Sofa 3.0, an app that I last reviewed in March, is out with loads of new ways to track, organize, and browse the media lists you create. The app also has a new subscription business model for its pro features.
Media recommendations come at us all from every angle, whether it’s friends and family or sources like reviews. You can save lists of books, movies, videogames, and other media you want to try in lots of ways. You could use an app like Apple’s Notes or Reminders, but they’re general-purpose apps that don’t address the specific needs related to media consumption. Plus, trying to track media in something like a task manager gets out of control and messy fast.
Another option is to turn to an app designed for a specific type of media, and there are many good options available on the App Store. The advantage Sofa has, is that it makes it just as easy to pick a book as a movie or something else when you’re deciding what media to try next. It’s a subtle but important distinction. With single-purpose apps, you need to decide what kind of media you want to consume and then turn to an app to pick something. Sofa dispenses with the first step allowing you to answer a broader question: “How do I want to spend my free time?” That a one-stop approach is one of Sofa’s greatest strengths and one that the app leans into hard with the latest excellent update.
Podcast channels and subscriptions are now available as part of the new Apple Podcasts Subscriptions service first announced in April. As Apple explains in its press release:
…listeners in more than 170 countries and regions can purchase subscriptions for individual shows and groups of shows through channels, making it easy to support their favorite creators, enjoy new content, and unlock additional benefits such as ad-free listening and early access, directly on Apple Podcasts.
As we previously covered on MacStories, when a listener subscribes to a show, the page in the Apple Podcasts app is updated with subscriber content and a badge confirming for the listener that they’ve subscribed. Channels, which are collections of subscription-based and free podcasts, are incorporated into Apple Podcasts’ search, recommendation, and sharing functionality. After a listener has subscribed to two or more channels, a new row called ‘My Channels’ appears in the Listen Now tab to facilitate browsing them.
The company’s press release spotlights a long list of shows that are participating in Apple Podcasts Subscriptions. There’s a wide variety of podcasts represented, which makes the press release a good place to start if you’re looking for a channel or subscription to explore. Of course, channels and subscriptions are front-and-center in the Podcasts app too, and I’ve found it easy to find and understand what shows offer.
Apple has released iOS and iPadOS 14.6 today with a handful of new features, including Apple Card Family and Podcasts Subscriptions, along with Updates to AirTags and the Find My app.
Announced during Apple’s spring event, Apple Card Family is now available in iOS 14.6. Up to five people over the age of 13 can share an Apple Card, allowing them to track expenses and manage spending. All family members on an Apple Card will build credit histories, and parents can set spending limits for their children too.
iOS and iPadOS 14.6 also includes Podcasts Subscriptions, which allows podcasters to offer paid versions of their shows. Shows can be offered as paid-only subscriptions or enhanced versions of free shows that add a combination of bonus features like extended, ad-free, and early-release episodes. The new subscription service is baked directly into the Podcasts app, allowing users to access paid subscriptions alongside free shows.
One of the features of AirTags at launch was the ability to add a phone number to call if a tagged item was lost somewhere. With iOS and iPadOS 14.6, users can add an email address. Also, Apple release notes say that when an AirTag is tapped with an NFC-compatible device, it will show a partially masked phone number.
Apple has also added the ability to unlock an iPhone for the first time after a restart using their voice, which is a Voice Control feature.
Not released with the update today is anything related to Spatial Audio or Lossless streaming of Apple Music content, which is not unexpected since Apple previously said the feature is coming in June.
Apple’s Podcasts Subscriptions service is coming soon, and today, the company debuted an affiliate program to help spread the word about the shows that participate in it. As we previously reported, the subscription program will allow podcasters to offer paid versions of their shows. Podcasters can offer paid-only shows or enhanced versions of free shows that add a combination of bonus features, like extended, ad-free, and early-release episodes.
Today’s announcement adds Podcasts Subscriptions to Apple’s existing affiliate programs for iTunes Store content as well as Apple Music, TV+, New+, and Books subscriptions and content. If you apply to the program and are accepted, you’ll be given a token that identifies your affiliate account when you publish a link to a paid podcast. When someone subscribes to a show using your link, you’ll earn a 50% commission on the first month’s subscription fee for any subscriptions signed up within a 30-day window. For example, the new program would mean a $5 payout for a user who signed up for a $10/month subscription. The affiliate program is available to podcaster’s offering shows for subscriptions, adding another way for them to earn money from their shows.
