Does Tim Cook even know that Apple has a podcast division?

The company has been alienating the podcast community for months.

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Does Tim Cook even know that Apple has a podcast division?

Earlier this year, Apple announced what seemed like a monumental update to its podcast app: the ability to lock individual episodes behind a subscription paywall. While third party platforms like Patreon have offered podcast subscriptions tools for years, there were always technical hurdles for getting member-only episodes to play on major podcast apps.

Apple’s subscription features, on the other hand, work seamlessly within its app, and it already has millions of credit cards on file that are merely a thumbprint away. Sure, the company takes its standard 30% cut for all payments, but many podcasters consider the convenience to be worth it.

There’s only one catch: use of the product has been anything but convenient. As The Verge reports:

In the months since Apple Podcasts’ announcement, podcasters say the platform has failed them in various ways. For a company that prides itself on functionality, design, and ease of use, the new backend’s bungled launch is a mess. Podcasters say Apple Podcasts Connect, which they’re required to use in order to take advantage of subscriptions, has a confusing interface that often leads to user error scenarios that have them pinging Apple at all hours of the day in a panic — one podcaster’s entire show was seemingly archived until Apple stepped in to help and explain what happened.

The problems don’t end there. Apple recently admitted that a technical glitch resulted in a massive underreporting of downloads for virtually all podcasts. This likely caused an adverse impact on advertising rates all across the entire industry. Podnews recently claimed that the false download numbers triggered a $2.5 billion hit to Spotify’s stock.

Also, podcasters have complained for months that there are huge delays between when they publish an episode and when it actually shows up on the Apple Podcast app. Imagine you’re a daily news podcaster whose entire model depends on delivering episodes for the morning commute, and then those episodes are delayed an entire 24 hours. I’m pretty sure that would cause some stress.

All of this leads to a simple question: Does Tim Cook even know that Apple has a podcast division?

Yes, I’m being facetious, but it is surreal to watch a company that built its entire brand narrative around product perfection allow so much breakage for such a significant period of time.

A cynical person might argue that Apple doesn’t care about podcasts because the market is tiny and will never represent a significant portion of the company’s revenue, but I don’t buy it.

For one, podcasters are hugely influential, collectively reaching tens of millions of people, so why would Apple give them the excuse to trash its brand?

Also, there are other Apple products that are potentially affected, namely Apple Music. Two of its biggest competitors are Spotify and Amazon Music, both of which have made major investments in podcasting. If a person listens to podcasts on Spotify, they’re more likely to choose it over Apple Music for their music listening needs. And given that Spotify is also available on Android phones, this dynamic creates less user lock-in to the iOS ecosystem.

So what’s the podcast community to do? I’ve spoken to a few podcasters who have started actively pushing their listeners onto other apps, often with a quick segment at the beginning of their shows. I did the same recently for my own podcast, suggesting that people try out the Overcast app as an alternative. Depending on what data you consult, Apple has already lost significant podcast market share to competing apps, and I don’t think it’s too far away from losing its dominance over the very medium it helped pioneer.

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It's been 20 years since Mental Floss was started by two Duke University students in a dorm. Over that time, it's built up a huge library of content on topics that are often too obscure to make it onto Wikipedia.

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Simon Owens is a tech and media journalist living in Washington, DC. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. Email him at simonowens@gmail.com. For a full bio, go here.