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Anchor Launches Listener Support, Helping Podcasters (and Itself) Get Paid

As an app and service, Anchor is a compelling product that I'm personally a big fan of. It's the best way to podcast from an iPad, the most mature and accessible platform for new podcasters, and it includes innovative features like transcribed video generation for sharing clips on social media.

My one area of hesitation with Anchor has been its business model. The service is entirely free, and the company has never before shared its plans for any sort of monetization strategy. Today that changes, however, as Anchor is launching a Patreon-style listener support feature.

Starting now, any Anchor podcaster can choose to activate listener support for their show, which enables listeners to sign up for automatic monthly payments of $0.99, $4.99, or $9.99 to support the show. The implementation here is important, and Anchor is making it very accessible: a podcast support link will be automatically added to the show notes for each episode, making the link available no matter which podcast app a user listens through. This link takes users to the support page on a podcast's Anchor profile, with payments processed by Stripe and available via Apple Pay on iOS and Mac, or Google Pay on Android.

All support funds are subject to Stripe's standard fees, plus Anchor's own 4.5% cut, but the overwhelming majority of funds end up in podcasters' hands.

I think listener support is an interesting development for Anchor in two main ways. First, after working to democratize podcasting with its easy-to-use tools, it makes sense that Anchor now has its sights set on democratizing the payment of podcasters. Any podcaster with a decent following could use a third-party service like Patreon to get paid – and many do. And while Patreon isn't too much more complicated for listeners wanting to pledge support, it definitely brings more complexity to the side of podcasters. Using Anchor, a podcaster can flip a switch enabling any present and future listeners to offer support. Ultimately, complexity is diminished for both parties.

The second thing making this news significant to me is that it's the first sign of a monetization strategy for Anchor. It's very possible the service will still introduce an ad platform in the future, but whether that happens or not, this is a thoughtful first move. It's respectful to both podcasters and listeners alike, and as such it feels like a good fit for the service and its goals.

While I certainly don't want to see podcasting dominated by a single platform, the way video is owned by YouTube, I nonetheless continue to be impressed by Anchor. Whatever the company's future holds, it's a good thing making podcasting more accessible, and a good thing for podcasters to be rewarded for their work.

Anchor users can activate listener support from their dashboard on anchor.fm.


Newton Mail to Shut Down Service September 25th

Newton, which began life as CloudMagic in 2013, will shut down its email subscription service on September 25, 2018. According to the company’s CEO, Rohit Nadhani:

We explored various business models but couldn’t successfully figure out profitability & growth over the long term. It was hard; the market for premium consumer mail apps is not big enough, and it faces stiff competition from high quality free apps from Google, Microsoft, and Apple. We put up a hard and honest fight, but it was not enough to overcome the bundling & platform default advantages enjoyed by the large tech companies.

CloudMagic was relaunched as a subscription email service and renamed Newton in 2016. According to Nadhani’s post, the company, which offered iOS, Mac, Android, and Windows versions of its email client, served over 4 million customers, 40,000 of whom signed up as paying subscribers.

In anticipation of the shutdown, the company has disabled signups to its service and is working with the App Store and Google Play Store to offer pro-rata refunds to annual subscribers whose subscriptions are set to expire after September 25th. Nadhani says that CloudMagic will continue to work on new projects.

Email is a tough category in which to compete. Default applications like Apple’s Mail app don’t give most users a reason to look elsewhere, and users that do want to try a different email client have many excellent free options from big companies like Google and Microsoft. For the remaining users willing to consider a paid email service or app, the competition is fierce with excellent choices like Airmail and Spark. The end of Newton is a reminder that no business model is a safe bet and even those apps and services you may be willing to pay for can’t last if others don’t feel the same as you.


Logitech Announces New Wireless Qi Charger

Logitech has announced that later this month, it will debut a wireless Qi charger called the Logitech Powered that the company designed in collaboration with Apple.

