On the heels of the Apple Music Awards, Apple has announced its picks for the Best Show of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, along with the Top New Show, Top Free Channel, Top Show with Subscription, and Top Channel with Subscription. 2021 saw Apple move into subscription-based podcasts and channels that allow podcast producers to create collections of shows, both of which are reflected in the top charts announced today. According to the company’s press release:
“2021 marked the start of a new chapter for podcasting with shows that moved us in ways unlike ever before,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats. “We are honored to recognize the phenomenal creators who are redefining podcasting with this year’s best shows, and to help more listeners around the world discover, enjoy, and support their inspiring work.”
The 2021 Apple Podcasts Awards winners are:
Apple’s Podcasts editorial team has also created a curated collection of Top Shows and Top Episodes of 2021 and reported the year-end Top Charts of the most popular free and subscription-based shows and channels. Those lists, along with the award winners, can be found in a special Best of 2021 section of the Apple Podcasts app.
Podcasts continue to be one of the hottest media categories, experiencing rapid growth and experimentation with new business models, including subscriptions like Apple Podcasts program. Apple Podcasts Subscriptions got off to a rocky start earlier this year, but it also isn’t nearly as difficult to use as some people suggest in my experience. I expect that over time, Apple Podcasts Subscriptions will continue to grow as podcasters explore new ways to build sustainable shows.
Benjamin Mayo writing for 9to5Mac reports that Apple has published its first podcast that isn’t tied to a TV+ property or Apple News. The show, called Hooked, is a true-crime story featuring career bank robber Tony Hathaway. As Mayo notes, the show is listed as an ‘Apple Original podcast.’
Perhaps more notable is that there doesn’t seem to be a standard RSS feed associated with the show. Instead, the show’s first four episodes and trailer are available only via the Apple Podcasts app. Of course, a feed could be added, but if one isn’t, this would mark Apple’s first foray into exclusive audio content, something which Spotify has been doing for quite some time.
During an investor call last week that Podnews reported on, Spotify declared itself the number one podcast provider in the US and over 60 other countries based on an Edison Research report. As a result, it would come as no surprise if Apple has begun competing head-to-head with Spotify with its own exclusive audio content in the highly-popular true-crime category. At the same time, though, one of podcasting’s strengths has always been its open nature, and it would be a shame to see that further eroded by Apple, which has been a steward of the format for so long.
Update: Although not indexed and available in all podcast apps yet, Hooked does have a traditional RSS feed, which can be found here.
Recently, Relay FM, which was founded by our close friends Stephen Hackett and Myke Hurley, kicked off their annual fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to help combat childhood cancer. This year’s third annual fundraiser has already raised over $70,000 with a goal of $333,333.33, and we’d love it if MacStories readers would join us in supporting this cause.
You can make a donation by visiting here.
If you’re a MacStories reader, there’s a good chance you have listened to one of the shows Federico co-hosts on the network or have another favorite, in which case you may have already contributed. However, if not, please do consider donating.
St. Jude plays an important role in the fight against childhood cancer, treating kids and doing research with other medical facilities around the world. Your donations help ensure that families aren’t charged for treatment, travel, housing, or meals, so their sole focus is helping their child get better.
Relay FM will be raising money for St. Jude through the end of September with the highlight of the drive being Podcastathon, an eight-hour extravaganza featuring special guests from your favorite Relay FM shows. Mark your calendar for Friday September 17, 2021 from Noon to 8 pm Eastern US time to watch Podcastathon, which will be streamed at twitch.tv/relay.fm.
Thanks in advance for checking out Relay FM’s fundraiser for St. Jude and to all who donate.
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.