Apple last month unveiled its plans for paid podcast subscriptions in a newly redesigned Apple Podcasts app. Now, it's introducing a new program that will help podcast creators grow their subscriber base: affiliate marketing. The company's "Apple Services Performance Partner Program," which already exists to help market other Apple services like Apple TV, Apple News and Apple Books, is today expanding to include paid podcasts.
The new program -- "Apple Services Performance Partner Program for Apple Podcasts" (whew!) -- will be open to anyone, though the company believes it will make the most sense for publishers and creators who already have an audience and a number of marketing channels where they can share these new affiliate links. When users convert by clicking through one of the links and subscribe to a premium podcast, the partner will receive a one-time commission at 50% of the podcast subscription price, after the subscriber accumulates their first month of paid service.
So, for example, if a paid podcast was charging subscribers $5 per month, the commission would be $2.50. This commission would apply for every new subscriber that signed up through the affiliate channel, and there's no cap.
Podcast creators can also use the affiliate links to promote their own paid programs, which would allow them to generate incremental revenue.
While anyone can apply to join the affiliate program, there is an approval process involved. This is mainly about keeping spammers out of the program, and ensuring that those signing up do have at least some marketing channels where they can distribute the links. The sign-up form asks for specific criteria -- like how many channels are available and how the partner intends to use them to promote the affiliate links, among other things.
The program will be made available to anyone in the 170 countries and regions where paid podcasts subscriptions are being made available.
Once approved and signed in, affiliate partners will gain access to an online dashboard where they can create links (i.e. shortened URLs) much like any other affiliate program. They can also create multiple URLs for an individual podcast to make it easier to track how well different channels are performing. The URLs can be posted on their own, tied to a "Listen on Apple Podcasts" badge, or can be made available as a QR code. The latter may make more sense when live events return, as it could be printed on signage or in flyers that were distributed during a live taping, for example. It also could be used in other sorts of advertising, including both print and digital.
Though premium podcasts already existed, until more recently that often involved paying a podcaster directly to access a private RSS feed. Smaller services like Stitcher also used subscriptions to provide paying customers with a series of perks, like ad-free listening and exclusive content. The new efforts by both Apple and Spotify are focused on wooing creators to their platforms, where they'll take a cut of the subscription revenues. Spotify is waiving its 5% fee for the first two years, while Apple is employing its usual model of 30% in year 1 that drops to 15% in year two.
While people can begin to enroll in the new affiliate program starting today, paid podcasts aren't actually launching until later this month, per Apple. When they do, those enrolled in the affiliate program will be able to create links and begin earning commissions on subscriptions.