Apple seeks input from top podcasters as it weighs future of medium

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2016
In an attempt to address, and potentially assuage, long-standing concerns over podcast monetization, data and other perceived platform issues, Apple employees and top brass late last month met with leading podcast publishers at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.




According to two people familiar with the matter, Apple invited seven podcast professionals to take part in a candid discussion regarding the state of the medium, particularly problems that since late cofounder Steve Jobs introduced the platform onstage in 2005, reports The New York Times. While Apple fell short of promising change, employees at the meeting later relayed podcaster grievances with iTunes chief Eddy Cue in a closed-door meeting.

"We have more people than ever focused on podcasting, including engineers, editors and programmers." Cue said in a statement. "Podcasts hold a special place with us at Apple."

Despite a self-professed sentimentality for the medium, podcasts are far from being a major focus for Apple. Producers lament a dated iTunes support structure that has been outgrown by the fast-moving industry. Chief among complaints are issues related to advanced monetization tools and related features like promotion within iTunes and social media sharing. For the most part, Apple's backend services have remained largely unchanged since 2005.

For example, podcast publishers make money by selling advertisements, but mechanisms for obtaining and measuring listener statistics are woefully outdated. With iTunes, producers are unable to break down show metrics beyond absolute download count. Podcasters don't know if a listener turned off the show after 10 minutes, or shared the episode with 10 people. Such measurements are vital to assigning value to and selling advertisements.

Part of the problem is Apple's hands-off approach to podcasting, the report says. Since the company does not take a cut of advertising revenue, and restricts publishers from selling episodes or subscriptions through iTunes, it has little skin in the game. For Apple, podcasts are effectively a value-added feature to promote hardware platform stickiness.

Further, podcasters jockey for position on iTunes' top charts. Netting a spot as a top show on Apple's Podcasts app can often make or break a production, and there is a single person -- Steve Wilson -- in charge of that space. Apple's podcast ranking and featured content systems are also in question.

Competitors are taking the opportunity to step in, offering podcasters the tools they want and the monetization they need. Spotify in January activated a podcast service promising publishers access to listening data, as well as episode hosting and streaming. Amazon's Audible.com is also making a push into the sector, the report said.

Apple is still the market leader when it comes to podcasts, and according to podcast tracking firm RawVoice is pulling in 65 percent of listeners. That number is down 70 percent year-over-year. As it stands, there are more than 325,000 podcasts served through iTunes and the company estimates listeners will have consumed some 10 billion episodes by the end of the year.

AppleInsider, for example, produces a weekly podcast discussing the hottest Apple news and rumors.

After essentially creating the podcast segment out of whole cloth, Apple now risks losing control to industry upstarts. Before that happens, however, it seems Apple is at least willing to entertain new ideas from podcasting's top performers.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    lord amhranlord amhran Posts: 902member
    Really not sure Cue is the guy I'd want to talk to about services. His track record of late is something less than encouraging...
    rogifan_new1983dacharjony0oirudleahcim
  • Reply 2 of 18
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    Apple OWNS podcasts. Time for them to improve the platform and monetize just a little. At least enough to improve the platform.
    levi
  • Reply 3 of 18
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,297member
    cali said:
    Apple OWNS podcasts. Time for them to improve the platform and monetize just a little. At least enough to improve the platform.
    Apple owns podcasts? I listen to podcasts every day. I don't use the native podcasts app and I don't get them from iTunes. If Apple is going to charge a premium for hardware then don't be monetizing me with services. 
    repressthispropodcnocbuitechloverafrodrioirudleahcim
  • Reply 4 of 18
    irelandireland Posts: 17,743member
    I think it speaks volumes of Cue and the iTunes team that they only seem far more interested in Podcasts now that they are losing some shows. It's like Apple only added extensions to Safari when Google really started doing a great job with the extensions gallery for Chrome. Jobs replied to me at the time when I emailed him about this. He was coy, but I know I convinced him their importance. But still do this day Apple hasn't done enough with extensions (and that was before they had them). The gallery isn't a gallery.

    On the plus side of things I kind of like the iOS Podcasts app these days. I only wish MacOS had a dedicated app as good and one that'd copy settings to a mirror image of the iOS version. I'm often confused with all the additional episodes on my Mac over my iPhone. I've never been able to figure it out. If the email client on your Mac didn't match the read/delete layout of your iPhone I've got to imagine there'd be heads rolling in Cupertino.

