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Selling Paid Subscriptions in Apple Podcasts

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Apple Podcasts started helping creators sell paid episodes via Apple Podcasts Connect in 2021. Since then, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows (is anything?), but the program has slowly and steadily improved. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Apple Podcasts’ Subscription program so you can determine if it’s a good option for monetizing your show.

What Are Apple Podcasts Subscriptions?

Apple offers several subscriptions, from Apple Music and TV to its Arcade and Fitness+ apps. However, Apple Podcast subscriptions are a little different because the podcast creators become the primary beneficiaries.

It’s worth saying that the vast majority of shows on Apple Podcasts are still free. It remains the biggest and most popular platform for podcast listening. But as of 2021, some of these shows have offered additional paid content. When podcasters set up the subscription element, they’d add bonus content that only their paid subscribers can download or stream. This content can’t be heard outside of the Apple Podcasts app. 

What Can Podcasters Make from Selling Paid Subscriptions on Apple Podcasts?

What do podcasters make from selling paid Apple Podcasts subscriptions? In the overview, Apple states: “You receive 70% of the subscription price at each billing cycle, minus applicable taxes. After a subscriber accumulates one year of paid service, your net revenue increases to 85% of the subscription price, minus applicable taxes. Your other podcast revenue — including any ads — will stay 100% yours.”

Podcasters pay an annual fee to join. It varies, depending on your home country, but in the US it’s $19.99 and in the UK it’s £17.99.

Does it Impact Other Monetization Strategies?

No. Your podcast can be a paid subscription on Apple Podcasts and include ads or other monetization sources. They won’t make you take out any mention of your crowdfunding (e.g. Patreon) or your sponsors. You can even upload those same premium episodes to other platforms which allow you to sell podcast content.

How to Start Selling Paid Subscriptions with Apple Podcasts

Tempted to give it a try? Firstly, you have to start a podcast. Got one? Good. They don’t grow on trees, you know.

1. Join Apple Podcasts Connect

Define yourself as an individual or a company. If you’re a company, add additional users to your account (you might want other people in your team to be able to check stats and so on). Agree to Terms of Service. If you’re working with a hosting provider to offer free podcasts via RSS feeds, you’re ready to go. You can start submitting shows to Apple Podcasts.

2. Sign up for the Apple Podcasters Program.

First, you have to complete the Apple Podcasters Program agreement. You will need to provide:

  • Contact information.
  • Tax info. For example, if you’re an individual in the US making a podcast just for fun, you still must fill out a W-9 form.
  • Banking info. This includes your account number and your ABA Routing number. Apple has its own payment processor. 
  • User Roles: This is where you put in the contact information for whoever is in charge of legal, marketing, analytics, and so on.
  • If you use one, submit a request for a DBA (“doing business as”) or Pen name.

Once you’ve paid the fee, Apple Podcasts for Creators could take up to a day to set up their end of your account.

3. Set up Your Content for a Subscription.

Here’s where things get interesting. Apple knows that once people make one podcast, they want to make more. They’ve set up Apple Podcasts for Creators accordingly. Apple offers step-by-step explanations for how to set up your subscriptions. It’s easy to get distracted by all the steps and lose sight of the bigger picture. I want to give you the broader concept so you understand it. Think about your content like nesting boxes. 

nesting boxes show how categories fit inside each other.

The outermost box is your Channel. This is your brand or umbrella for your work.

The next box is your Podcasts. Apple uses the word “podcast” and “show” interchangeably. 

Each Podcast contains Episodes. These episodes can be free or paid. A “freemium” podcast is Apple’s term to signal that, “most of the episodes in this podcast are free, but the audience has to pay for this one.”

You’re in good shape if you’ve already published a podcast through Apple. This means your Channel has a Podcast in it with Free Episodes. These episodes’ audio files would be stored at the media host of your choice, and they would go to the Apple Podcasts directory via an RSS feed. That hasn’t changed.

4. Adding Subscription Content

Adding a podcast for subscribers only looks almost like setting up a new podcast in a media host like Buzzsprout. Select which countries Apple Podcasts’ directory publishes it to. Affirm that your show doesn’t contain any third-party content (or, if it does, that you’ve obtained the rights to use it).

Previously, you had to upload premium content directly to Apple Podcast Subscriptions. Fortunately, they’ve since made it easier for podcasters to use their preferred hosting provider to store their subscription content. 27 different hosting services, from Blubrry to Zencast are now partnered with Apple on this venture, and that number will likely continue to grow.

Selling Apple Podcasts Subscriptions

Telling your listeners you have an episode for sale is all very well, but what’s in it for them? Here are some of the options Apple recommends.

  • Ad-free podcast episodes. You upload your episode’s audio file to your media host, including whatever sponsorship you currently use. You also make a second version of the podcast episode’s audio file, without ads or sponsorship. This is the one that you sell on Apple. Users will see both kinds of episodes listed. But, only people who have paid for an Apple Podcasts subscription can unlock the ad-free version.
  • Additional episodes, like behind-the-scenes content or bonus material. 
  • Early access: Let your paid subscribers have the next episode a few days early.
  • Archive access: Remove episodes from your free RSS feed after some time, but make them available in your paid feed. 

Apple recommends that you use your creativity and uniqueness to sell your episodes. You’re not forced to use their marketing language. Instead of “Subscribe to get access to bonus episodes.” It could be, “If you want the episodes with cake recipes, cough up the dough.”You can set your own prices and time frames. 

Apple’s Subscription Analytics

So far, this may sound like a lot of work for podcasters, and a lot of control and money for Apple. Here’s a benefit that other episode monetization programs don’t have: Apple’s subscription analytics. Apple gives podcasters more detail than most episode monetization programs. The level of detail may make understanding your subscription program confusing for people who don’t have an accounting or marketing degree. But Apple Podcasts for Creators also offers workshops to make working with your subscribers easier. 

Other Ways To Sell A Bite of The Apple

The Apple Services Performance Partner Program is an affiliate marketing program that helps podcasters “earn commissions on qualifying Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+, and Apple Podcasts memberships as well as the sales of movies, TV shows, books, audiobooks, and more.” Let’s say you have a movie review podcast, and you have an episode about Oscar-winning movies. You could link your show notes to CODA, available through Apple+, and use that link for affiliate monetization. 

You can apply to join the program, but Apple says, “Currently, we are only accepting a limited number of partners who can drive volume and quality that meet Apple guidelines.”

Bear in Mind What the Market Will Bear

Be mindful of your audience and what they’re willing and able to pay. Don’t forget that Chapo Trap House raised an absurd amount of Patreon pledges by using a low price tag. Make sure to give your audience appropriate value for their money. 

Or, if you want, you really could start selling paid Apple Podcasts subscriptions with a podcast called Billionaire’s Cheering Squad, fill it with motivational messages for billionaires only, and sell it on Apple Podcasts for $5K a month. I’d be very curious to see how that worked out.

Selling Apple Podcasts subscriptions can add extra hours to your workflow, but it might be worth it. As is so often the fact with podcasting, it’s more about the content than the delivery platform. There are other places to sell podcast episodes and other ways to monetize your podcast whilst keeping everything free. When you spot one you think might fit, why not pop into the IndiePod Community and tell us all about it? It’d be great to see you in there!

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