Among the many changes coming with iOS 17, Apple will also introduce a new feature that will allow users to connect a content subscription they use in an App Store app to Apple Podcasts in order to access a range of additional benefits. For instance, if a subscription-based news publisher also offered exclusive podcasts to subscribers, it could choose to make those subscriber-only episodes available through Apple Podcasts via this new feature. Previously, if a content publisher wanted to paywall podcasts, it would have had to launch a separate Apple Podcasts subscription.
Publishers and their subscribers alike may not have appreciated that setup, given that it was asking paying customers to pay yet again for the exclusive podcast content.
Perhaps because of this complication, The New York Times last month launched its own audio streaming app, where it makes all its podcasts available, including some that are just for its paid subscribers. But it’s not clear that consumers are actually interested in installing and using a separate app outside of their preferred podcasts player just to access NYT’s audio.
Under the new iOS 17 configuration, a publisher like the NYT could instead use the new linking mechanism to ensure their subscribers could access their exclusive content in the Apple Podcasts app that many customers already use.
Apple is making linking and authentication easy to do, as well. In fact, after updating to iOS 17, the first screen users will see is one that informs them of their existing subscriptions, which are automatically connected if they originally subscribed to the publisher’s app through an in-app purchase on the App Store.
Meanwhile, those who bought a subscription elsewhere — including directly from the publisher’s website –will be able to go to the podcast’s Channel page and click a link that reads “Already a subscriber?” where they can then log in and authenticate via the web.
As for the exclusive content itself, it could really be anything they want to offer, Apple says, as long as it’s audio.
Introduced in 2021, Apple Podcasts subscriptions have typically been used to offer some sort of additional benefit to paid customers, like ad-free listening, early access to episodes, bonus content, archival access, or the ability to support favorite creators, among other things.
Apple believes the new feature will be most popular with news apps, health and fitness apps, and kids and family apps.
The company has a handful of early adopters who will make their paid audio content available to subscribers from day one of iOS 17’s launch. These include Bloomberg, Calm, The Economist, L’Équipe, Lingokids, The Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and WELT. (We noticed The NYT is not in this list — but there’s still time!)
In addition to this update, Apple is also making it possible to listen to paywalled audio stories from its own subscription service, Apple News+, via Apple Podcasts. These include professionally narrated audio stories from across top magazines and newspapers that were previously only available in the Apple News app.
The Podcasts app itself is also being updated with a refreshed Now Playing design with a background showcasing the podcast art, enhanced controls for managing the queue, support for episode art, and a redesigned Up Next section.