    The same meeting should happened for FCPX years ago. High profile influential editors in the world of editing meet at Apple to talk candidly to how the feel about FCPX. Apple lost a ton of trust when they launched this application version and were far too slow to do anything and did too little. Adobe swooped in and took far more of the market than they should have. And they add heavily requested features and clever community suggestions to their apps far more often than Apple has.
    edited May 2016 calirepressthispropodpatchythepiratejony0oirudleahcimminicoffee
  • Reply 5 of 18
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,150member
    Apple has Podcasts, Google has Youtube. Bring some of the monetisation options available to youtubers into the podcasting world.
    calirepressthispalomine
  • Reply 6 of 18
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,516member
    Easy Answer- Kill iTunes 
    give Podcasts there own place and space.
    irelandmr o
  • Reply 7 of 18
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    cali said:
    Apple OWNS podcasts. Time for them to improve the platform and monetize just a little. At least enough to improve the platform.
    Apple owns podcasts? I listen to podcasts every day. I don't use the native podcasts app and I don't get them from iTunes. If Apple is going to charge a premium for hardware then don't be monetizing me with services. 
    I knew someone was gonna take that too literally.

    like someone mentioned it seems they're only taking it serious after losing share. This is Apple's platform no one else's.

    i heard someone say "check out our android podcast" and I thought it was too ironic.

    Really though Apple needs to rule this platform with an iron fist and share ZERO with any copycats even attempting to take a single show from them.
    palomine
  • Reply 8 of 18
    kkerstkkerst Posts: 330member
    Are you serious? Sounds like you want Leo Apotheker to run Apple. Yikes, you know how much he was loved at HP.
    ireland
  • Reply 9 of 18
    eideardeideard Posts: 428member
    sog35 said:
    Here we go again.

    Hilarious. Do you do a brother act with Bill Gross on "jobs day", too? It really is rare to see someone so wrong about everything and taking credit for a crystal ball at the same time.
    irelandjony0
  • Reply 10 of 18
    wrcedarwrcedar Posts: 6member
    There's a lot of weird spin in the NY Times article that formed the basis for this post. Here's another take on the subject:

    https://marco.org/2016/05/07/apple-role-in-podcasting

    irelandafrodri
  • Reply 11 of 18
    19831983 Posts: 1,224member
    I hope Apple listens to these people and will do something about this. So Podcasts don't end up going completely stagnant or dropped like many of Apple's other services. And again I say Cue be gone! He's the albatross around Apple's neck!
    patchythepiratepalomine
  • Reply 12 of 18
    irelandireland Posts: 17,743member
    1983 said:
    I hope Apple listens to these people and will do something about this. So Podcasts don't end up going completely stagnant or dropped like many of Apple's other services. And again I say Cue be gone! He's the albatross around Apple's neck!
    Read Marco Arment's piece linked above. May help clarify things for you.
    wrcedar
  • Reply 13 of 18
    singularitysingularity Posts: 1,328member
    sog35 said:
    wrcedar said:
    There's a lot of weird spin in the NY Times article that formed the basis for this post. Here's another take on the subject:

    https://marco.org/2016/05/07/apple-role-in-podcasting

    I'll take Marco's word instead of the NY Times which has spewed bull crap and lies about Apple time and time again. Sometimes I wish Apple would buy the NewYork times and fire everyone on staff to teach them a lesson. That is what Amazon has done to the Washington Post, and that's why media outlet rarely bad mouth Amazon.

    Apple should hire Marco to a high position in the company. The dude makes some amazing Apps and understands what services is all about.

    The NewYork Times is only worth $2 billion. Apple should buy them and fire any of the staff that has written bull crap about Apple at any time in the last 5 years. They should also think of buying Digitimes and doing the same thing. I would not mind if Apple spent $30 billion on buying media outlets and 'controlling' the message. 

    NewYork Times, Digitimes, USA Today, would be a good start.

    Then they should buy Forbes and fire all those idiots who spew Apple bull crap on a weekly basis.  Forbes has become so terrible, one of the best Apple writers quit (Phillip DeWitt) because of the total lack of intergrity. There are 3 writers at Forbes that constantly write negative article about Apple every single week.  Its pathetic.  Apple should buy Forbes and fire all of them.

    They could also buy Verge and fire the Editor in Cheif who says crap about Apple all the time.

    The word is more powerful than the sword.
    Apple needs to play hardball and control the narative. 
    The best way to do it is control the pen of multiple media outlets.
    Control the media message by buying companies and then firing those who have written negative articles.. mmmm can anyone spot the obvious glaring error there. 

