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Apple Plans to Bankroll Original Podcasts to Fend Off Rivals (bloomberg.com)
163 points by MBCook on July 16, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 174 comments



This is very unfortunate. Apple being totally hands off, other than running the iTunes podcast directory, is one of the best things that’s ever happened for podcasts.

I like my 3rd party app (Overcast). I don’t want to have to use 3 podcast apps to listen to all my podcasts.

I think I agree with some of the podcast app developers: if it’s not available in any app it shouldn’t be called a ‘podcast’.


Completely agree that if it’s not accessible on any app then it’s not a podcast. I also would pay for a podcast app that could guarantee that the audio file was the same for all listeners.


I wish the later could be possible. I have no idea how podcast-ads work but lately i noticed some podcasts giving me seemingly location-dependent ads. (about something in a nearby major city)

either everyone is getting advertisements for a very dallas targeted ad, or are the podcast companies making several versions of the podcast and serving different ones to different people? sounds like a lot of extra work to me, but I suppose its not hard to automate stitching a few ads into an audio file.


I agree - actually I've gotten into the habit of trying to track down the original RSS feed for each podcast I listen to. Often the link shared by the podcaster will be to rehosters like Google Play or iTunes, or lesser-known services, that have tracking and probably the ability to insert custom ads. The worst is when they make the elitist move of only linking iTunes, making their podcast unlistenable (on mobile at least) to most people worldwide.

But most of the time the original file is getting pulled by the rehoster from an unprotected RSS feed, and these can be easy to find. You can get the RSS feeds for Soundcloud, as an example. Others are hosted on Libsyn.com, and you can often find them by searching for the podcast name and "site:libsyn.com" in the search engine of your choice.

That said, I don't listen to podcasts enough any more to say whether this is a universal solution at all. Actually, the fact that podcasts have unblockable ads is one of the main reasons I no longer bother.


There’s not a universal solution, in part because many times the dynamic ad-insertion is something the podcasters themselves want (or it’s one of the terms of using a certain podcast host).

I have a podcast with a podcasting network that sells our ads for us. To my knowledge, they don’t do any dynamic ad insertions for older episodes (though if they did, I wouldn’t necessarily be upset, provided they were inserted the right way), but plenty of podcasting networks DO do that and it’s something the creator’s endorse because it means they are getting paid more money.

There are third-party podcast apps that rehost feeds and may add their own stuff to the content — that’s another issue entirely — but most dynamic ad-insertion stuff is happening with the permission/consent of the people that make the podcast, either explicitly or as terms they agreed to in order to get hosted/have ads sold on their behalf.


That's a fair point. Whatever service is originally hosting the content might well be doing the dynamic ad insertions too. My assumption is that in at least some cases while the ads are desired by the podcaster, they aren't inserted until a later stage by an aggregator. So there's some hope of getting at the original source.

At least, when I've been able to track down sources, they seem to be mostly hosted on generic CDNs, which gives me some hope that the same file is being served to all listeners.


That’s generally the case — and depending on the hosting system, that could change too. The really huge companies in the space (Art19, Stitcher/Midroll, Wondery, Megaphone, Podbean) are all doing dynamic ad insertion on different scales — but given the way the RSS feeds are constructed, I don’t know specifically how the dynamic aspect works for each provider.

I do know that early on, companies who did this stuff (like NPR, who was really early to this game and has been doing some type of dynamic ad-insertion for more than a decade) often had separate versions of the audio file. So you could have an ad-free version of the file (maybe for users in certain geographic regions, if an ad-buy was specifically targeted) and then other versions of the file with ads built-in — and an algorithm would determine what version a user accessed based on a variety of parameters. If that’s the case, yeah, you would probably be able to figure out if multiple versions existed and then request the ad-free version from CDN or whatever.

At this point, it’s my understanding that most of the dynamic insertion is happening server-side — where ads are inserted based on campaign timing and maybe geo-targeting) at the point of the download or stream request (though I imagine even here, most of what is served is coming from a CDN, I just mean the initial request). That way, the download/stream always has “current” ads, even if the show itself is years old. (I don’t know how often they update those different versions — I would imagine you have 6-week campaign as an example where all episodes get an insert and are then cached on the CDN and then after the campaign ends a new file is generated and cached). That isn’t to say you couldn’t potentially still get access to a copy of a file without inserts — but I bet it would be a lot more difficult.


  dynamic ad-insertion is
  something the podcasters
  themselves want
Is DAI really more profitable than the host doing the plug?

I always assumed the sponsor plugs some youtubers put into their videos [1] would be much higher impact than dynamic pre-roll ads, and would therefore command a much higher price.

[1] e.g. https://youtu.be/R2-UmtZY9Qk?t=869


I'm a bit late to the thread, but if the difference is "the same person is reading the ad" some of what i think are dynamic ads are being done in a similar way. most of the ads within podcasts i listen to are read by the hosts anyway.

When there are ad spots in the middle where i imagine it could be pretty easy to cut in an ad dynamically. Some podcasts do a little music fade in/fade out before and after an ad, which is usually a script or something from the advertiser read by the podcast host. I assume the the transition and ad are mostly done dynamically? although i have no way of knowing for sure.


Presumably at some point advertisers aren't willing to pay for out-of-date plugs, at which point it might become profitable to cut out the plug and replace it with other ads dynamically.


You can come find RSS feed for most podcasts on my site https://www.listennotes.com/


Some soundcloud podcasts don't have,an RSS feed and,are only listenable withthe soundcloud app. These are the worst.


Do you have an example? I'd like to look into it.


Oops, I got the "S"s mixed up. The podcast that I couldn't find the RSS feed for was on Spotify, not Soundcound.


> podcasts have unblockable ads

As far as I know, they are also the last digital ads with a non-disableable skip button, so you win some and lose some.