With the exception of apps, which were removed from Apple’s affiliate program in 2018, Apple now offers an affiliate program for all of the subscriptions and content it sells. The success of the App Store ultimately made that affiliate program unnecessary for Apple to continue. However, as a new service, it makes a lot of sense to introduce an affiliate program for Podcasts Subscriptions to help raise its profile among consumers.
Apple has celebrated Earth Day for many years, but the company has more going on for 2021 than ever before including an environmental justice initiative, content tie-ins across several services, and an Apple Watch challenge.
During today’s keynote event, Apple announced their new Apple Podcasts Subscriptions service. Launching in May in over 170 countries, the service will allow users to subscribe to premium podcasts directly from the Apple Podcasts app. Premium shows will offer access to various perks for users, such as removing ads, releasing shows early, or providing exclusive content.
Podcast creators can participate in the service for $19.99/year, and can use the redesigned Apple Podcasts Connect website to manage their subscription offerings. Apple has partnerships set up with some creators and companies to kick things off, including NPR, The Athletic, Tenderfoot TV, and Pushkin Industries.
Accompanying the new subscription service is an update to the Apple Podcasts app. The updated app will allow subscribing to premium podcasts, and will also display new “channels.” Podcast channels are groups of shows curated by creators, and can be either free or paid.
While the integration into Apple’s ecosystem means users can easily subscribe using their existing App Store accounts, it also means that Apple will be taking its usual 30% of revenue from podcast creators. This will drop to 15% after the first year, the same way it does for in-app purchases.
You can follow all of our April event coverage through our April 2021 Event hub, or subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.
Sofa is a terrific downtime organizer. Since its release, the app has seen frequent updates that have added features and refinements that make it an excellent one-stop destination for collecting media you want to enjoy later. We’ve covered the app before, so I won’t revisit its core functionality here, but if you’re new to the app, be sure to check out our previous reviews for more details.
The headline feature of Sofa’s latest update is the addition of apps, audiobooks, and board games to the lineup of media it can track. I’m especially pleased to see that iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps have been added to Sofa. I’ve long considered trying new apps as a form of entertainment. Even poking around productivity apps that most people would consider ‘work’ apps is fun for many people.
The addition of apps is timely given the trend towards subscription-based apps with free trials. If an app catches your eye, but it’s got a relatively short free trial period, you can drop it into Sofa to try later when you can make the most of the trial. The addition of apps also provides a way to track games on Apple’s platforms that weren’t always available in Sofa’s videogame category. However, the change also means that you may have to search for an iOS game in a couple of different places at times.
Apple has partnered with Common Sense Media to curate collections of podcasts for kids in the US. The shows are picked by Common Sense Media, an organization whose editors have a long history of helping parents and educators find age-appropriate media for children.
The shows currently highlighted in Apple Podcasts’ new collections are from a wide variety of creators like Tinkercast, American Public Media, Gen-Z Media, Pinna, Tumble, Highlights, WNYC Studios, Rebel Girls, and Nickelodeon. The collections will be updated monthly and will feature podcasts organized by age groups and themes. Currently, there are four themed collections available:
- Common Sense Media Picks, a collection of some of the organization’s all-time favorite podcasts
- One More!, a collection of mysteries and action-packed stories
- Kids Know Best, shows picked by kids themselves
- Story Time, which includes stories designed to spark kids’ imaginations
With the large number of podcasts available today, the guidance provided by these new collections is a terrific resource for families. There are a lot of shows here that I know my kids would have enjoyed when they were younger.
Apple TV+ is launching its first podcast that will serve as a companion to the show ‘For All Mankind,’ the Apple Original series that imagines a world where the Soviet Union was first to land on the Moon. Trailers for the podcast, which is hosted by cast member Krys Marshall, are available on Apple Podcasts and YouTube. The first full episode will be published Friday, February 19th at 9:00 am US Pacific time, which is also when the first episode of season two of For All Mankind will be available.
‘For All Mankind: The Official Podcast’ is being produced in partnership with AT WILL MEDIA, a Manhattan and Los Angeles-based media production company that has produced shows like The Choice for The New York Times. New episodes of the TV show will debut at 9:00 am US Pacific time each Thursday, with new episodes of the 10-episode podcast coming out every other week on Fridays at the same time.
Podcast host Krys Marshall, who plays Commander Danielle Poole on For All Mankind, will be joined by space experts, former astronauts, and people involved in creating the TV show, providing a mix of science and behind-the-scenes details about the show. The show is available in the Apple Podcasts app as well as third-party podcast players via RSS.
You can listen to the trailer for ‘For All Mankind: The Official Podcast’ below: