Apple and podcasts are nearly synonymous. They have been intertwined from the outset of the genre, as the very name podcast is derived from Apple’s first major consumer electronics hit- the iPod. With all of that history, it seems a little surprising that Apple never ventured into the space that they gave an early home to and later helped to foster with a prominent position in iTunes. However, according to recent report from Bloomberg, they are about to do just that.
You don’t get much more connected to Apple than Mark Gurman, so the reports that Apple execs are meeting with media reps and content providers about getting access to exclusive content are likely true. He usually doesn’t run with something unless the information is good. This would indicate that Apple’s subscription service ambitions likely go beyond TV, news and gaming.
You know what this means. The usual suspects will wring their hands over Apple using their “monopoly power” as a platform provider to squeeze the competition even more. I find it ironic that one of said suspects is Spotify, who has been using their own “platform” to lock down podcast exclusives for a while now. They are also buying up podcast creation tools for their own use. I don’t see an issue with either, as they were solid business moves that served their interests. I just don’t care for the hypocrisy of them turning it around on Apple or any other competitor.
As with streaming music, Spotify and others have pushed into newer territory and Apple is simply following suit. While Apple doesn’t really make money directly off of podcasts, their primary position in the marketplace is a source of prestige. It also is one more feature and service that feeds into a much larger ecosystem. When it comes to podcasts, it seems that Apple has wisely decided to act before competitors like Spotify and Stitcher eat into their leading position. In other words, Apple learned their lesson when they held onto music sales too long before accepting that streaming is the future.
Apple taking the step of locking down exclusive rights to some big-name podcasts or producing their own content is a natural next step for the company. It makes perfect sense and fits right into Apple’s new focus on services. In fact, the only thing I find surprising is that it didn’t happen sooner.