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Self-publishing News: Paid Podcast Wars

Self-publishing News: Paid Podcast Wars

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at a new paid podcast model from both Spotify and Apple.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

In this month’s self-publishing news podcast Howard and I look back at a month in which subscription reading flexed its muscles. We focus in particular on the launch of Amazon’s new serial subscription platform, Kindle Vella. On tonight’s #indieauthorchat with Tim Lewis, at 8pm GMT, we’ll be talking about writing family memoirs.

Paid Subscription Podcast Offerings from Apple and Spotify

This week podcasts have dominated the news. I report a lot on subscription services, but not so much specifically on subscription podcasts. That despite the fact so many of us have, or regularly appear on, podcasts. ALLi of course has its own weekly podcast. And once a month Howard and I talk all things self-publishing on it. #IndieAuthorChat host and ALLi stalwart Tim Lewis is a podcast guru. And of course Joanna Penn has one of the best podcasts there is.

But still, writers tend to think too often of podcasts as ways to market what they have to sell. Rather than being the thing that makes them money. Despite the fact it is such a wonderful, longform creative medium. One reason for that may be the difficulty of actually making money through podcasts. This fascinating article shows just how few podcasts are making money despite the orders of magnitude growth the format is experiencing. 

Spotify and Apple Have Different Pricing Models

Then again, as the article also hints, most digital technologies begin with rapid growth before monetisation (sometimes) follows. We should be thinking about podcasts. All of which brings me to the really big news. Hot on the heels of Apple offering paid podcasts for a 70% royalty (rising to 85% after a year) from prices that start at 49 cents, Spotify has entered the fray. This comes as Spotify hit 158 million subscribers. The company has made it clear it wants to double down on its non-musical content. Creators can now use Spotify’s Anchor to create paid podcast content. And they can choose from three pricing tiers – $2.99, $4.99 or $7.99 per month. At present you can keep whatever people pay. After a year, Spotify will take 5%. This (converging) difference in pricing is interesting.

There is, of course, no love lost between the two music giants. Spotify have gone so far as to push the “keep people on-site and off-platform” strategy as far as they can. Which means iOS users who want to subscribe to Spotify podcasts won’t be able to do so in-app. Instead they will be routed to the Spotify Anchor website, then back to the app to listen. It will be an interesting test case for people’s willingness to make extra clicks.

Will Freemium Work for Podcasts?

One thing that’s particularly interesting is that both Apple and Spotify allow creators to use a freemium model. And Spotify seem to believe that this is the best model to choose. It’s been more than a decade since Chris Anderson made freemium the go-to model for the internet. The model has come in and out of fashion among indies ever since. Many of us have settled on a “first in a series free” model for our ebooks at the moment. It remains to be seen whether the model will work for podcasts.

Digital Sales Still Strong

One of the factors driving subscription is the continued strength of digital reading. And despite print sales holding up well, latest figures show that digital sales remain strong for both ebooks and audiobooks. In the UK, digital sales have almost caught up to print. Print sales for 2020 fell 6% to £3.4bn while digital sales rose 12% to £3bn. It's important to bring some clarity to the detail though. Half of that was down to academic publishing. Commercial consumer publishing accounted for £2.1bn. Both print and digital rose. Print is is up 4% to 1.7bn while digital rose 24% to £418m. So in the sphere in which most of us operate, print is very much still on top. But digital is growing much faster.

And digital sales in the US are also growing. In January and February, there was a 24.7% year on year rise in overall sales. This included a 20.7% rise in ebooks and 23.7% in audiobooks. Even though these sectors are smaller than print, it's still clear that digital is growing faster than print.

It's this growth we see consistently – of ebooks, audiobooks, serials, and podcasts. And this growth across these sectors is one reason why we should all be paying close attention, and considering whether going wide might apply to formats as well as platforms.

What opportunities do Spotify's paid podcasts offer indie authors and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months.

Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month

MAY 2021

Love Lambeth Ebook Open Day, 15 May

JUNE 2021

Indie Author Week, 12-19 June
American Libraries Association Annual Conference, 23-29 Jun


Comic Con, 22-25 Jul

Over to You

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


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