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What Are Apple’s Audiobook Rules Anyway?

This is the free weekly edition of Hot Pod, The Verge’s podcasting and audio industry newsletter. You can Register here.

Hello Hello hello. Hope you are all ready for a busy, full Amazon problem. Because there is a lot of Amazon news to go around today. First up: Amazon and the Apple App Store. Second: Amazon Prime and Amazon Music. Third: Amazon Amplifier. And fourth: … some stats on talk radio from NPR, like a little breather.

A quick note to insiders: We’re planning no issues for Thursday and Friday this week while in LA for Hot Pod Summit. We are really looking forward to the event and bringing some takeaway for all of you.

What Are Apple’s Audiobook Rules Anyway?

Let’s say you want to offer audiobooks through an iPhone app. You have a few options:

  1. You can use Apple’s in-app purchase system, which gives Apple a 30 percent discount on every audiobook purchased. That means letting Apple eat into your margins or raise your prices and make them less competitive with, say, Apple Books.
  2. You can offer a subscription inside your app with Apple’s in-app purchase system. As a result, the compensation is reduced to 15 percent after one year. For example, Audible is increasing the monthly fee for its premium tier by $1 per month on iOS to make up for it.
  3. You can offer a subscription Outside your app. This year, Apple began providing some exceptions to allow apps to share information with users about how to sign up for a new account. So, in theory, an app can link to a login page on the web. (Netflix does this; Spotify doesn’t.)
  4. You can bid nothing in your app. Users can buy audiobooks on the Internet; then they will appear in the app once purchased. However, you cannot tell users how to buy them. For example, Libro.fm does this.

But critically, you can’t just to sell the audiobook directly using the payment processor of your choice. Also, as Spotify learned last week, you can’t include a button in your app that emails your customer a link to buy the book on the web. Personally, I don’t think these are good rules, but they are Apple’s rules, and developers are stuck with it.

Or at least, they usually are. A developer DMed me this week after noting that Amazon seems to be using the same “email the customer” tactic that Apple just banned from using Spotify. Open the Amazon app, log into your Amazon account and pull out an audiobook. A large yellow “I want this book” button will appear. Tap it and you’ll receive an email explaining that you need to sign up for an Audible membership to buy and listen to the book.

Did Apple also miss a rule-breaking act from one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world?

I’m not writing this to challenge Amazon to get around Apple’s rules – I’m writing this because… well, what are even Apple’s rules? Apple approved Spotify’s email approach, later withdrawing its approval, saying the app needed to be changed. Did the company also miss rule-breaking behavior from one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world? Or is there an exception to the leeway here because Audible is a subscription service? I contacted Apple to clarify the rules, but got no response. Amazon also did not respond to press time.

Spotify also does not know why Amazon’s system is getting a pass. “Apple has not given us such advice,” said Adam Grossberg, a Spotify spokesperson Hot Pod. “It’s a really good question and one that suggests Apple isn’t applying its rules fairly.”

If I had to take a guess, I’d think Apple’s rules will eventually push Spotify to launch a subscription option for its audiobooks. Spotify very specifically tried the à la carte approach as a way to differentiate itself from Audible. But Apple’s system really prefers subscriptions: in-app subscriptions have lower transaction fees, and subscription content apps get the option to link to their website to sign up and avoid the fees altogether. I don’t know if subscriptions are the best model for audiobooks, but they certainly resemble what Apple wants.

Amazon is going to be big in ad-free podcasts

This feels like the ultimate take on “what’s more important: subscriptions or ads?”

Amazon has decided to bolster the audio offering of its Prime subscription in a big way. Prime subscribers now get access to Amazon Music’s entire catalog of songs, with the one – albeit major – caveat that they must listen to everything in shuffle.

Prime members also get some podcasting benefits. Wondery shows and Amazon exclusive programs will become ad-free for Prime subscribers who listen through Amazon Music. Amazon has also partnered with a number of top podcast producers, including CNN, NPR, ESPN and The New York Timesto bring some of their shows to the service without ads as well.

