For some time now, podcasting’s burning question has been when is Apple going to enter into the exclusives game? As competitors Spotify, SiriusXM, and now Amazon carve out their respective territories – Apple has largely maintained its role as a non-participatory platform provider. Podcasts produced by Apple News, Apple Music, and Apple Books (with Oprah’s Book Club as a partner) are indeed exclusive to the platform but nothing has been shepherded directly by the Apple Podcast team. That said, Apple Podcasts has been hiring of late – bringing in Jake Shapiro as Head of Creator Partnerships and N’Jeri Eaton to lead development of original podcasts. The too obvious conclusion here is that these hirings mean Apple is preparing to meaningfully enter the fray.
However, Apple’s unveiling of the Apple One Bundle without any mention of a Podcast product suggests otherwise. The strategic imperative of the tech giant has been made abundantly clear – solidify and grow a recurring revenue base while (and they will never say this part out loud) bolstering consumer lock-in to the Apple iOS ecosystem. Podcasting doesn’t fit that mold because podcast listeners have yet to show a meaningful willingness to pay for content. Until they do, don’t expect to see Apple make Spotify or SiriusXM style investments in podcast content.
So what do Apple’s recent moves in the podcasting space mean if we aren’t getting Apple Podcasts+? Think of these hires as a marketing play and an insurance policy. Apple will continue to create branded podcasts under the banners of its other divisions and will opportunistically develop a few originals to improve credibility with creators. If something changes and consumers suddenly are willing to pay? Great. If not, the cost of doing business will be inconsequential to the world’s most valuable company.