The charger delivers 7.5W of power, is vertically-oriented, and will work with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X, which sit in the charger's U-shaped cradle. Logitech says that the iPhone doesn’t need to be precisely placed in the dock to charge. An iPhone will also charge even if set in landscape mode across the top of the cradle. Although Logitech’s press release says the Powered will be sold for $69.99, its website currently offers the charger for pre-order for $79.99.

I’ve been using a vertical Qi charger for about a month and love how well it works with Face ID, which makes it easy to check something quickly on my iPhone when I’m at my desk. Although it’s on the pricey end of the spectrum, the ability of the Powered to charge in portrait or landscape and its vertical orientation makes it a tempting addition to a desk, countertop, or nightstand.

The Logitech Powered will be available at Apple Stores and directly from Logitech, where it can be pre-ordered now.


Instapaper Relaunches Premium Service as a Paid Subscription and Returns to the EU

When Instapaper Premium was introduced, it was a paid subscription that added several advanced features to the service. Later, the app and service were purchased by Pinterest, and Instapaper Premium was made available for free to all users.

Last month, Instapaper announced that it was separating from Pinterest and becoming an independent company. Today Instapaper, which turned 10 years old this year, outlined a plan for sustaining the service for the next 10 years. At the heart of Instapaper’s plan is a return to a paid subscription model. Premium features – full-text search, unlimited notes, text-to-speech playlists on mobile devices, speed reading functionality, removal of ads on the web, and the ability to send articles to Amazon’s Kindle reader – will only be available going forward for a $2.99/month or $29.99/year subscription. Currently, subscriptions are available via the web only, but the company plans to add an In-App Purchase to the app in the future.

Instapaper also announced that it is returning to the European Union. When the EU’s GDPR legislation became effective at the end of May, Instapaper wasn’t ready and blocked access to EU citizens. As an apology for the extended downtime, Instapaper is providing its premium service to EU users for six months.

I recently switched back to Instapaper from Pocket because I was encouraged by its new independence from Pinterest, where the app got little attention over the past two years. With no new features added to Instapaper Premium as part of its relaunch as a paid subscription, convincing users to sign up may be difficult. It’s still early days in Instapaper’s newfound independence though, so I remain optimistic that there’s more to come from the Instapaper team, and I plan to stick with the app as my read-it-later service for the foreseeable future.

Instapaper is available as a free download on the App Store.


Apple Rolling Out New Friends Mix to Apple Music Subscribers

Source: @CristianRus4 on Twitter

Source: @CristianRus4 on Twitter

Apple Music subscribers on Twitter and Reddit are beginning to report that a new algorithmic mix has begun showing up in the ‘For You’ section of Apple Music. First noticed on the r/AppleMusic subreddit, the mix includes a collection of songs to which people you follow through Apple Music’s Friends feature are listening.

Further details emerged on Twitter, where it’s been reported that the Friends Mix includes 25 songs and is updated every Monday.

As of the publication, the new mix is propagating through Apple’s system so you may not see it in the For You section just yet. 9to5Mac says that the mix is not tied to iOS 12 or macOS Mojave, which is in line with past rollouts of Apple Music mixes.



Castro Adds iCloud Drive Sideloading and Chapter Playback Pre-Selection

Supertop has released another solid update to its podcast player, Castro. In today’s update, Castro adds file sideloading for Plus subscribers, significantly adding to the app’s utility as general purpose audio player. Subscribers can also pre-select the chapters of a podcast they want to play too.

For plus subscribers, the update adds a ‘Castro’ folder in iCloud Drive. Add an MP3 or AAC file into the ‘Sideloads’ folder, and it shows up in your Castro inbox (or wherever else you designate in settings) ready for playback.

Adding audio to Castro is equally simple on a Mac or iOS device. On a Mac, open the Finder and drag in the audio files you want to add. On iOS, use the Files app to add files to your Sideloads folder from any file provider like Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive.