It’s called dynamic ad insertion. Online radio stations use it all the time for localized ads based on IP address. Did some work for a set of radio stations in the way of building a diagnostic web player for the metadata in HLS streams debugging their new ad system. (Using HLS.js which I have to say I’m grateful for as it’s a brilliant library)

So they don’t have to stitch together one new audio file per local but place metadata markers in the audio file metadata that prompts ad insertion. These usually have a marker for length and the systems handle number of plays and placement spots. Don’t know as much about that end. HLS being a chunked format would allow the files to be stitched back together on the client end as well with ads in place.

Wouldn’t be surprised if they’re doing this. Also wouldn’t be surprised if many Podcasts are broadcast via HLS as it’s native in Apple software and Apple devices. Someone else with more knowledge would have to confirm or deny that, though.


No HLS in podcasting because of its legacy but just-in-time building of audio files with some caching is plenty fast. Some folks who do this use old internet radio streaming technology with the max buffer size set to infinity, but most of the time it's operating with plain old mp3s.


For sure? Not sure that HLS is bound to AAC (though that’s the standard) as it’s just the container format. Could be transmitted MP3 10s chunks split and added metadata encoded by the distributor. Either way if you’re right about the JIT and buffering it would be trivial to stitch some ad markers in at that point.

But I’m sure independents/lower-volume shows at the very least operate like you’ve said. Makes sense.


yes, for sure. lower volume shows mostly don't use DAI. the big ones use the systems I described.

The podcasting standard does not allow for HLS enclosures.

source: I have worked in podcasting for almost 10 years.


Well thanks for the insight!


The guys on .NET Rocks have talked a bit about this & being able to tweak & update ads over time. One big reason is people still listen to their old shows & they would like those ads to still have value.

I believe the host of your podcast files that people download will send different audio files to different people with different ads targeted in.


Similar view: If there is no RSS feed then it's not a podcast.


Real question - is it dynamic ads that bug you, or the implication that there is some personal tracking motivating the dynamic ads (rather than, say, calendar based ad buys or impression limits)?


Neither. It’s the implication that the show I’m listening to might be subtly varying their content based on whatever metric. Imagine the next cambridge analytica making a podcast app and doing their facebook shenanigans with the news show you trust.

I don’t care about the ads much but they’re impossible to distinguish from content, for those who would wish to do this.


That's a novel concern, at least to me - and it's not clear to me that we have seen any examples of _content modification_ based on psychographics. Curation and promotion based on targeting seems plenty pernicious at least at the moment.



Form what I read in the article it doesn't sound all that terrible. If Apple were to remove all non-Apple podcasts from its platform, that would be bad. This is just Apple supplementing what's already available.

It's very much like Apple rolling out original television shows on the AppleTV. It's not like HBO is getting kicked out.

It makes sense to me that Apple would do this. Since it's making podcasts a separate program on the Mac, it wants to make it more popular and useful.

As far as I can tell, there's nothing stopping another person, company, or organization from producing podcasts that blow Apple's offerings out of the water and still distributing them through Apple. When that happens, I'll worry. Until then, this seems like an OK way to draw attention to podcasts as a whole.


What is the difference between exclusive podcasts and making a website that only runs on Safari?

In both scenarios it is a company giving their product an artificial advantage. There's no technical reason that a website should only run on one browser, it kind of feels the same way with podcasts.

Then again Netflix makes Netflix originals, which are only available on Netflix, and I don't mind that, so I guess my viewpoint is contradictory.


> Then again Netflix makes Netflix originals, which are only available on Netflix, and I don't mind that

There are arguments for why this could be a bad thing. Originals/exclusives have the effect of giving an "unfair" advantage to the company who makes them, because to watch them you need to subscribe to their service. This allows them to compete in avenues other than price and quality of service. This is a similar issue to movie studios owning theater chains, the customers benefit from being able to go see the latest blockbuster at any theater they want, instead of only at company theaters.

The counterpoint is that this makes exclusives more valuable to a streaming service than the average tv show, which means more might get funded than if exclusives were illegal


I mean, yeah, all else being equal, it would be better for consumers to have access to any content they want on any app or device. But it's a bit difficult to imagine how "making exclusives illegal" would work, exactly. Would content producers be required to sell their content to every distribution network for the same price, so that every streaming service could, if they wanted to, make a profit by effectively charging more for the content?

What if the content producer just wanted to sell the raw video file of their movie to consumers directly? I.e. you go to the movie's website, pay, and download an .mp4 file? That's not much different than how Netflix works, except that DRM makes it tricky for the layperson to move that file around to other devices or video players.

So perhaps what this law would look like is just a ban on DRM, although even if that happened, and the content producer had an app or website that took payment and served DRM-free video files, there's no simple way to move that file around, particularly on mobile phones or TV streaming boxes, so I think the sheer convenience of using the content producer's app or website would still result in largely the same "unfair" advantage to large content producers or unions of content producers.

Another legal alternative might be to simply require content producers and distribution networks to be owned by different companies. I believe that idea has been proposed by Elizabeth Warren and others, although I don't know if it's a very fully-fledged proposal or if it would be a good idea. It seems like the distribution networks would still have massive economies of scale and thus the few really big networks would have leverage over customers and content producers that would still result in a lot of exclusivity.


> Would content producers be required to sell their content to every distribution network for the same price, so that every streaming service could, if they wanted to, make a profit by effectively charging more for the content?

No. The platform (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) would have to have a different ownership structure than the content creator. This would allow the studios to sell their shows to whoever they want under whatever terms they want (presumably to the highest bidder). This should theoretically let the free market work effectively.

This (separation of platform from product on said platform) is the basis for many proposals for breaking up "big tech" and is IMO the way to go.


