Apple’s split of the classic Mac application iTunes into separate Music and TV apps came after it decided to offer subscription audio and video services; now another former piece of iTunes — podcasts — is reportedly set to get its own special reason for being. According to Bloomberg, Apple is planning to fund a set of exclusive podcasts that will set its own apps apart, a surprisingly belated decision given the company’s 14-year history with the podcasting medium.
Today’s report says that Apple’s goal is in part to “keep competitors Spotify and Stitcher at bay” by identifying and funding specific podcasts from media companies, making exclusive deals that it has previously shied away from. Positioning itself as a modern alternative to live radio, streaming leader Spotify has notably funded pre-recorded shows from notable celebrities and newsmakers ranging from Amy Schumer to former President Barack Obama, as well as spending hundreds of millions of dollars on podcasting companies. By contrast, Apple Music has offered live radio-like programming by hiring music deejays, but hasn’t used podcasts to acquire subscribers.
Apple joined the then-nascent podcasting world back in 2005 by adding a podcast directory to iTunes 4.9, radically increasing the potential audience for what were then almost exclusively amateurish audio recordings. Today, its Podcast apps on iPhones and iPads are reportedly responsible for 50-70% of most podcasts’ listeners, and the heightened visibility of podcasts within the new macOS Catalina Podcasts app could increase those numbers. Spotify is said to be responsible for 10-20% of all podcast listeners, but can represent 50% of the audience for non-exclusive shows.
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