Should podcasters push their listeners off Apple?

The Apple Podcast app has become unreliable, and it may be time to suggest alternative platforms to your audience.

Welcome! I'm Simon Owens and this is my media newsletter. You can subscribe by clicking on this handy little button:

Let’s jump right into it…

Should podcasters push their listeners off Apple?

In the most recent episode of my podcast, The Business of Content, I included a short message that went like this:

I stopped using the Apple Podcast app a long time ago, but I’ve been reading lots of articles indicating that the latest update to Apple Podcasts has rendered the app to be almost unusable. If you are one of those people who really don’t like the update to Apple Podcasts, then the podcast app I use is called Overcast. It’s an independent podcast company. It’s a really good, simple player. Your podcasts are listed in alphabetical order. You can just go to the app, find the podcast you want to listen to, and download the episode. It’s very straightforward, it’s not trying to feed you some kind of algorithm. It’s not trying to push podcasts on you. It’s just a very simple, good podcast listening app. So if you are on the lookout for a new podcast app, definitely check out Overcast. I would highly recommend it.

Up until that point I’d been relatively agnostic about how people listened to my podcast; as long as they were able to subscribe to and access new episodes, I was happy.

But the reliability of the Apple Podcast app has grown so shaky that I legitimately wonder whether my subscribers will be able to access new episodes. The problem has been so persistent that several prominent podcasters — who usually don’t criticize Apple publicly because they still want their shows featured — are beginning to speak out. Here’s Dan Moren, for instance:

Just this week, I’ve received multiple emails, direct messages, and Twitter replies mentioning that the latest episodes of several of my shows simply aren’t showing up in the Apple Podcasts app. Sometimes it seems to vary by platform or region. Other shows that I’ve put out in the same time period show up as normal. It’s maddeningly inconsistent. And I’m certainly not alone in this, either; when I asked in a Slack community of podcasters if there was anything to do about this other than throw up my hands in frustration, several other hosts could offer nothing but sympathies.

Right now, Apple is in a precarious position. Depending on which metrics you consult, Spotify may have already surpassed it in terms of total podcast listening. Behemoths like Amazon and SiriusXM are seriously investing in the medium. It’s no longer the default option for those who are trying out podcasts for the first time.

Which begs the question: should other podcasters follow my lead and try to move their audience off of Apple? Let’s imagine a scenario in which thousands of hosts record a short segment where they recommend alternative listening apps; it may be the tipping point that triggers a mass migration from Apple’s app, especially if users were already fed up with it.

Either way, Apple picked the absolute worst time to begin pissing off the podcast community. If this had happened five years ago, we might have all shrugged our shoulders and just dealt with it. But now that there are viable alternatives and real money at stake? It may just be enough to end Apple’s reign as the benevolent overlord of podcasting.

My latest: How Zikoko became Nigeria's most viral publisher

When Zikoko started out in 2013, Facebook was its biggest traffic driver, but now Twitter is its leading referral source.

Will people listen to multiple daily news podcasts?

Every major news outlet is launching a daily podcast, and they often claim that they’re not competing with NYT’s massively successful podcast The Daily. I wrote about why I find this claim ridiculous over here.

Not everyone’s sharing in the comic book movie wealth

It’s safe to say at this point that comic book movies and TV shows now generate billions of dollars a year for Hollywood. Not only do you have the blockbuster Marvel and DC properties, but also dozens of other adaptations of lesser-known comics like The Boys, Umbrella Academy, and Invincible.

But not everyone’s sharing in all of that wealth. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the creators of comic book superheroes are often left out in the cold. I found this anecdote to be especially striking:

Len Wein, the late Wolverine co-creator, said he received more money for creating Lucius Fox, the Batman character played by Morgan Freeman in Nolan’s films, than for creating the iconic X-Men hero portrayed by Hugh Jackman in nine movies.

NBC’s Snapchat show reaches 1 million unique viewers per episode

Digiday reports:

Starting out, “Stay Tuned” was very much a traditionally produced news program shot in a studio at NBCUniversal’s famed 30 Rockefeller Plaza building where “Today” and “NBC Nightly News” are also filmed. Over the years, the series had dabbled in remote and on-location production, but the pandemic’s impact on in-person production required the show to be produced from people’s homes. It was an adjustment that seemingly every production had to make and one that will remain an element of “Stay Tuned” as the show maintains the looser feel that’s more at home on platforms like Snapchat and TikTok.

REMINDER: I wrote about how Snapchat had repaired its relationship with publishers and how its media partnerships are now producing impressive audience and revenue numbers.

Creators becoming venture capitalists

Forbes reports that the YouTube megastars Rhett and Link are starting to invest in the businesses of up-and-coming creators:

For their next act, they’d like to be investors, too, and they’ve put aside $5 million to start their grandly named Mythical Accelerator fund, using the money to acquire ownership stakes in other social media stars’ businesses. “We’ve always been interested in building outside of ourselves, building significant enterprises, hopefully, something that looks like a studio with other people who’ve succeeded in building fandom on the internet,” says Brian Flanagan. He’s Mythical Entertainment’s chief operating officer, a role he held previously at Demarest Media, which produced things like 2016’s Oscar-nominated Hacksaw Ridge. “We think we can invest and then deploy a lot of expertise, advice and growth guidance to people,” he says. “They have developed a major fandom, and their fandom is loyal, highly engaged and growing.”

Mr. Beast, who has 65 million YouTube subscribers, has also begun buying equity stakes in creator businesses.

It’s easy to see the logic behind these deals. As successful creators, Rhett and Link are particularly adept at spotting new talent. They have the experience and resources to provide production help and business advice to those they invest in. And best of all, they can heavily promote the up-and-coming creator on their own channels, thereby scaling the audience growth at a much faster rate. If I were a YouTuber with a few hundred thousand subscribers, I’d take their money in a heartbeat.

ICYMI: How to grow your newsletter by syndicating it to mainstream media outlets

Ernie Smith’s newsletter Tedium was featured in an episode of the hit NPR podcast Planet Money. Its individual issues have been syndicated in Vice, Atlas Obscura, and Popular Mechanics.

Want to interact with me directly?

I have a private Facebook group that I only promote in this newsletter, and I’m pretty responsive to just about everyone who comments and posts to it. It has over 500 members, and I’m consistently impressed by the quality of discussion I find there. You can join over here: [Facebook]

Do you like this newsletter?

Then you should subscribe here:

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.