I mention that, and my concerns about that, later in my comment.


I don't understand why we're all of a sudden so concerned with exclusivity. Many high-profile games are platform exclusives, HBO is exclusive, Spotify has artist-exclusive recordings. The world still spins 'round.

There exists a sliding scale between "100% an agnostic platform" and "100% creates and hosts only exclusive content", both of which have existed for decades, and now people are worried that Apple is funding podcasts?


People have argued against all of those. Apple is the new one, hence people will argue against it now.

Plus, at least Netflix et all try to be cross-platform (even if we Linux users are often left in the cold). Will I need an Apple device to listen to these podcasts? If so, that's rather different than those other cases.


What is the difference between exclusive podcasts and making a website that only runs on Safari?

Ask Google, which is actively encouraging people to write web sites that only work on Chrome.

Sometimes it's OK, sometimes it's not.

Netflix and Hulu and other streamers are allowed to make and distribute original content.

Since 1987 in the United States, aside from news, TV networks aren't allowed to make and distribute their own content.

Apple was allowed to have exclusive albums on iTunes ("iTunes Originals").

Large movie producers aren't allowed to make and show their own content in their own theaters.

Maybe someday the regulations that apply to other media will catch up to internet streamers. But that's not where we are today.


Since 1987 in the United States, aside from news, TV networks aren't allowed to make and distribute their own content.

That hasn’t been the case for years.

Look no further than ABC/Disney and “Agents of Shield”, CW (owned jointly by CBS/Warner) and all of the DC related programs, Fox (until Disney bought part of Fox), FoxNetworks and the Simpsons.


> Ask Google, which is actively encouraging people to write web sites that only work on Chrome.

Do you have an example of this claim? I'd be interested to see Google saying anything of the sort.


> Ask Google, which is actively encouraging people to write web sites that only work on Chrome.

Why would I ask Google? We’re talking about Apple Podcasts.


The parent comment asked about Safari, not Apple Podcasts, and a comparison was being made in the browser space.


> Since 1987 in the United States, aside from news, TV networks aren't allowed to make and distribute their own content.

Where the heck did you get this idea from?

This isn't true at all. The vast majority of TV Networks shows are made by the studio that owns the network, because there's a huge financial incentive to do so. Heck, the reality is that half the shows you probably like remain on air despite weak ratings because they are made by the studio that owns the network and so they are taking into account the profits from international sales.


The vast majority of TV Networks shows are made by the studio that owns the network

Studios don't own networks. Studios make programs. Those programs are distributed through distribution companies to stations.

Due to corporate consolidation, it has become common in recent years for a big corporation (Disney, for example) to own a production studio, a TV network, and a distribution company. But they have to exist as independent entities from each other.

Because of common ownership, bundling deals, and audience expectations it is common for a TV show to stay within a particular corporate parent, but it is not alway the case. There are a number of TV stations in the US that air content from two or even three of the big four networks.

That's why at the end of all the network entertainment TV shows you see the distributor listed. It is a separate company.


There are also plenty of audio productions which cost money but which would otherwise clearly be identified as "podcasts" if they were free and listed on podcast directories. The Howard Stern Show, for instance.

So I think the issue here is clearly just about the semantics of the term "podcast" and how people apparently strongly identify the term with free audio content available on multiple platforms. Presumably people wouldn't be too upset with Apple hiring Howard Stern to do a video interview series distributed on its premium video streaming platform. But apparently people would be upset if Apple hired Howard Stern to do an audio interview series distributed on its so-called "Podcasts" app.


Apple having original podcasts, EVEN IF FREE, means there are now two classes of citizens on its platform. First class (Apple stuff), and ‘the rest’.

And I don’t trust that ‘the rest’ will continue to get good treatment like they have. It’s too easy to stop featuring big podcasts from companies who are now your podcast competitors.

Basically they’re losing their neutrality.


That would only be bad if Apple had a monopoly or the other platforms all copy Apple and it cannibalizes the freedom of podcasting in general. But if it’s limited to a few ‘premium’ shows/platforms - while 99% of other content is open - I don’t really see it as a problem.

Particularly if the only way they can finance the shows is by limiting it to their platform, then I’d rather have them still produce that content than not at all…

Sometimes it’s the only way it makes sense as a business, there is no open alternative.

Spotify, Netflix, and every other streaming service functions this way with non-portable content and providing clients on every platform. While piracy fills the void for those who can’t pay or access the platform (for geographic reasons or w/e).

But I have to agree with the OP, it isn’t really a podcast anymore if it’s tied to one platform. It’s more like an on-demand XM radio show than a podcast.


The difference is that movies & TV shows aren't typically given in open data formats - podcasts, or more specifically RSS feeds, are. By announcing Apple exclusive podcasts, they're stating their intent to create a silo around a data format that historically has been open.


Spotify became a second class citizen on my phone once Apple started sinking money into Music.

I have good podcast apps. I want them supported, not crippled because they suddenly became apple’s competitors.


From the users standpoint, there are two things that Apple Music can do that Spotify can’t because of iOS limitations.

- tight Siri integration.

- Apple Watch support for cellular streaming.

Both of those limitations will be corrected by this fall.

- streaming over cellular is coming to WatchOS 6 (https://9to5mac.com/2019/06/09/watchos-6-spotify/)

and

- Siri audio intents is coming to iOS 13 (https://www.macworld.com/article/3400881/ios-13-enables-siri...)

These are the same issues that podcast already have. Podcast apps are just as much “second class citizens” as third party music apps.


Apple's podcast app used to be great. I used to be able to easily subscribe and download all the episodes for a show, navigate to any show, and get back to what I was listening to all in a few taps.