Once added, audio files show up in your Castro Inbox by default where they can be added to your listening queue like any podcast to which you subscribe. Instead of your Inbox, you can also add sideloaded audio to the front or back of your Queue or Castro’s Archive from the app’s settings.

Sideloading opens up exciting possibilities, especially when combined with other apps. For example, you can add DRM-free audiobooks, audio from lectures or conferences recorded from YouTube or other sources using an app like Audio Hijack, or add downloaded bonus podcast episodes like the AppStories Unplugged episodes that we’ve created for Club MacStories members. Podcasters can also use sideloading as a way to listen to draft episodes before publishing them. With one straightforward feature, Castro has become a far more flexible, general-purpose audio player.

Overcast has a similar feature for subscribers, but it’s web-based and limited to 2 GB of storage. Overall, I prefer Castro’s implementation, which doesn’t require navigating to a website. Though Overcast’s 2 GB limit hasn’t been an issue for me, the lack of a cap in Castro is a definite advantage for anyone who wants access to lots of sideloaded audio.

Sideloading a draft episode of AppStories and deselecting chapters for playback.

Sideloading a draft episode of AppStories and deselecting chapters for playback.

The second feature added to Castro is what Supertop calls Chapter Pre-Selection. In Castro, if you tap on the current chapter in a podcast episode, it displays a list of all the chapters so you can skip around inside the episode. With today’s update, Castro adds checkboxes to each chapter. By default, all of the chapters are selected. If there are chapters in the list to which you don’t want to listen, tap the checkmark icon to deselect the chapter, and only the selected chapters will play.

The convenience of selecting chapters in advance is greater than I had imagined. By pre-selecting chapters, I can, for example, head out for a run or walk without having to fiddle with skipping chapters on the go, which means fewer distractions and opportunities to drop my iPhone.

Supertop continues to regularly update Castro with interesting features. If you haven’t tried Castro in a while, it’s worth another look. The app is free to download on the App Store and you can try the Plus features, including sideloading, free for one week, after which they are $2.99 every three months or $8.99 per year.


Apple Books: A Love Letter to Readers

When iOS 12 launches this fall, it will introduce a newly redesigned iBooks app simply named Books. Though the reading experience in Books is largely the same as before, the rest of the app is drastically different, offering the biggest app redesign on iOS since last year's App Store.

Modern design is a clear centerpiece of Books, but the app also includes new features, big and small, that make it feel all-new. From tools that borrow from Goodreads, to more robust collections, to dark mode, and much more. There's a lot to explore here, so let's dive in.

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PowerPhotos – The Ultimate Toolbox for Photos on the Mac [Sponsor]

PowerPhotos is a powerful utility for the Mac that lets you merge or split Photos libraries and eliminate duplicate photos. People use multiple Photos libraries for all sorts of reasons, but one of the most common is to break an enormous library of tens of thousands of photos into smaller more manageable sub-libraries.

PowerPhotos is just the tool you need to manage all of your photos across libraries. From the creator of iPhoto Library Manager, PowerPhotos provides the same sophisticated toolset and more for Apple’s Photos app.

You can store photo libraries on external or networked drives and copy photos while maintaining and preserving albums and related metadata like keywords, titles, dates, locations, and descriptions. Not only can PowerPhotos help by splitting up your Photos library into multiple libraries, it can merge them too. The app also makes it easy to find and eliminate duplicate photos.

One of the most powerful features is the ability to search across multiple libraries at one time. It’s a great feature that allows you to search as though all you photos were in one library even when they aren’t. Finally, PowerPhotos can ease the transition to Photos helping you migrate multiple iPhoto or Aperture libraries to Photos.

We have a special limited-time deal just for MacStories readers. Receive 20% off at checkout by using the coupon code MACSTORIES18. Even if you haven’t had time to set up multiple Photos libraries yet, grab this deal now so you have PowerPhotos’ tools at your disposal when you’re ready take the plunge.

Our thanks to PowerPhotos for sponsoring MacStories this week.