Apple is making a small but potentially important change in the wording of their podcasts app. It could cause some initial confusion amongst listeners and podcast hosts.
As of the iOS 14.5 update, Apple will swap out the word "subscribe" and instead use "follow." What does this change mean for podcasters, and should you make any changes to your show?
The change in terminology brings Apple in line with other major podcast platforms including Spotify, Audible, Stitcher, and Amazon. All these platforms ask listeners to "follow" a show when they are interested in receiving automatic content downloads from any podcast they enjoy. According to an Edison Research market research study, almost half of people who don’t already listen to podcasts believe that "subscribing" to a show involves spending money to listen. The study emphasizes that this misunderstanding may be scaring away potential listeners.
PodNews, which keeps a close eye on what’s current in the industry, reports that once Apple makes the change away from using "subscribe," that leaves only Google Podcasts and YouTube as the big-name outliers still using "subscribe." YouTube creators in particular still use "subscribe" very widely and audiences seem to have no problem understanding the concept — even with the variety of free and paid subscriptions on that channel. It seems somewhat surprising to suggest that there is such widespread confusion amongst audiences around paying for podcasts.
Apple Podcasts looks to be moving in the same direction as the other podcast giants, but with the launch of their paid podcast subscription service, now the change in wording makes sense.
Although, at this time, Apple still suggests using the word "subscribe" in your messaging.
Apple's Podcasts app is the default for most iPhone users, and is the most popular choice for U.S. listeners looking for podcast content. Still, Apple’s share of podcast listenership is gradually waning. In 2018, 34% of U.S podcast listeners used the Apple app, whereas in 2020, it had dropped to 27.6%. This new modification could be the start of the Apple Podcast app’s rejuvenation and podcasters should watch and listen to keep up with how it pans out so that they don’t get left behind.
It could be time for podcast hosts to go with the big-name platforms and make a few tweaks to the wording that they use in any calls to action. If your podcast intro, outro, or CTA currently calls for listeners to "subscribe," it’s worth considering an update. Make the change to asking listeners to ‘follow’ your podcast suits all platforms and covers all bases while still sounding current. After all, whether or not there's any merit to the change, it would seem outdated eventually if you don't follow the prevailing trend.
As mentioned above, Apple still is suggesting to go with Subscribe on their website.