As it stands now, if you want to add all of the episodes from a show that you have listened to for the past 14 years that somehow was not subscribed to on your device, you have to go to the show and subscribe, go to available episodes and tap on the + next to every.single.episode and even then sometimes episodes get lost.

You can set the custom settings to download all available, but it won't download the episodes of a subscribed podcast if you haven't explicitly added them (tap that + sign)

Also, can we just set the screen podcast app opens on to our own choice? I literally have to go through an extra menu just to see my show listing. Yes, I've created a "station" for the shows but that's immensely inconvenient if I want to listen to one show continuously without having to navigate to the shows page (guess I have to create a station for every show...)

I don't think the Apple funded shows will be bad. This article really seems to be creating a mountain out of nothing. Hopefully, this means that some lucky podcaster or media group makes $$$ off of a deal with Apple.


Kind of ironic, since the name "podcast" comes from the Apple iPod. If anybody would have first dibs on the name "podcast", it's them.


Perhaps, but Podcasts began outside of Apple. It was several years before Apple decided to officially support them in iTunes.


Podcasts first came out in 2004. Apple included podcast support in iTunes in 2005.


Apple didn't create the term podcast, though.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038m811


There's also quite a name collision with this company's product that has remained surprisingly civil with apple

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_6_(company)


“podcast” I think you meant.


You're right. I've fixed my comment.


That in and of itself is kind of ironic since the iPod has been all but relegated to the annals of history.


"No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame."

It's gone now that everybody has a pocket supercomputer, but it's stunning just how far it went in completely changing the way we relate to music, and audio in general.


I don't think it changed the way I relate to music at all, it was just one more step in the ladder. I had a walkman before I had CD player before I had a MiniDisk Player before I had an iPod before I had Spotify.


To me the iPod and iTunes around 2006 were there peak of my interaction with music. Before or after everything has been worse.

I've seriously considered building my own music hardware company just to recapture a few features and UX experiences which for me at least made music a much bigger part of my life.


I think the comment you’re replying to meant “we” as in society not as in specifically-you.


Apple, as it is now, was built off the cash cow that was the iPod. Then they cannibalized it with the iPhone.


Sure, but their opportunity to claim those dibs passed years ago.


I see a lot of good podcast apps for Apple but I couldn't find a nice one for Android. I would like to pay for one, but I can't a reasonable one that allows me to make my playlists and speed listen without drowning me in ads. Sure I can spend hours trying each one of the dozens, but would my fellow HN have any suggestion?


Pocket Casts. End of story. It has speed settings and silence trimming, playlists, syncs across devices, and you pay for it so there's no ads.


I just bought it. Looks really nice. I like to speed listen to news podcasts, but music ones must be heard at 1x speed. It is very nice that it has customized settings by podcast.


AntennaPod is a fantastic FOSS podcast app for android. It doesn't have in-app purchases, advertisements or other such misfeatures.

There is a speed setting that speeds things up without sounding distorted. You can toggle between a configurable list of speeds (I switch between 1.0x and 1.15x depending on the podcast). I just wish it would remember different speeds for each podcast -- currently the speed behaves as a global setting.

The UI is set up so that when you download a new episode it goes into the reproduction queue. I don't think it has playlists but in my experience being able to reorder the episodes in the queue is all I need because I rarely listen to the same episode twice.


I've used Podcast Addict for years, I don't use playlists or change the playback speed but after just checking it looks like you can do both.


+1 for Podcast Addict. Terrific free app. I've used it for several years and it keeps getting better.


I've been using DoggCatcher for years. Searching for podcasts to subscribe to could use some work, but I don't do that very often anyway. They don't show any ads either.


Have you tried Pocket Casts? Any reason it doesn’t work for you?


Never tried because it is paid. I didn't know if it was good.


If your doing it professionally or even as a serious amateur its a "show"


Although I personally don’t like Overcast because of the ad injection (which I consider immoral) and the hypocrisy of its author being anti-ads in general (not to mention having built Tumblr, which turned out to be a porn obfuscation service), I agree that this is a bad move by Apple. Doesn’t matter: podcasts are going to go the way of TV, radio, and movies anyway.


Ad injection?

As far as I know Overcast does not inject ads into podcasts. There are banner ads within the app but that's not "injection"


Overcast doesn’t insert ads into podcasts. Marco objected to including mystery meat binary blobs where he didn’t control the code or ads being served. He controls both the code and the ads for Overcast.


Did you purchase the $10 in app option to turn ads off?


Do you purchase subscriptions to news websites, or do you follow the archive.is links on HN?

Of course I didn't purchase Overcast. There are better free alternatives.


Yes, I do purchase subscriptions to news web sites occasionally, because I don't consider writers being paid to be intrinsically immoral. Given the choice to pay them with ads and pay them directly, I'll take the latter. I suppose "rely on other people seeing ads and/or paying for content to subsidize me" is also an option.


What is a "porn obfuscation service"?



I've been using Overcast, and have noticed that with certain podcasts, the audio ad-breaks seem to come in the middle of sentences, and there's no segue from podcast content to ad-read. Is that what you're referring to by "ad injection"? Or is just that the creator sucks at editing?


That’s because the podcast in question probably uses a network/hosting service that auto-injects ads. Overcast does NOT inject ads into podcasts. It offers banner ads in the app for podcasts (and you can pay to turn that off), but it doesn’t inject any content into the podcasts themselves.


That’s called ‘Dynamic Ad Injection’. It’s not Overcast, in fact Marco gets complaints about it.

It’s the podcast host adding ads in via automated means that are supposedly customized for each listener. And doing a poor job of it.


I don't like where media streaming is headed. This is what everyone is doing:

1. Create a distribution platform. Users pay $14 a month to stream all content. Everyone is happy.

2. Once successful, start creating exclusive content.

3. Content creators on your platform start their own platforms and take content off of yours.

4. Now users are paying $14 for 6 different distribution/content platforms. Might as well just call them "channels". This is no better than cable.


