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News Rundown: June 1, 2021

Apple delays subscriptions rollout, among other things.

Apple delays podcast subscriptions rollout for publishers. The company made the announcement last Friday through a newsletter sent out to creators using its podcast-distribution tools.

The notice read:

We’re writing to provide an update on the availability of Apple Podcasts Subscriptions and channels. We’ve been delighted by the response to last month’s announcement and it’s exciting to see the hundreds of new subscriptions and channels submitted from creators across the globe every day.

To ensure we are delivering the best experience for creators and listeners, Apple Podcasts Subscriptions and channels will now launch in June. We will communicate further updates on availability, and best practices to help you prepare your subscriptions and channels, through this newsletter. 

Over the last few weeks, some creators have experienced delays in the availability of their content and access to Apple Podcasts Connect. We’ve addressed these disruptions and encourage creators experiencing any issues to contact us

We’ve also heard from listeners and made adjustments based on their feedback with iOS 14.6, which was released on Monday. We will introduce additional enhancements to Library in the coming weeks.

An inauspicious development for what had already been an inauspicious string of weeks for Apple Podcasts, whose platforms appear to have seen a sharp uptick in bugs and usability problems that was seemingly tethered to the rollout of iOS 14.5 and updates to the Apple Podcasts Connect portal in late April.

Apple’s podcast-subscription tools, which some consider paradigm shifting for the ecosystem given Apple’s status as the incumbent distribution platform, was originally scheduled to launch for publishers in its entirety in the latter half of May, and last week’s iOS 14.6 update had included an adjustment to the Apple Podcast app allowing it to support the new feature.

If this product push is the big deal that it’s being positioned to be, the shakiness of this rollout, combined with the recent wobbliness of its back end, does not bode well. Despite its historically dominant position, Apple Podcasts has never been the most technically robust, and the platform’s status feels unsettling in its fragility, perhaps more so than ever, at this point in time.

Selected Notes.

Podchaser, the podcast-database company, has launched a podcast API meant to help developers “access unique data and engagement features to build powerful new products.” More details here.

Monitoring this story: Hold Still, Vincent, a star-studded table-read podcast about the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, has come under criticism for not contacting the Chin estate or Helen Zia, a leading figure in the “Justice for Vincent Chin” campaign, over the course of production. A-Major, the Valence-Media-funded studio that produced the series with QCODE, Automatik, M88, and Writ Large, issued an apology over the weekend and stated that they are disabling the podcast until further notice — though it seems to still be available on Spotify and third-party podcast apps. Hit Rafu Shimpo and the Reappropriate blog for more detail.

Spotted in the wild: a job posting stating that Spotify is “launching a new daily show based in Los Angeles… [that] will mix music and talk segments, in a modern take on afternoon drivetime radio. This production will work under the direction of Gimlet’s New Formats team.” Speaking of which, I gotta find a way to get my hands on a Car Thing.

While we’re on Spotify: I didn’t know that the Slack group for Gimlet Members — launched years ago, back when Gimlet was still a startup in search of robust business models and had a strong sense of a follower community — was still operational, but no longer. The company apparently shut down the Slack this morning, to the dismay of the forty-some people who had continued using it.

CBC Podcasts and the BBC World Service have launched a joint podcast-commissioning effort, and they’re currently seeking proposals for “a factual narrative podcast, unique in story and treatment, told over 8-10 episodes, which will be presented as a major joint series in 2022.” Pitches are accepted until late June, and the results will be announced at the end of September. The IP ownership situation is unclear to me in the current available materials, so be sure to check on that before you send in your pitches. Here’s the link.

Speaking of the CBC, there’s a rather small subplot going on involving that podcast operation I’m fascinated with: The division recently released a documentary series called A Death In Cryptoland that takes on the exact same subject as Aaron Lammer’s Exit Scam, which beat them to release by about two weeks. The footrace itself is interesting to me, but more interesting are the differences between approaches of the two productions, one a national broadcaster, the other a small independent team. May the best (told) scam win.

“I feel like I can walk into a party saying, ‘Oh, yeah, I brought the Topo Chico,’” says area podcast man.