On Apple’s Discussion With Podcast Producers

Remember when iOS 9 came out and all the major publishers complained about how ad blockers were going to kill online publishing? Many of us reacted by proclaiming that ad blocking was inevitable — publishers needed to adapt or die. Over the past few days, I’ve noticed another community complaining about a recent Apple decision. This time, the outrage in my Twitter timeline is from podcasters and centers around a recent New York Times article.

Aside from the fact that ad blockers actually shipped on iOS, this situation is very reminiscent of what I saw from big-name publishers after iOS 9 shipped last September. If you were to believe the podcasters I follow on Twitter, you’d think the entire podcasting ecosystem was collapsing in on its self.

The NYT piece revealed that seven “leading podcast professionals” met with Apple to discuss “several pressing issues” — listener tracking, promotion within iTunes, the ability to charge subscription pricing for shows, etc.

Marco Arment wrote a fantastic reaction piece that does a great job explaining what Apple’s role is in podcasting. But I think it’s important to highlight this bit toward the end about the likelihood of Apple providing these changes for podcasters:

And if that ill-informed New York Times article is correct in broad strokes, which is a big “if” given how much it got wrong about Apple’s role in podcasting, big podcasters want Apple to add more behavioral data and creepy tracking to the Apple Podcasts app, then share the data with them. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that.

I’m in agreement with Marco. Seriously, what has Apple ever done that would lead these “podcast professionals” to believe that Apple would do this? I can’t imagine Apple following up their stance on the San Bernardino iPhone case by tracking users listening habits with their podcast app. It isn’t going to happen.

Go ahead and re-read the NYT piece. Never does it say that Apple is even considering these changes, simply that they exist and that Apple allowed a small handful of podcasters to share these concerns with them. That’s all the article says.

I think it’s important to remember that as long as the current crop of successful indie podcast producers continue to make shows that people want to listen to, they’ll have an audience. It doesn’t matter what Apple or any of these “leading podcast professionals” do, quality content will survive. Apple isn’t going to kill the business.

And any new podcasting initiative or service that they launch is far more likely to grow the total number of podcast listeners than ruin the medium entirely. Everything’s going to be fine.

You and I will still be able to listen to shows like Accidental Tech Podcast, The Talk Show, and Connected. They’ll continue to earn advertising revenue for their producers and we’ll still be able to use our favorite podcatcher for playback. Podcasting platforms have come and gone, but all of this has remained true since Dave Winer and Adam Curry first invented the medium in 2004. Things might change and evolve over time, but that tends to happen with technologies. And it’s okay.