  • Reply 14 of 18
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,634member
    sog35 said:

    Apple should hire Marco to a high position in the company. The dude makes some amazing Apps and understands what services is all about.
    You were decrying Marco as an unprofessional "ass-clown" less than a year ago.  Your opinion of people seems to spin on a dime based on what suits your current cause de rant.
  • Reply 15 of 18
    redstaterredstater Posts: 49member
    First off, Marco's own post is spin. He indulges in the usual tactic of "responding" to points that no one made or disputed in the first place and passing off selective criticism as analysis. Marco represents someone who isn't trying to monetize his content and wants podcasting to remain the way it is - simple, free and easy to promote if you have name recognition or have learned and are very savvy at exploiting the existing system - for that purpose. For podcasting to be shaped and driven by market forces with their concern for profit and efficiency would ruin the current ad hoc, eclectic setup that he benefits from. The problem is that what is good for HIM absolutely stinks for people who are actually trying to make a living, supplement their income or crack into a market or career by distributing content via podcasting - and many such people have already abandoned podcasting for social networking and video logging - and it also isn't in the interest of Apple anymore, as podcasting no longer drives sales for iPods, yet Apple must still maintain expensive back-end services.

    Look, the podcasting community wants revenue-generating tools similar to what exists for YouTube, Facebook, Wordpress and other platforms for content creators. They've actually wanted these things for years, as these tools aren't exactly new. It is just that Apple is finally taking requests seriously after years of ignoring them because podcasts are finally taking off, and as a result competitors like Spotify and Google have popped up offering podcasters the same tools that video loggers, bloggers and social creators on their platforms already enjoy, and Apple is losing market share as a result. And keep in mind: Apple had plenty of time to be the innovator and market leader in this area and have everyone else be an imitator or reactionary, the way that they did with the MP3 player, smart phone and app store. Instead, Apple allowed Google, Facebook and the rest to fill that void in the market, and they are going to have to either copy what the cloud software and services companies innovated or come up with something innovative AND is better - or as least as good - at helping content creators generate revenue than what currently exists.

    The good news: Apple is lucky that it is only Google and Spotify, who offer services that aren't profitable, and precious few people actually use or both. So Spotify can still add podcasting and not be anywhere near profitable, and for Google podcasting will be just something else that the 1 billion owners of Android phones and Chrome web browsers will generally ignore, just as they do with nearly everything else except search and Gmail. So for now the market share loss is small and meaningless. Google, for instance, once again screwed up something that might have actually worked by pairing podcasts with their failing Google Play Music product that no one uses instead of pairing it with one of their two platforms that actually consistently makes money in YouTube. So Apple dodged a bullet there thanks to the incompetence of the competition and not due to anything of their own, and as a result they still have time, plus the clout that goes with being the #1 company in the world, so big and profitable that a $51 billion quarter is somehow viewed as a negative.

    But what if something that is actually popular, enjoys heavy user engagement/loyalty,makes tons of money and is actually competent, like Facebook, offers a podcasting service? That would not be good for Apple at all. Just as Facebook crushed MySpace and just as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have surpassed SMS, you would have all those people that have installed Facebook and Whatsapp on their iPhones install FaceCast (or whatever)? Apple would be crushed and have no recourse. Someone mentioned locking competitors out? Nope. Try that and the podcasters would just jump ship en masse.

    For Apple, meeting this need in the short term is easy: migrate their podcasting operation to Google Cloud Services. Before you blow your stack, realize that Apple has already done this for some of their iCloud services and done it for the same reason: they lack their own cloud infrastructure and they need Google Analytics. Spotify moved some of their platform to Google Cloud Services for the same reason: analytics, even though they compete with Google Play Music (not really because Google Play Music is an even bigger failure than Spotify) and now with podcasts. It really is no different from Google competing with Apple for Android market share on one hand and getting a ton of search revenue on iOS on the other, or Apple competing with Samsung for device sales while buying memory and SOCs from them for their own devices.

    That will buy Apple some time to create a new, better way of helping podcasters - and themselves - make revenue on the platform that they created without betraying Apple's values on user privacy and such. But the bottom line is that if Apple doesn't step up and do this, someone else - again, likely Facebook - will.
    edited May 2016 palomine
  • Reply 16 of 18
    I'm just imagining Maron, Carolla, Kevin Smith, Chris Hardwick, The comedy bang bang crew, and the radio lab crew, sitting uncomfortably with Sarah Koening, who most of the mainstream think invented podcasting with Serial. 
  • Reply 17 of 18
    anomeanome Posts: 1,441member
    I'm just imagining Maron, Carolla, Kevin Smith, Chris Hardwick, The comedy bang bang crew, and the radio lab crew, sitting uncomfortably with Sarah Koening, who most of the mainstream think invented podcasting with Serial. 
    My understanding is that none of Maron, Carolla, Smith, Hardwick, or even Adam Curry, Leo Laporte, or anyone else who has been podcasting for more than a couple of years was there. So not really the big podcasters, just the ones who were popular last year.

    I hope that Apple listened to them carefully, then either explained in great detail how wrong they were, or possibly laughed them out of the room. Apple shouldn't want to get involved in the management of podcasts. Even if it didn't involve a lot of work to pull it off, it's way too late to put that genie back in the bottle.
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