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What Are Apple's Audiobook Rules Anyway?

What Are Apple's Audiobook Rules Anyway?

Hello Hello, I hope you are ready for a busy problem full of amazon. Because there is a lot of Amazon news going on today. First: Amazon and the Apple App Store. Second: Amazon Prime and Amazon Music. Third: Amazon Amp. And fourth: ... some stats about talk radio from NPR, as a small respite.

A quick note to insiders: We're not planning Thursday and Friday issues this week while we're in LA for the Hot Pod Summit. We are really looking forward to this event and are bringing some takeaways back for you all.

Now for the news.

What Are Apple's Audiobook Rules Anyway?

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

You can use Apple's in-app purchase system, which gives Apple a 30 percent cut on every audiobook you buy. This means letting Apple marginalize you or mark your values ​​and make them less competitive with Apple Books.
You can offer subscriptions to your app using Apple's in-app purchase system. With this, the fee will be reduced to 15 percent after one year. Audible, for example, raises the monthly fee for its premium tier on iOS by $1 per month to compensate for this.
You can offer subscriptions outside your app. This year, Apple began rolling out some exceptions to allow apps to share information with users about signing up for a new account. So an app could theoretically link to a signup page on the web. (Netflix does this; Spotify does not.)
You can't pass anything to your app. Users can buy audiobooks on the web; Then, they will appear in the app after they have been purchased. However, you can't tell users how to buy them. That's what does, for example.
But critically, you can't sell audiobooks directly using your payment processor of choice. Nor, as Spotify learned last week, can you include a button in your app that emails your customer a link to purchase the book on the web. I personally don't think these are good rules, but they are Apple's rules, and developers stuck with them.

Or, at least, they usually are. A developer DMed me this week after seeing that Amazon has been able to pull off the same "email the customer" strategy that Apple banned Spotify from using. Open Amazon's app, sign in to your Amazon account, and then pull up an audiobook. A big yellow "I want this book" button appears. Tap it, and you'll receive an email explaining that you need to sign up for an Audible subscription in order to receive and listen to the book.

I'm not writing this to call out Amazon for bypassing Apple's rules - I'm writing this because... well, what are Apple's rules too? Apple approved Spotify's email approach, then later withdrew approval, saying the app needed to change. Has the company also missed out on the rule-breaking behavior of one of the largest e-commerce companies on the planet? Or is there some kind of wiggle-room exception here because Audible is a subscription service? I reached out to Apple's rules for clarity, but did not receive a response. Amazon also did not respond as of press time.

Spotify doesn't know why Amazon's system gets the pass. "Apple has given us no such guidance," Spotify spokesman Adam Grossberg told Hot Pod. "That's a very good question and one that suggests that Apple is not enforcing its rules fairly."

If I had to wager, I think Apple's rules will eventually prompt Spotify to launch a subscription option for its audiobooks. Spotify in particular tried an a la carte approach as a way to differentiate itself from Audible. But Apple's system really makes subscriptions a priority: In-app subscriptions have low transaction fees, and subscription content apps get the option to link to their website for signups and avoid fees altogether. I don't know if subscription is the best model for audiobooks, but they certainly sound like Apple's.

Amazon goes big on ad-free podcasts

Looks like "What's more important: subscriptions or ads?"

Amazon has decided to massively increase the audio offerings of its Prime subscription. Prime subscribers now have access to Amazon Music's full catalog of songs, with the only — ostensibly major — caveat that they'll have to listen to everything on the Shuffle.

Prime members are also getting a bunch of podcasting perks. Wonderful Shows and Amazon Exclusives are going ad-free for Prime customers listening through Amazon Music. Amazon partnered with a bunch of top podcast producers, including CNN, NPR, ESPN, and The New York Times, to bring some of their shows to the ad-free service.

I find this particularly appealing because to date, more or less, Amazon's podcast strategy has been to focus on ad sales. Just look at its smartless deal: The company didn't close the show as an Amazon exclusive and didn't force people to pay for Prime; This kept distribution as wide as possible so that Amazon could sell ads against its large and lucrative audience. Amazon has many such deals! But now…

"The biggest thing [consumers] don't like about podcasts," Amazon Music head Steve Boom said on Decoder this morning. So Amazon has decided to give them away.

This is a tempting bet. Amazon's audio offering is pretty compelling if you compare it to Spotify's free tier — as my colleague David Pierce writes, "As free services go, however, Amazon Music is now essentially a paid-for Prime Tier." Spotify is looking at anyone's ads." But seriously... Amazon Music isn't free at all. It's $139 per year and just comes with a bunch of other benefits. And with an ad-forward approach In contrast, this strategy requires listeners to actively choose Amazon's platform.

I suspect the biggest obstacle to Amazon Music right now is awareness. Prime is still referred to as a "free shipping" subscription, which includes many other features. Amazon's content division is now trying to hold its own in that partnership: Prime Video is gaining weight with major titles like Rings of Power. , and today's announcement suggests that Amazon Music is trying to follow suit, too.

Here's another big podcast update: a feature in Amazon Music called "Podcast Previews," which presents short, curated clips from shows that listeners can swipe between. The clips are all editorially curated by Amazon Music editors, Amazon spokeswoman Rebecca Silverstein told Hot Pod. “We are starting with a small group of select partners who expressed interest in participating, and look to increase the number of podcasts included as part of this feature over time.” It's a neat take on discovery and something other audio streamers should be thinking about as well.

Amazon's Live Audio team layoffs

According to the insider, Amazon has cut almost half of its live audio team — "about 150 people". It's an ominous sign for the future of the Amp, which only launched back in March.

Just two months ago, Amazon launched a creators fund to encourage people to use the live audio service. At the time, I was also seeing commercials for the amp throughout the New York City subway, which was quite a surprise to me, considering that live audio has been flagging all year.

Amazon says AMP isn't going anywhere, though. The company told Insider that it is "strengthening teams to focus on growing and enhancing the amp." That said, losing half of your team often limits your ability to do such things!

Insiders say the layoffs come after a weak earnings report from Amazon, after which the company's CFO said headcount would target cost-cutting. With how much trouble clubhouse is getting into, I can't believe the amp has everything it needs to be successful.

booming spoken word audio

Well, it's 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 is on the rise in a big way. . According to the report, 131 million people over the age of 13 in the US now listen to spoken word audio every day, up from 105 million in 2014.

There are promising signs that this isn't just a fad. Younger listeners - Gen Z - are spending about a fifth of their audio time on the spoken word, up from less than a 10th a decade ago.

According to the report, listeners are increasingly connecting to mobile, now reaching a third of all listeners. But critically, radio still reigns supreme as a format, with almost half listening on AM/FM compared to one-fifth on podcasts.

Hot Pod Summit is happening this week

We're so excited to see you guys in Los Angeles in just two days. Hot Pod Summit LA is happening on Thursday, and we have a full day of exciting conversation. My colleague Ariel Shapiro, lead author of Hot Pod, and our friend Nick Quah, founder of Hot Pod and author of 1.5x Speed ​​in Vulture, will sit down with top leaders in the podcasting space to talk about the comedy, politics that will be in town. IP ownership, Hollywood adaptations, subscriptions, and a whole bunch.

Hot Pod Summit LA is sponsored by Amazon Music, Wondery and AdsWizz, and is being held in partnership with Work x Work and KCRW. The event is taking place as part of the On Air LA Annex to be held November 3-5. Tickets are still available, and you can read about their full lineup here.

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