Still a lot better than cable since you can watch what you want in real time and no commercials.

Also you really don't need to subscribe to all of them. Who needs that much content? I can't even keep up with my Netflix or YouTube queue, let alone the others. I have Amazon Prime, but never use it. HBO for a couple shows, but could subscribe only during their seasons.


When cable was first introduced there were no commercials...


Exactly. As soon as these streaming services become ubiquitous and irreplaceable, they will go the route of cable and start trying to milk the cow for all it's worth.


They are already doing that. Amazon Prime Video annoys the shit out of me with those stupid ads for other shows shown before a series episode actually starts.

It is just a small step from this kind of self-promotion to showing ads for stuff on Amazon. After all, they have my purchasing and article browsing profile and could easily try to find articles that I might be inclined to buy. I would put some bucks on the line betting that we will see something like that in the next 5 years.


One thing with cable was that there was never a feasible way to offer separate packages with and without ads. (Yes, there were specific channels that didn't have them, but there was never a technically feasible way to do that across all channels.)

With streaming, we can avoid this because it's possible offer packages:

Price X includes ads

Price X+Y has no ads

As long as Y is something enough consumers are willing to pay, you can always price yourself out of the ad-watching category by paying more. The trouble with out conventional "freebie" internet services as we know them is there aren't enough people willing to pay the additional Y.


All signs point to us being back to what we had when cable was prominent. Different lipstick on the same pig.


5. Users eventually figure out they are paying way too much for random platforms they watch once or twice a month with the exception of a yearly season binge for that 1 show they continue to subscribe for.

6. Users begin to drop from platforms.

7. Platforms realize the masses are fatigued from dealing with 5-10 different apps, multiple monthly payments, queues, sifting through tons of mediocre exclusive content, etc. They decide to create a God Platform that manages multiple "channels" through a single subscription.

8. Users love it, flocking to the new God Platform.

9. ?


9. Members of the God Platform realize that each entity being logically separate and needing to be independently profitable hurts the entire platform so they move to a combined subscription model where user revenue is shared depending on the size and popularity of the content provider.

10. The new model ensures that content producers compete at the contract negotiation level and don't manifest in user-visible price differences so the price of content gradually shifts away from the cost of production and up to customers' willingness to pay since all content producers are singular in the intent to maximize total user revenue.

11. Access to this God Platform is pretty much ubiquitous and ISPs try to differentiate themselves by bundling discounted subscriptions as part of their internet package. People love it and gradually move over.

12. Once every ISP offers the service the discount evaporates as it's no longer a differentiating feature.

13. ?


Switch 2 and 3 and you can see what the issue is.

Content creators can easily create distribution platforms of their own. So if you're Disney? Well, why deal with Netflix?

Netflix et al are then in a bind, in that they eventually have less and less content, so they start making content.

It's kind of a vicious circle.


But also, now a lot more art exists in the world that would otherwise have never have been created!

Sure it's annoying to view, but it's out there! (Note, it's annoying, not necessarily expensive! You can subscribe to a different service each month.)


I like this perspective. Honestly if it's not worth $16 of your pay per month, don't pay for it! There's so much more stuff out there. You don't need to see everything. There's so much more content being produced now that you don't need to pay for it all to have endless entertainment.


I would not be surprised if step 5. is a platform that is essentially an aggregation of different platforms which pays out royalties/fees to each of the individual services and thus completes the digital recreation of cable TV.


To the large extent this is how Amazon Video (or Hulu) works - you can subscribe not only to Prime Video, but also to HBO, Starz, CBS, etc. Which have subscription services of their own.


Without exclusive content what bargaining power does the platform have?


I live near Gothenburg an a couple of my friends I went to university do work for Spotify. Every couple of months we meet for afterwork. In addition to that I do have my own podcast (https://jeena.net/pods) which I only publish on my own website and added the link to my RSS feed to iTunes (and https://gpodder.net/).

Last time on afterwork they started asking me why my podcast isn't in Spotify. I hesitated at first because I knew that I'm basically would need to tell them that they're working for a company which does immoral things and that I don't want to help them to destroy the Podcast landscape.

But there was no way around it so I tried to explain it as soft as possible, but they're intelligent people and didn't have a problem in understanding what I'm trying to say even though they themselves never thought in those categories. There was a bit of awkward silence after that. But then we changed the subject.


I hope exclusive podcasts don't become a trend. Podcasts are very good media format for informal education / learning. Instead of spending 30 hours reading a book, you can just listen to conversion among smart people in 30 minutes in podcasts. If there are more and more exclusive & paid podcasts, it'll become harder for young people (or people from poor areas) to access to the content.

ps, I built Listen Notes ( https://www.listennotes.com/ ) to be an independent podcast directory that helps surface long tailed podcasts (public & distributed via rss). If you want to build a better podcast app, you can use Listen Notes API to jumpstart your project: https://www.listennotes.com/api/


>Instead of spending 30 hours reading a book, you can just listen to conversion among smart people in 30 minutes in podcasts

I don't understand this. Why can't that 30 minute conversation be transcribed into a script which you can read in 5 minutes? Either way, you're missing practically everything in the book.


Why listen to music when you can read the lyrics? The written word was created out of a need to disseminate information to the masses more efficiently than the author speaking to everyone individually, but that's now a mostly solved problem with podcast distribution. Spoken word allows for certain nuances that are hard or impossible to convey over text. Also, it's just fun to listen to a few good hosts go back and forth.


>Why listen to music when you can read the lyrics?

I feel that is a false equivalence as information transfer is not typically part of music.


It might be possible but I rather listen relaxed to those people on my train ride than staring concentrated on my phone for 5 minutes.


