Apple, podcasting and the open market

Late last month, Apple brought in some podcasters to discuss the business of podcasting. From a New York Times article, which we linked to over the weekend:

Interviews with over two dozen podcasters and people inside Apple reveal a variety of complaints. The podcasters say that they are relegated to wooing a single Apple employee for the best promotion. That sharing on social media is cumbersome. And that for podcasters to make money, they need more information about their listeners, and Apple is in a unique position to provide it. The problems, they say, could even open up an opportunity for a competitor.

Marco Arment responded with this blog post. Lots of good takeaways from Marco’s post, but this is a big one:

Big podcasters also apparently want Apple to insert itself as a financial intermediary to allow payment for podcasts within Apple’s app. We’ve seen how that goes. Trust me, podcasters, you don’t want that.

It would not only add rules, restrictions, delays, and big commissions, but it would increase Apple’s dominant role in podcasts, push out diversity, give Apple far more control than before, and potentially destroy one of the web’s last open media ecosystems.

Federico Viticci followed with his own take for MacStories:

The great thing about the free and decentralized web is that the aforementioned web platforms are optional and they’re alternatives to an existing open field where independent makers can do whatever they want. I can own my content, offer my RSS feed to anyone, and resist the temptation of slowing down my website with 10 different JavaScript plugins to monitor what my users do. No one is forcing me to agree to the terms of a platform. My readers are free to link to my articles, copy them, print them, subscribe to my feeds, and view them in any browser or feed reader they like.

Big Platforms are scared of this openness. I see an intrinsic beauty in it that no platform, corporation, or Leading Content Professional could ever convince me to abandon.

It’s hard to make money creating content, whether it be writing, filming, or podcasting. There’s a temptation to hand over the reins, with the hope that a large platform will bring in infrastructure, detailed access to customer usage patterns and, most importantly, a steady paycheck.

The App Store offers a similar temptation. In the beginning, there was gold in them hills, but as more and more folks showed up to reap the riches, it got harder and harder for a small player to make a living building apps.

Good writing on Marco and Federico’s part, worth reading. Not clear to me that there is an easy solution. The App Store offers a precedent, but not a perfect match. The vast majority of apps flow through Apple’s review process and promotion mechanism. Podcasting is still an open standard. No bottleneck to pass through for permissions, an ultimately free market, albeit one in which it’s tough to make a buck.