Apple last month unveiled plans for paid podcast subscriptions in a newly redesigned app. Now it is 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 such as Apple TV, Apple News and Apple Books, is expanding to include paid podcasts.
The new program, “Apple Services Performance Partner Program for Apple Podcasts,” will be open to everyone, although the company believes it will make more 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 on 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 accrues 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 to each new subscriber who signs up through the affiliate channel and there is no limit. Podcast creators can also use 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 to keep spammers out of the program and to ensure that those who sign up have at least some marketing channels where they can distribute links. The registration form asks for specific criteria, such as how many channels are available and how the partner intends to use them to promote affiliate links, among other things.
The program will be available to anyone in the 170 countries and regions where paid podcast subscriptions are available. Once approved and registered, affiliate partners will gain access to an online control panel where they can create links (i.e., shortened URLs) just like any other affiliate program. They can also create multiple URLs for an individual podcast to make it easier to track the performance of different channels. URLs can be published alone, linked to a “Listen on Apple Podcasts” badge, or they can be available as a QR code. The latter may make more sense when live events return, as it could be printed on posters or flyers that were distributed during a live recording, for example. It could also be used on other types of advertising, both print and digital.
Although premium podcasts already existed, until recently that meant paying a podcast directly to access a private RSS feed. Smaller services such as Stitcher also used subscriptions to provide paying customers with a range of benefits, such as ad-free listening and exclusive content. Apple and Spotify’s new efforts are focused on attracting creators to their platforms, where they will get a share of subscription revenue. Spotify is waiving its 5% fee for the first two years, while Apple is employing its usual model of 30% in year 1 dropping to 15% in year two.
While people can already start signing up for the new affiliate program, paid podcasts won’t launch until later this month, according to Apple. When they do, those enrolled in the affiliate program will be able to create links and start earning commissions on subscriptions.