Next up, exclusive websites that only work in safari?

Podcasts should just be an RSS feed that anyone can consume, but I think exclusivity will be important going forward, along with locking people into apps so they can be tracked and monetized.


> Next up, exclusive websites that only work in safari?

No, that's Chrome's wheelhouse


Or TV shows that only work in Netflix?


I feel like there is near universal agreement that service-exclusive content fragmentation is terrible for consumers regardless of media format.


What, like exclusive news articles that are only available from that news outlet? Sure, it would be great if content siloing wasn't ever a thing—but it's been a thing since forever.

Hating on Apple for doing what the bulk of the commercial content industry seems misplaced.

Next I suppose you'll be complaining because Apple chooses to be part of the capitalist economy and expects to be paid money for their goods. That's terrible for consumers! Screw you Apple!


Oh please. Is "embrace, extend, extinguish" bad because it is slowly closing off the open web, or is it fine that Apple, Spotify, etc are buying podcast producers and moving away from RSS for their own proprietary delivery methods.

And I'm not hating on Apple for doing what the bulk of the commercial content industry is doing. I listen to The Daily via their public RSS feeds, and I'm also an NYT subscriber. A significant majority of podcasting is available via public RSS feeds, even subscription-only Slate Plus allows you to plug a personalized RSS feed into the app of your choice. Apple and Spotify aren't building on existing open-web technologies that power RSS to deliver their premium content, they're forcing everybody into their proprietary apps after purchasing podcast producers (some of which, like Gimlet, I was previously ALSO a paid member of).

Perhaps it's best that we default to a highly critical stance when it comes to the most valuable and most profitable company in the world, and the decisions they make that affect the foundational principles of the web as we know it?


> Is "embrace, extend, extinguish" bad

Only if there is an extinguish.

Even then I'd say no, because if you don't like what happened, build your own damn thing. Channel your inner RMS, please. If something isn't free to begin with, having it taken away from you isn't a loss—it's a reminder that it was never free to begin with.

> A significant majority of

Thanks for agreeing with my point without realising it. Some podcasts aren't available for free and/or via RSS. As it happens I pay $5/month to access my favourite podcast, which is available via a private RSS feed. And my second-favourite "podcast" is free but not available with an RSS feed.

But no, zaksoup hates a diversity of business models.

> decisions they make that affect the foundational principles of the web as we know it

Like companies putting journalism behind a paywall? Screw those arseholes! Who are they to charge me for goods and services?


> Podcasts should just be an RSS feed that anyone can consume

Just the way the Podfather, Adam Curry, intended.


He continues to podcast that way, in the morning. I wouldn't call a pay-to-play audio file, a podcast. A value for value donation structure seems the only way to sustain podcasts.


I really wish they'd compete by just making the Podcasts app not a pile of shit.

It routinely doesn't sync where I am between devices and never works correctly on my HomePod. Adding old episodes on one device won't add it anywhere else. The Apple TV version simply doesn't have the ability to add episodes to your library. The less said about iTunes' podcast functionality the better.

I know they're porting the iOS Podcasts app to Mac for the next version so there's some hope.. maybe.


Those problems STILL exist? That’s what drove me to Overcast many years ago.


I should probably just use Overcast, too. It's insane to me how awful the Podcasts app is.


I really love Marco Arment and ATP, but I couldn't figure out the UI of Overcast, so if anyone's in the same boat I'd highly recommend Pocket Casts. It's a super nice UI and supports Google Casting.


I can't wrap my head around the way queuing works (or more so, doesn't work) in Overcast so I switched to Castro. Indie devs, iOS exclusive. Can't recommend it enough!


I have the same problems as you do.

Set podcasts to download on my iPhone. Doesn't download on my watch and my laptop starts downloading 50gb worth of podcasts. I will probably move over to overcast.


I don’t mind if Apple does this. I don’t even mind if Apple uses this as an opportunity to promote/feature its podcasts more prominently in Apple Podcasts. But I’m very fearful that Apple will make its podcasts only available in Apple Podcasts and won’t adhere to the RSS spec and will only be available in its apps and on its platform.


I'd kind of like them to make their podcasts totally open (i.e., like every other non-exclusive podcast), with a proviso that their original podcasts cannot be made available through any app that shares exclusive for-pay content. That is, you can listen to an Apple Original Podcast(tm) on not only Apple Podcasts, but Overcast, Castro, Pocketcasts, etc., but not through Spotify or Luminary.

And, yes, I recognize that'd be kind of a jerk move, but I'm okay with being a jerk in this context.


That’s interesting. If there was a way to block Luminary — I’d be in favor of that.

Spotify has its own repository that is separate from Apple Podcasts — you have to manually submit to them and they don’t just ingest Apple’s directory (as others do), but I wouldn’t be opposed to not submitting an Apple podcast to Spotify.

That said, I’m not in favor of doing anything to the RSS feed that makes it nonstandard. So if Luminary can add/play files from an RSS feed (not talking about how they import stuff into their own directory) or Spotify had that feature, I’d be opposed to breaking the feed, if that makes sense.


Breaking RSS would be a bad idea, definitely. I think if they did anything like this, it would be a matter of licensing rather than a technical change. I've read reports that the New York Times and (possible irony alert) Spotify-owned Anchor and Gimlet Media have blocked Luminary from their podcasts, for instance.


Do you guys think the world would be a better place if platform owners are not allowed to use their control over the platform to gain an advantage in adjacent industries? If this level of vertical integration is deemed monopolistic and illegal? Yes Netflix would have to divest its content business and Disney would have to divest its streaming business, Sony and MS would have to sell their game studios and end their third party exclusives. This way platforms can compete on their own merits as platforms only and content compete as content only. The consumer would win by choosing the best platform and the best content without being forced to bundle bad platform and good content or vice versa.