I find this particularly fascinating because until now Amazon’s podcast strategy has more or less been to focus on ad sales. Just look at to be SmartLess agreement: the company didn’t shut down the show as an Amazon exclusive and forced people to pay for Prime to tune in; it kept the distribution as wide as possible so that Amazon can sell ads to its large and lucrative audience. Amazon has made some deals like this one! But now…

Amazon’s content divisions now seem to hold their own in the Prime bundle

“The biggest thing [consumers] don’t like podcasts are all ads,” said Steve Boom, head of Amazon Music Decoder this morning. So Amazon has decided to abolish them.

It’s a fascinating bet. Amazon’s audio offering is pretty convincing when you compare it to Spotify’s free tier – as my colleague David Pierce writes, “As free services go, Amazon Music is now essentially Spotify minus the ads for anyone who already pays for Prime.” .” But critically… Amazon Music isn’t free, precisely. It’s $139 a year and just happens to come with a bunch of other benefits. And unlike the ad-forward approach, this tactic requires listeners to actively choose the Amazon platform.

I suspect Amazon Music’s biggest hurdle right now is simply awareness. Prime is still best known as the “free shipping” plan with a ton of other benefits built in. Amazon’s content divisions now seem to be holding their own in that partnership: Prime Video is pulling its weight with big titles like Rings of Powerand today’s announcement shows that Amazon Music is also trying to follow suit.

There’s another big podcast update: a feature called “podcast previews” in Amazon Music that presents short, curated clips from shows for listeners to swipe between. The clips are all editorially curated by Amazon Music editors, Rebecca Silverstein, an Amazon spokesperson, said Hot Pod. “We’re starting with a small number of select partners who have expressed an interest in participating, and we’re looking to expand the number of podcasts included as part of this feature over time.” It’s a fun take on discovery and something other audio streamers should think about as well.

Fired from Amazon’s live audio team

Amazon has cut about half of its live audio team – “about 150 people” – according to Insider. It is an unfavorable sign for the future of Amp, which was only launched in March.

It was just two months ago that Amazon launched a creators’ fund to encourage people to use the live audio service. At the time, I also saw ads for Amp pop up in the New York City subway, in what was a rather surprising push to me, given that live audio faltered throughout the year.

However, Amazon says Amp isn’t going anywhere. The company told Insider that it is consolidating teams to “focus on growing and scaling Amp.” That said, losing half your team often limits your ability to do such things!

Insider points out that the layoffs come after a weak earnings report from Amazon, after which the company’s CFO said its workforce would be a target for cost-cutting. With how much trouble Clubhouse seems to have, I’m not convinced that Amp has everything it needs to succeed.

Spoken word audio is booming

Okay, no surprise if you’re reading this newsletter, but: NPR and Edison Research’s Spoken word audio report came out last week and they found that spoken word audio has grown tremendously. 131 million people aged 13 and older in the US now listen to spoken word every dayup from 105 million in 2014, according to the report.

There are promising signs that this isn’t just a fad, either. Younger listeners — Gen Z — spend about a fifth of their audio time on spoken word, up from less than a tenth almost a decade ago.

Listeners are increasingly tuning in to mobile, according to the report, reaching a third of all listeners. Most importantly, radio still predominates as a format, with nearly half of all listening on AM/FM compared to a fifth on podcasts.

Hot Pod Summit takes place this week

We are very excited to see some of you in Los Angeles in just two days. Hot Pod Summit LA takes place on Thursday and we have a full day of exciting conversations planned. My colleague Ariel Shapiro, Hot Pod‘s lead writer, and our friend Nick Quah, Hot Pod‘s founder and the author of 1.5x speed Bee Vulturewill be in town to sit down with top leaders in the podcasting space to talk about comedy, politics, IP ownership, Hollywood adaptations, subscriptions, and more.

Hot Pod Summit LA is sponsored by Amazon music, wonderfuland AdvertisementsWizz, and it is held in conjunction with work x work and KCRW. The event takes place as part of On Air LA Annex, which will be held from November 3-5. There are still tickets available, and you can Read about their full line-up here.

Phew, that was a long one. We’ll see you all next week!

Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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