As the battle for podcaster talent rages on among service providers, this morning Apple announced several new features for its Apple Podcasts service, arriving alongside the latest software updates for iPhone, iPad and Mac. Key among these are to manage podcast storage across devices, tools to enable annual broadcast subscriptions and the recently announced Apple Podcasts authorization system — a feature that will soon allow creators to more easily distribute their podcasts directly to Apple Podcasts than hosted third-party providers.
Apple says this latest addition will save creators time and energy as they will be able to authorize their hosting provider to deliver free and premium podcast episodes to Apple Podcasts using the provider’s dashboard. But it also gives Apple a way to compete with services like Spotify’s Anchor, which now offers tools for creation, hosting, and distribution across all major listening apps.
Starting this fall, a select number of hosting providers will support the delegate delivery system, including Acast, ART19, Blubrry, Buzzsprout, Libsyn, Omny Studio, and RSS.com. Apple says these providers account for about 80% of listening for premium content on Apple Podcasts, and more services will be added over time.
This feature will be available at no additional cost to all creators through Apple Podcasts Connect and creators will not need a membership in the Apple Podcasts Program to post their free shows – only to post premium content.
Apple notes that additional details about the new system, including educational resources for creators, will be provided as the service’s launch approaches. In the meantime, content creators can visit the Hosting Providers page on Apple.com to follow up on more updates.
While the new distribution technology is the best among today’s announcements, another new tool will be welcomed by longtime Apple Podcasts users – particularly those affected by the more recent app bugs.
Since Apple Podcasts is able to download programs to listeners’ devices, the app can end up consuming a lot of device storage. On iPhones in particular, this can lead to users running out of space for other essential activities — like taking photos or installing new apps and games. This issue was then further complicated by buggy versions of iOS 14.5 and macOS 11.3, which caused unwanted old episodes to be downloaded, thus consuming more storage.
With the release of iOS 15.5, iPadOS 15.5 and macOS 12.4, Apple is launching new tools to solve the problem of removing the backlog of downloads for a show more easily, potentially freeing up volumes on users’ devices as a result.
From the Settings app on the iPhone and iPad, users will be able to go to Podcasts, then tap Downloaded Automatically to choose how many episodes of shows are downloaded and saved to the device. The menu will allow listeners to choose to download a certain number of recent episodes, such as the last three, five, or ten episodes; Or users can choose to download all episodes that were recently published, such as the last seven, 14 or 30 days. Or they can select “All new episodes” or none by selecting the “Off” option. The latter makes Apple Podcasts work as a streaming-only app, which works for most people who live in areas with reliable cellular or Wi-Fi access.
By default, new Apple Podcasts users of the brand will keep the last five episodes of all episode shows and all episodes are saved for serial shows, the company says. Otherwise, the default will be to keep all new episodes if nothing else is configured.
What’s more, when the user chooses their preference, the app will then prompt them to automatically remove episodes downloaded to the device that no longer meet the newly defined criteria. This means that this feature actually works as a bulk cleaning tool to remove a large number of downloads from the device storage. Before, this was a tedious manual process that can be handled in various ways. Users can mark shows as played while the Remove Played Downloads setting is on, or they can manually remove downloads for an individual show or episodes one by one.
These new preferences can also be customized at the view level, not just at the system level, for a more personalized experience.
This new functionality will also be incorporated into iPhone recommendations for cleaning up device storage. From iPhone storage (under Settings -> General), users will be asked to keep only the last five episodes and delete old shows if podcast episodes are taking up more than 15% of their device storage.
Specific settings are carried over to the Mac as well, giving desktop users the power to make decisions about their Mac’s storage. This means that this is the first time that listeners can automatically delete old episodes across their devices.
Finally, Apple says it’s offering an option for podcast creators to offer annual subscription plans for premium podcasts alongside their monthly options. These appear when a user clicks “Subscribe” or “Try it free” on a subscribed program or channel. It is worth noting that the annual subscription will now be set as the default subscription. And when the annual cost is less than if the listener paid monthly, the annual plan savings will be shown to the user.
Content creators can set up their annual subscriptions at the price points of their choice while making their monthly subscriptions to Apple Podcasts Connect.
New subscriptions and storage features are rolling out with iOS 15.5, iPadOS 15.5, and macOS 12.4. Delegated delivery will arrive at supported podcast hosting providers later this fall.
Other updates to the app in iOS 15.4 include the ability to browse shows by season and filter episodes by status, making it easier to find the one users want to play.
The changes come after an update to the Podcasts app that introduced a new design but also a number of usability issues that drove users to third-party podcast apps, including Apple Podcasts competitor Spotify, which has been investing heavily in the podcast ecosystem. These departures may limit Apple’s ability to market audio streaming subscriptions to users, as Apple takes 15%-30% of subscription revenue, similar to the App Store.
Prior to this update, Apple last month introduced three new collections of Apple Podcasts — Darkside, tbh, and Popped — which focus on true crime, culture and entertainment, respectively, and are available in the United States and Canada. It also recently added support for subscriber audio uploaded MP3s in addition to WAV and FLAC, tools for getting help launching subscriptions with Jump-Start, and new analytics on listening and followers in Apple Podcasts Connect.