The situation ATM seems awful.


Given the relatively low cost (I imagine), Apple could instead fund regular podcasts, but buy out their entire ad/placement inventory, and continue to make the podcasts available to everyone.

Given Beats 1 as "platform exclusive radio" hasn't made much of a splash (is it still going?), maybe audio content is better thought about as extending awareness as opposed increasing stickiness.


Audio is so trivially pirated (and in fact was pretty much the first resource to be pirated in the 90s) that I don't know how many seconds they really expect this content to remain exclusive. All they will achieve is to limit the audience of these podcasts, but if users are keen to listen to them...


Why do companies that build platforms and marketplaces keep doing this? Are they really so uncreative that they just can't help but compete with the vendors?


I don’t know why apple assumes they will be good at making creative content. Podcasts, TV, video games...

They might be. No reason to lean either way. But it’s expensive. It feels contrary to the desires of people who invested in apple, the hardware, software, and platform provider...


Apple won’t be making the content, my guess is they’ll pull a Spotify and buy the productions companies who make the content. Things will continue the way they are now, except they’re exclusive to Apple.


Personally, I think this is good. It allows more people to make a living off of podcasting, and will hopefully keep Spotify from taking over the market.

At minimum it helps the medium gain a wider adoption.


I promise I'm not trying to troll-bait you into saying something that will get you downvoted into oblivion. I'm really curious (please people don't downvote the response, assuming one comes).

Why do you say:

> and will hopefully keep Spotify from taking over the market.

Why would that be such a bad thing in your opinion?

Spotify seems like a clear underdog with a ton more vulnerability here. If anything I worry about the giants (like Apple) continuing to approach monopoly/gatekeeper status and closing those of us non-Apple users off from more and more.

Somewhat off topic but I literally can't even text some of my friends anymore because I'm a "green bubble" or something like that, and it drives them nuts. I hate the emerging world of have and have-nots that are not for technical reasons at all.


I'm happy to explain! From my point of view I see this as an injection of cash into the podcasting market. Personally, I don't see podcasts as being super mainstream (not on the same level as books / music / youtube). I think funding would allow more content to be produced, and hopefully allow for more people to enjoy podcasting. This would grow the market as a whole.

Spotify has most of the music streaming market (more then double Apple Music's share). I do agree that exclusives are bad, but my assumption is that Apple will make an android podcasts app if they do start charging / require service exclusivity (Like they did with apple music).

As for the iMessage issue... I don't really have a good solution for that. I know lots of people use Discord / Signal / GroupMe / Wire for group chats, since its more platform agnostic.


> I know lots of people use Discord / Signal / GroupMe / Wire for group chats, since its more platform agnostic.

Sadlol, I remember when SMS was platform agnostic :-(

That is really good advice tho. I've started using Keybase, Mattermost, and Telegram quite a bit and while having multiple apps is a pain, it does address the various needs of groups pretty well.


It still is agnostic! We just have better alternatives now! I agree having a ton of apps is a pain. I have a folder dedicated to messaging apps.


Very true, SMS feels super clunky and hobbled compared to many of the better alternatives we have. Thanks for the optimism :-)


I read it as meaning gen3 doesn't want any monopolists, rather than wanting Apple to take over instead of Spotify.


How does that work in a world where you need to buy a 1000$+ device just to access a piece of content?


As it currently stands, you can listen to podcasts on itunes online. If they decided to do "premium" content that the user would need to pay for, I would assume they would also make an android app, like they did with Apple Music.

Your right, requiring a device to access content would be bad, but seeing that Apple is trying to transition to a service based model, I don't think access will that much of an issue.


Here comes the overcommoditized corporate schlock. I hope it doesn't take the air out of the room for the independents. The best thing about podcasting is it's not completely overrun with corporate censors. That's going to be a change for the worse I suspect. We'll get a couple game of thrones caliber podcasts, but in return most are going to be housewives of whatever quality.


It's interesting to see this evolution of media over time.

It used to be that it didn't matter who you were - the distribution channel was all that mattered. For example, MTV could make you famous in an instant, but the second the channel let you go and replaced you with the next flavor of the week, you were out of luck.

More recently, we've moved to a model where the platform and medium are less important than the personality. Think Joe Rogan, who pushes his podcast out to every channel possible. Or Barstool Sports, which has various content in the form of podcasts, blogs, YouTube videos, etc.

These power law podcasters (Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss, etc.) can make more money on their own than through exclusivity with a distribution network. But they are few and far between, and require an entire support system to handle ads, cross-posting content, business admin, etc.

So it seems that the majority of full-time podcasters and content creators, after attracting an audience, will move back towards a walled garden of content.

If you're a creator making a living off of your work, would you rather spend 75% of your time on business admin and cobble together your income through ad and merch sales? Or sign with Apple or Spotify, collect a salary, and spend 100% of your time creating art?

We haven't come full-circle, though. While these creators are locked into the platform, people are coming to the platform for the creators themselves. The creators have far more power than they used to. But the consumer has to pay for a "cable package" of podcast apps and video streaming apps.

Corollary: Lots of people no longer root for teams, but for their favorite athletes. I see a ton of this especially in the NBA, where people are LeBron fans first and just root for whatever team he's currently playing for.


I kind of disagree with your take here. This is just the segmentation of the market into aggregators and channels, just like what happened with cable and like is happening with OTT services today. Netflix/Hulu are good examples of aggregators condensing into channels.

The one thing I think that makes this different is that podcasts are stupid cheap to produce and distribute. You could put together a podcast network in a weekend. Getting sponsors is probably harder than getting listeners.

