Spotify launches paid podcasts through new Anchor feature


Spotify icon
Image Credits: Stockcam (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Spotify today is officially rolling out paid podcast subscriptions, after first unveiling its new subscription platform at the company’s “Stream On” event in February. Through Spotify’s podcast creation tool Anchor, podcasters will be able to mark select episodes as subscriber-only content, then publish them to Spotify and other platforms. The service was initially tested with a dozen independent creators, and is now expanding to creators who had previously registered for the waitlist.

For the time being, Spotify is only opening up paid subscriptions to creators in the U.S., but it aims to expand internationally in the months ahead, it says.

The launch comes at a time when the market for podcasts, and paid podcasts in particular, is heating up. Last week, Apple announced its own plan for paid podcast subscriptions through its Apple Podcasts platform, still a top destination for podcasts today.

But one key difference between Spotify’s efforts and Apple’s plan is how subscription revenue is shared.

Apple unveils podcast subscriptions and a redesigned Apple Podcasts app

Apple said it’s taking a 30% cut of the podcast revenue in year one, dropping to 15% in year two — the same as its cut for streaming services on its App Store. Spotify, meanwhile, says its program will come at no cost to creators for the next two years, which means creators will keep 100% of revenues. Then, in spring 2023, Spotify plans to introduce only a 5% fee for access to the tool.

Image Credits: Spotify

The first group of 12 creators will now begin publishing the paid, subscriber-only bonus episodes to their feeds, which will be discoverable and searchable just like any other podcast episode on the platform. These paid episodes will appear in the podcast’s main feed, where they’re marked with a lock icon on the Play button. Early adopters include Wild Thing; Tiny Leap, Big Changes; and The Mindful Minute.

The cost to subscribe is determined by the creator, but will be one of thee tiers: $2.99, $4.99 or $7.99 per month.

While Spotify will allow Anchor creators to mark entire feeds as paid, if they choose, it believes the lure of the free episodes to first attract listeners is a smarter idea. Then you can upsell them bonus content. However, larger podcasts may take a different approach.

For example, Spotify has inked a deal with NPR for paid subscriptions which involves entire paid feeds. NPR will publish five shows  — How I Built This with Guy Raz, Short Wave, It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, Code Switch and Planet Money — that will be sponsor-free for paid subscribers starting on May 4. These shows will be branded as “Plus” (e.g. Planet Money Plus) and will live alongside the free feeds. In this case, listeners aren’t getting bonus material, but they’re supporting NPR. More NPR shows will roll out their own Plus versions in the weeks ahead.

A Wall Street Journal article on Friday broke the news that Spotify’s paid subscriptions would arrive this week. And it noted that iOS users who wanted to subscribe would be routed to a website to process the transaction, avoiding Apple’s in-app purchase requirements. This could potentially be a tricky line for Spotify to toe. The company has been a chief Apple critic, testifying just last week before Congress about Apple’s anticompetitive behavior when it comes to the App Store.

Now it’s bypassing in-app purchases by directing users to go to a website and buy a subscription. The company, however, says it’s leaving the explanation up to the podcast creators.

“It’s basically up to every creator to educate their listeners about how and where to subscribe to the podcast, and the actual subscription happens on an Anchor webpage — on the creator’s profile page on Anchor. But once you do that and you authenticate it and you come back to Spotify, it’ll be unlocked,” says Anchor co-founder Michael Mignano. He notes that the Spotify app will not actually open this webpage due to App Store rules. (Also, because Spotify isn’t taking a cut of the subscription revenue, for the time being, it would be protected via the carve-out for creator donations that Apple established a few years ago even if it had adopted in-app purchases.)

To use the paid podcasts feature, creators will mark their episodes within Anchor after first recording or uploading their episodes. For listeners who want to access the content on a different podcasting app, a private RSS feed will be provided after they subscribe.

Spotify buying podcast hosting and ad company Megaphone for $235M

Spotify is also announcing, for the first time, the Spotify Open Access Platform (OAP). This will allow creators who already have paid subscribers on other platforms — including competing services or private RSS feeds — to provide that content to current subscribers using their existing logins and billing solutions. Spotify says this would help creators retain direct control over the relationship. However, Spotify will re-host the content on its servers, which would give it insights into the broader paid podcasts market as a result.

The company isn’t yet ready to announce the complete details on this solution, but says it will have some news in the week ahead.

In addition to the roll out of paid podcasts, Spotify says it’s opening up its audio ads marketplace, the Spotify Audience Network (SPAN), to independent podcasters using Anchor. This is another area where Spotify is differentiated from Apple. On Apple Podcasts, creators are responsible for selling their own ads, so they keep 100% of the revenue.

Spotify, by comparison, has invested in ad technologies with the goal of serving the podcast audience. The company had previously unlocked Megaphone’s inventory (a 2020 acquisition) via the network, but is now making SPAN available to select Anchor creators, as well. The company says it will begin with a group of 50 creators on May 1, then expand over time.

More thoughts on growing podcasts


More TechCrunch

Scale AI has raised a $1 billion Series F round from a slew of big-name institutional and corporate investors including Amazon and Meta.

Data-labeling startup Scale AI raises $1B as valuation doubles to $13.8B

The new coalition, Tech Against Scams, will work together to find ways to fight back against the tools used by scammers and to better educate the public against financial scams.

Meta, Match, Coinbase and others team up to fight online fraud and crypto scams

It’s a wrap: European Union lawmakers have given the final approval to set up the bloc’s flagship, risk-based regulations for artificial intelligence.

EU Council gives final nod to set up risk-based regulations for AI

London-based fintech Vitesse has closed a $93 million Series C round of funding led by investment giant KKR.

Vitesse, a payments and treasury management platform for insurers, raises $93M to fuel US expansion

Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…

Zen Educate raises $37M and acquires Aquinas Education as it tries to address the teacher shortage

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

Aurora and Volvo unveil self-driving truck designed for a driverless future

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €285M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons