Apple's secret way of marketing

Why Apple is putting energy into companion podcasts.

He we are again. You are my companion in this #vanlife of a podcast publication, and today we’re parking at a literal spaceship. If by spaceship, we mean a building called The Spaceship. (ps: Stay till the end for a special podcast announcement.)

Companions all the way down

This week on Timber we published a story by Melissa Locker about companion podcasts, and we were very excited for the support from Apple in gaining access to the creators of a couple of their shows.

Melissa wrote the piece as a companion to another story on the podcast to TV pipeline, and she had a little fun tweeting about it. (BTW we are at @timberpod not @timber_FM, Melissa!)

So today I’m writing a companion to her piece, and realizing that companionship is the meaning of life. It’s companions all the way down.

Do we even listen to companion shows?

Obviously some people do. Anyone in the podcast world can name several of them off the top of their head, and the ones they can name must have found an audience. But are you that audience? I’m not.

I don’t have data, but I’d wager that companion show listeners tend to be a subset of the TV show audience.

Why is Apple spending energy on them?

So if we can agree the podcast audience is smaller than the TV show audience, why bother? Especially if you’re Apple? They have to move a billion bucks to even notice it on the quarterly P&L.

It’s not about screen time or brand or dedication to creators. Let’s look at it from the other direction. If you’re a giant company, and you want to enter a new, highly competitive market (TV), how do you do it? Yes, Apple can do an all-out marketing blitz. But people are marketing fatigued, and Apple can’t reach them in the places they are already watching TV—the other streaming platforms.

I read this line in the Melissa’s story, and it felt so much like PR that I almost asked her to edit it out. For All Mankind podcast host Krys Marshall says, “It’s been really fun hearing folks say, ‘Hey, I just loved the podcast, and it drew me to the [TV] series.’” I was like, “Come on. That can’t be real. No one is finding out about For All Mankind because of the podcast.” Then it hit me. They are finding out about it that way.

Maybe they’re not listening to the podcast, but they’re seeing it. Apple can put that companion pod front-and-center on their Podcast app for weeks and umpteen-million people see it. Podcast app users won’t register it as an ad. It’s just a podcast, and they’re in the podcast player. It’s devilishly good marketing.

To be fair, Apple has put in the work to make their companion shows good. I’ve heard nothing but praise for The Line. But also damn! You got me! Apple found a vast landscape where they control the message where Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Peacock, and Showtime can’t even pay for access.


Announcing a new companion podcast!

Timber stories range from 1800 to 3000 words. I know you want to read them, but you can’t go for a jog while you’re reading. So we fixed it for you. Starting right now you can listen to two of Timber’s early stories in a new podcast. You also get to hear my made-for-#vanlife-road-trips voice.

Here’s the ➡️ Apple show link ⬅️. I’m embedding the Spotify player below because Substack doesn’t know how to unfurl Apple podcasts links yet.

And finally, if you want a website link that lists all the episodes we have, we made a page for that: https://timber.fm/stories/category/podcast/ We’ll be adding more regularly.


Thanks for reading, happy listening, and please do me this one solid favor. Next time you read a great thing on Timber, please share it on r/podcasting/ or a Facebook group or some place that has people that will benefit from learning about the hard work and craft behind great audio. I’m trying to push this little publication beyond you—podcasting’s elite core.

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Thanks,

—Jon Christensen