve also not had their foot on the gas.

I think what we’re seeing now, now that podcasting is actually be beginning to earn Apple some money, I think that we’ll see a big change in terms of that and a big change in terms of how seriously they are taking it, but they also need to, because they have lost the market share that they used to have, which was easily 70% of all downloads that I calculate is down to about 40% now.

Spotify is around 30% and there are an astonishing amount of podcasts now who are launching putting their show onto Spotify and not caring about Apple because it’s too difficult and too complicated. And I think one of the things—

James Cridland: I know it’s an amazing thing, I was talking to the folks at BuzzSprout. And they shared some data with me about how many of their new shows are on Spotify and how many are on Apple. And there are way more on Spotify. And the reason for that is, you know, the hassles of signing up for an Apple ID. If you don’t have one of those of, you know, doing the terms and conditions, which you have to have an Apple device for somehow and all of this kind of stuff, people just, uh, you know, can’t be bothered.

So my suspicion is that we will see that we will see one of two things happening. Either Apple will get overtaken by, uh, Spotify, and that will be, um, such a loss, I think. Or we will see Apple suddenly realizing, wow, we need to kick everything up a gear here. And, you know, Apple beginning to spend proper money on podcast training, which Spotify have been doing for a while, which HeyCast had been doing for a while.

Apple jumping into that particular space and, you know, doing what they can to regain some of the lost market share. And if they do that well, wow. Won’t that be exciting? Because all of a sudden we know that great competition means that there is great innovation and there’s great movement in this space.

And that’s perhaps something that we haven’t had over the last 5 or 10 years.

Stephen Robles: Yeah. All right. My last question. What app do you use to listen to your podcasts?

James Cridland: Well, I have a, I mean, that’s a bad thing to ask an editor of a podcasts newsletter because obviously I’ve got 400 million. I use a Google Pixel, other phones are available, it turns out. And so therefore, um, for, while I was using, uh, the Google podcasts app, which is okay. But I really use PocketCasts, which is a great app. It came out originally Android. And, uh, it’s very good, comes from Australia. Yeah. And is a very good thing, um, on my iPod touch, which I have, earlier, I was saying nobody listens to podcasts on their iPod.

I do because I have an iPod touch so that I can, um, you know, stick my little toe into the world of iOS every now and again. And so that mostly is running Overcast, which is a great, great podcast app.

The one that I would recommend, which isn’t necessarily a podcast app, it’s a bit more than that, it’s a thing called Hark. I interviewed the CEO of it about a week or so ago. And one of the things it’s got in there is, yes, it’s got all of the podcasts and you could listen to all the podcasts and that’s great, but what it’s also got in there is a playlist or as they call them heartlists and a heartlist is essentially a radio presenter guiding you through a bunch of different, podcasts that are about, I don’t know, they might be about the anniversary of the end of slavery, or they might be about the Coronavirus, or they might be about whatever they are. And you have this trusted guide who is taking you through individual clips of these individual shows.

And it’s a great way of finding new podcasts. And I think, you know, that’s, that’s the sort of innovation that I’m quite excited by. And by the way, the innovation, that things like paid subscriptions and indeed Apple’s affiliate scheme, which they also have as well, should actually unlock for more folks. So, um, I would, I would certainly recommend giving apps like Hark or GoodPods or try because that’s a great way of finding great new shows that you might want to have a listen to.

Stephen Robles: I had never heard of Hark and I’m on their website right now and this looks beautiful, first of all. And so I’m going to be signing up to be a creator on here, for sure. That’s awesome. And I will say my 12 year old son, we have not gotten him an iPhone yet. And so he too uses an iPod touch to listen to podcasts.

And so you’re not the only one left in the world. There are other iPod users as well.

James Cridland: Yeah, It’s a very cheap way of being able to try the very latest and greatest on iOS. I do a bunch of testing. I have a podcast called PodClock. I launched it on April 1st and I called it a podcast about time.’

It is literally a podcast about time when you play the podcast, it tells you what time it is. But the point of all of that is to do a bunch of testing around individual apps and everything else. And obviously being able to test on the very latest version of iOS, and even the upcoming beaters has been really, really helpful.

So, um, long may the iPod touch continue to exist as far as I’m concerned.

Stephen Robles: I hope so. Well, James Cridland thanks so much for joining us on Apple insider listeners, of course, can read your work and listen to you at podnews.net. Is there anywhere else you would like to point people to, to discover your content?

James Cridland: Yeah. And if you’ve got a Siri speaker, then firstly, I am sorry, but secondly, you’ll find PodNews on there in the news briefings as you will, of course, on, uh, Google Speakers and on Amazon as well.

Stephen Robles: Very cool. Well, James, thanks so much for coming on the show.

James Cridland: Thank you so much.

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