Apple Podcasts will no longer use the word “subscribe” in a few
weeks. Listeners will be invited to “follow” their favourite
podcasts instead. The new wording will be in iOS 14.5, which
should be released later this month (and is available in beta). We
expect Apple to communicate further with creators, and listeners,
when this version of iOS is released.
This seemingly small change could dramatically affect the
industry. 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. He tells Podnews: “Today, 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
Other larger podcast apps have already changed: Spotify and
Audible use “follow”, Stitcher uses “+ follow”, and Amazon Music
uses “♡ follow”. Meanwhile, Google Podcasts and Castbox use “+
Subscribe”, and Overcast and Castro uses “Subscribe”.
I think I like this change. It clarifies what’s free and what’s paid using common words. It removes confusion from a service that wants to both sell access to paid podcasts and allow users to sign up for regular old-fashioned free podcasts. And it removes confusion for users who hear the word subscribe and think it implies paid.