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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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

Why it matters: The move follows Apple's announcement last week that it has launched a new podcast subscription service within Apple podcasts.

  • Spotify's subscription podcasts feature rolls out in the U.S. today, and will expand internationally in the coming months.

The big picture: Financial returns on investment in podcasts have yet to be fully realized for most creators, as Axios has previously reported.

  • In order for podcasts as an industry to grow, the biggest podcast companies need to invest in more ways to help creators get paid.

How it works: 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 in an announcement Tuesday.

  • For the next two years, being a part of this podcast creator program will be free for podcasters, meaning they 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 monetization tool.
  • Within Spotify, podcast subscription content will be searchable and discoverable just like any other podcast episode in the app.
  • The company is launching the feature with 12 independent podcast creators, and will open up the platform to more creators on its waitlist in the coming months. 
  • One of those publishing partners is NPR, which will publish a selection of their shows sponsor-free for paid subscribers.

Flashback: Spotify first teased these new investments in February when it unveiled tools to help creators on its platform develop more interactive shows.

  • At the time, Spotify said it had tripled the number of podcasts on its platform in past year from 700,000 in Q4 2019 to 2.2 million in Q4 2020.

The bottom line: For Spotify, investments in podcasts are meant to boost overall subscriber engagement on its platform. Podcasts and podcast usage are "highly correlated to user attention and growth" overall on Spotify, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told investors in February.

Go deeper: Spotify debuts new tools for creators to make interactive podcasts

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.

Updated 35 mins ago - Health

GOP Rep. Clay Higgins says he has COVID for second time

Rep. Clay Higgins during a 2019 House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) Sunday evening that he and his wife have contracted COVID-19 for a second time and "this episode is far more challenging."

Driving the news: "Becca and I had COVID before, early on, in January 2020, before the world really knew what it was," he wrote in a Facebook post, confirming his son also has the coronavirus — which he described as a "biological attack weaponized virus."

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

📺: The Olympic events to watch today; Olympics opening ceremony ratings plunge

🏊: Athlete spotlight — Katie Ledecky adds to Games career medals haul; Caeleb Dressel leads Team USA to gold.

🏀: U.S. Men's basketball suffers first Olympic loss since 2004

🤖: The robot Olympics

🚨: Heat wave brings scorching temperatures to Tokyo Olympics

🎤: Meet the new faces of NBC's Olympics coverage

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage