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Apple Podcasts will replace the “subscribe” with a “follow” button instead

"47% of people who don’t currently listen to podcasts think that ‘subscribing’ to a podcast will cost money"

On Apple Podcasts, listeners will now be prompted to “follow” — rather than “subscribe” — to their favourite shows.

The reason for the change is because according to research the terminology was confusing to listeners. When people hear “subscribe” they assume you have to pay for the service.

edison research
Edison Research 2018. Credit: www.edisonresearc.com

Tom Webster from Edison Research says 47% of people who don’t currently listen to podcasts think that ‘subscribing’ to a podcast will cost money, describing it as a stone in the shoe of podcasting’s growth run.

Apple, Spotify, and YouTube are the three most widely used services to play podcasts, and now the word Subscribe means ‘automatically download for free’ in exactly none of them. Podcasters will have no choice but to adapt their language accordingly or risk confusing listeners.”

With so many news organisations pushing readers to “subscribe,” it’s not terribly surprising that people have come to associate the word with coughing up some cash. The change will appear in iOS 14.5, scheduled to be released later this month.

Other apps have already introduced similar language. Spotify and Audible use “follow,” Stitcher uses “+ follow,” and Amazon Music uses “♡ follow,” noted Podnews. (Google Podcasts, Castbox, Overcast, and Castro still use some version of “subscribe.”)

The Podcasts app, a default for many iPhone users, is currently the most popular choice for U.S. listeners. Apple’s share of podcast listenership has dropped from 34% in 2018 to 27.6% in 2020, however, and Business Insider’s eMarketer recently forecast it’ll be surpassed by Spotify — which has been investing in exclusive content, podcast technology and monetisation models left and right — within the year.

But is this merely a tweak in terminology? Or is Apple Podcasts setting up to roll out paid subscriptions in the future?

Let us know what you think! Does it matter that Apple podcasts have changed their terminology to ‘follow’ not ‘subscribe’?

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