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Why are Apple podcasts moving from 'subscribe' to 'follow'?

Dominic asks "I've read that Apple are moving to 'follow' rather than 'subscribe' when you choose to sign up to a podcast. Why? And how does it affect my podcast? Good or bad!"

I've been advising podcast clients for years that 'subscribe' isn't the best word to be using, even though Apple (at the point of writing) still suggest that listeners 'subscribe' to keep episodes hitting their app. And I'm backed up with evidence... Edison Research reckon 47 percent of people who aren't into podcasts think subscribe means PAY! Think about it; you subscribe to a magazine, you subscribe to Netflix. It's perfectly fair that a number of people think they'd have to pay to subscribe!

Meanwhile, all the other key players in podcasting, suggest you 'follow'. So Apple are arguably just playing catch up.

Whilst the change hasn't appeared yet - and was spotted by Podnews as something due to roll out with the iOS 14.5 software update.

So that leaves just YouTube and Google Podcasts sticking with the 'subscribe' option.

What do I advise? I suggest you start saying "click follow OR subscribe" in your episodes from now. Equally, my advice remains that in your promos - and whenever you can weave it in elsewhere - you always describe your production as a "free to listen podcast". It's just another opportunity to clarify the confusion with your potential listeners.

In the UK, there are still many, many more people who DON'T listen to podcasts than do - so if you can engage with those non-listeners effectively, explaining that it's free and easy to access, you'll be pulling in a much larger potential audience, right?

Here's an interesting observation. You might think that this change in reference is down to Apple finally 'seeing the light'. It might be. It might not. Why? Because Apple are rumoured to be looking at a subscription-based podcast model. They might just need to retain their 'subscribe' button for when they start asking for cash!

Either way, money is being ploughed into podcast production by the big players and one would assume they're looking for a return on their investment. The likes of Spotify might well achieve what they need through music streaming subscribers, the smaller podcasts of this world might make some cash through Patreon subscriptions or 'buy me a coffee' style routes and I don't think that traditional advert spots or sponsorship are anywhere near dead yet.

BUT in a post-pandemic world, perhaps these companies need to look at where revenue is going to come from in the future and with all of us familiar with the subscription model (whether Netflix or Audible), perhaps us users will be comfortable with paying for audio content.

If we are, then we're sure as hell going to want quality content - and not something crunched together on a mobile phone. Which is where Verbu comes in. Grab a 30 minute consultation here, get some actionable ideas to implement immediately and explore how we could work together.

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