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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Podcasts have historically been open and freely distributed, but new subscription offerings for podcasts from Apple and Spotify aim to challenge that status quo.

Between the lines: As the subscription podcast ecosystem develops, it wouldn't be surprising if other major podcast publishers start to toy with the idea of putting some of their podcasts behind a paywall.

Driving the news: Spotify on Tuesday launched its new subscription podcast platform that gives podcast creators the ability to create podcasts exclusively for paid subscribers on and off Spotify.

  • Creators using Spotify's podcast creator platform Anchor will be able to mark episodes as subscriber-only and publish them to Spotify and other podcast listening platforms, the company said Tuesday.
  • For the next two years, creators can pocket 100% of their subscriber revenue, excluding payment transaction fees. Starting in 2023, Spotify says it plans to introduce a 5% fee for access to the tool.

Apple announced its podcast subscription service last Thursday.

  • Apple's new service includes all of the tools needed by creators to offer premium subscriptions on Apple Podcasts for $19.99 annually.
  • Apple will take a 30% cut from podcast subscriptions, similar to what it takes for any transactions made via apps within its app store.
  • That cut drops to 15% after the first year, but it's still much larger than Spotify's fee.

The New York Times has had conversations around paywalling podcasts, but there are no imminent plans to put any behind a paywall, sources told Axios.

  • The Times purchased Audm, a subscription narrated article product, in March. A spokesperson says this "is an example of our ambitions in this area."

NPR plans to launch a public radio podcast subscription service, the company confirmed to Axios.

  • The new NPR podcast subscription will allow listeners to directly support their favorite podcasts and receive sponsorship-free versions of individual podcasts for a small fee, a spokesperson tells Axios.
  • The idea would be to share the revenue with local member stations to help introduce podcast listeners to local radio. (Radio and podcast audiences don't always overlap.)

NPR says it will be partnering with Apple and Spotify on their new podcast subscription platforms, but it will also be committed to keeping content free.

  • “NPR remains committed to making news and other content available to the public free of charge as part of its public service mission,“ a spokesperson said.

The big picture: The financial return on investment in podcasts remains to be fully realized for most creators.

  • In order for podcasts as an industry to grow, the biggest podcast companies need to invest in more ways to help creators get paid, which is why subscription platforms make sense.
  • Subscription podcast platforms are becoming more popular as consumers show a willingness to pay for premium audio experiences without ads.

Go deeper

Tipping is taking over the internet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Nearly every major social platform has recently introduced some form of tipping, allowing users to directly support their favorite personalities in real time.

Why it matters: Creators have been fueling engagement on social media platforms for years, but only now that the creator economy is maturing are they actually able to make money directly from their fans.

Heat dome roasts Northwest, Central states as "derecho" threat looms in Midwest

Weather map showing a sprawling heat dome centered over Kansas on July 30, 2021. (WeatherBell.com)

The latest in a series of relentless heat waves is bringing dangerously hot temperatures to a the Central U.S. on Wednesday, and will contribute to a severe thunderstorm outbreak across the Upper Midwest. The heat will expand in scope toward the end of the week.

The big picture: Heat watches, warnings and advisories are in effect across 19 states, from Portland, Oregon east to Minneapolis, and running all the way south to New Orleans. Temperatures of between 10°F and 15°F above average in these areas along with high humidity poses a public health threat.

Google offices to mandate vaccines

Photo: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

Google announced Wednesday it would require all in-office workers and visitors to be vaccinated and that employees could continue working from home through Oct. 18.

Why it matters: It's another sign that the Delta variant's spread is upending corporate plans for a quick and steady resumption of in-office work.

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