I honestly don't see the value-add of Apple throwing their weight into this market, unless they're planning on monopolizing audio content distribution on iPhones, or paying a lot more than the podcast's sponsor spots are worth. I'd be wary of being tied to a single platform for distribution, because that's played hell with creators on YouTube.


Hopefully now Tim and Eric can secure their funding!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lInBaMusmO4

(A video of Tim prank calling Apple tech support circa 2006 trying to get Apple to fund their podcast. The faux biz speak is great)


I'm not sure of the potential for growth on either end that podcasts have. Certainly they remain popular with more educated consumers, but I wonder if it's a case of being unable to see outside of your bubble. On the other end, podcasts have always been super cheap to make. That isn't going to change. Most people have historically just made them for fun or out of passion.

There's probably little hope in growing a platform of highly produced podcasts that supports a bunch of creators, regardless of who does it. I think think these efforts will crash and burn. But this isn't a problem for the people who've been recording on a Zoom and paying $5/month to host their libraries for the last 10 years.


No Apple don’t! Just keep the iTunes aggregator of podcasts open and free. Doing so has kept podcasts vibrant and Apple the defacto curator of the canonical list of podcasts — a huge moat


Does the new podcast mac app allow you to see the RSS feed like iTunes? If so, I wonder if you could extract the exclusive podcasts' feed URL and use it in 3rd party apps.


I can't answer your question, but as someone who uses ruby scripts to do custom filtering on podcast feeds, I can say that iTunes is one of the biggest PITAs to work with. Constantly evolving to further obscure the inner workings. Apple isn't the only one, but they are definitely the 10,000 lb gorilla.


I was more referring to the feature where if you already subscribe to a feed, you can get the URL from either the right-click menu or menu bar menu. Although I remember there being a way to get the RSS feed from the Apple Podcast webpage for the podcast; is this what you are talking about?


Sorry I missed your reply earlier. I was more referring to getting at the RSS feed URL from an iTunes link


If they’re exclusive to Apple, there isn’t much of a reason to have a RSS feed.


If they stick with RSS, they won't have to write/test a new feed format and parser. RSS (and the podcast extensions to it) are pretty battle-tested at this point.


That's so unnecessary.

If Apple wants to fend off rivals, then just stop treating podcasts as second class citizens and built tools for creators, including detailed analytics. I'm not talking about the type of analytics that Google would built (one that reports that you were sitting on john while listening to this part), but one with anonymized usage data that helps creators producing new content and generate revenue through subscription and advertisement.


I used their podcast connect service recently and it is so basic and bad.

I agree if they cared about podcasts they should start with enabling all podcasts. Walling off accessibility podcast audio streams is dumb precedent for such an influential player to fuel.


What part of Google analytics do you think are different from what you described?


I meant that Google would try to extract any and every information from a user, while Apple can easily just provide the most important information.

Admittedly, I was trying to be a bit funny. Didn't work out obviously.


No, I got it. People who get the joke don’t leave a comment. They just exhale out their nose.


Does anyone else think the Podcast app is unusable? This is what I'd do if I were Apple.

1. Fix your app for people that sub to more than 10 podcasts, I crash all the time and takes me maybe 5-10 minutes to load into the app. I had to switch to Spotify because I can't use Apple's version anymore.

2. Host podcasts for premium members. Run ads for them.

3. Create an Android and Windows app. Separate Mac app. Own this space.


One interesting place Apple could add value is offering (once they combine all their services into Apple+, and then maybe only for those users) let podcast creators host ad-free versions of their episodes and give a little kick back to them when an episode is downloaded.


Is this where Spotify is heading as well with its acquisition of Gimlet?


Yes, and Anchor. Podcasts are on the way out, just like the open Web. It's unfortunate that we refuse to learn from history.


Is there any reason we can't just rip podcasts from these, post them in RSS feeds and have the non-owned apps list them for free - thus making them far superior by giving them access to all content?


Immediate DMCA claims? These podcasts may be free, but they're not copyleft.


The non-owned apps and people hosting the feeds would be complicit in the distribution of copyrighted content, which is illegal. Of course, that probably won't stop them. There are apps that do this for television, like ApolloTV and PopcornTime so if there's demand it will happen with podcasts as well


Other than potential legal issues, I don't see any significant barriers to what you are proposing.


> It's unfortunate that we refuse to learn from history.

Who does? It's not like most of us have any say in the matter.


> Who does? It's not like most of us have any say in the matter.

Anybody who listens to podcasts has a say in the matter. Boycott Apple, Spotify, etc.


Probably. And I won’t listen to any Gimlet shows that require me to use the Spotify app.

I’m fine with subscription podcasts, I pay for a few. But if I can’t use my podcast app it’s not happening.


How do you feel about timed exclusives? I gave up on Crimetown when the second season was seemingly a Spotify exclusive. But, then, a year later, they started releasing the episodes on the RSS feed.

Given how many "must-listen" podcasts I've been recommended, I can definitely stand waiting out these exclusives... until a cultural-moment series (a la Serial) comes along and necessitates real-time consumption.


I would love if they at least just made it a premium RSS feed


Apple is trying to compete on the wrong turf à la Netflix, Prime Video and Spotify. At the end of the day when the “original content” fad ends, its going hurt Apple badly.



Spotify started this war, but Apple will finish it.


Que google releasing their verison: audio adwords for podcasts with optional subscriptions to remove the ads.


Curious what kind of content will be in there.

I can't personally imagine Joe Rogan or Sam Harris kind of conversations under the Apple umbrella, since no matter the topic, there's always going to be someone offended and it's now a question of who's gonna spin the "Apple is sponsoring nazis" kind of narrative first.


2019 - The year that podcasting started going downhill because of the greed machine.

Got no problem with people making money off podcasts, but once everything starts getting consolidated, crap just goes south.




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