Apple Confuses Every Podcaster

Podcasters more confused about future of podcasting than about which microphone to buy

It has been fun reading every take on the new Apple podcast subscription service, and there are some really good ones. My favorite is Ben Thompson’s if you haven’t already read it.

But there’s one take I haven’t yet seen, so I’ll try to briefly write it. The mistake Apple just made is in both product execution and messaging. They weren’t bold, they didn’t take a clear stance on the future of podcasting, and they left everyone with more questions than excitement.

For a company that’s not afraid to be bold and do away with computer ports like you never spent hundreds of dollars on peripherals, I was a little surprised.

And I was reminded of an article in Democracy Journal that has stuck with me for 4 years. It was about how modern Democrats suck at keeping things simple and claiming victory. It gives historic examples of popular government programs that were simply executed, and simply messaged: “A monthly check to you for the rest of your life beginning when you are 65” was social security’s coming out party. The article contrasts these bold, simple government programs with Obamacare which no one quite fully understands, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which as best I can remember was about highway signs by road construction projects. Both of these made huge swaths America feel like the government was big and didn’t understand us.

So back to Apple. Going all in on bypassing RSS or being full throated in support of the open ecosystem would have been much less confusing than still supporting RSS but also offering a proprietary whatever-it-is-DRM-30%-subscription thing. You shouldn’t need a flowchart to decide if the product is right for you. Big, confusing, tepid new product rollouts should be left to companies like AT&T with its HBO Max rollout. Surely not Apple!

Nonetheless, Apple is huge and this post doesn’t change anything. So I’m going to get back to focusing on building software that will help people make and distribute great audio. Apple’s announcement may require us to make some adjustments once people figure it out, but in the meantime, Timber’s roadmap is still clear.

Thanks for reading!

—Jon Christensen