Huge podcasting news this week. Apple has announced new subscription options for their Podcast app, which would mean that listeners can pay to get “additional benefits,” such as being able to skip adverts in their favourite shows, or get early or exclusive access to new episodes. 

Any big new feature like this is always likely to cause a bit of unease with podcasters, especially as Apple haven’t really messed that much with the ecosystem they launched 15 years ago. However, what might reassure them is that, instead of partnering only with an exclusive roster of large podcasts (which would mean smaller podcasters could miss out), any podcast can sign up and charge their listeners whatever they want. Apple just takes a 30% cut of any money they make for the first year, before reducing to 15%.

A bigger question then is whether we’re all willing to pay for podcasts. I think many listeners probably would if they were all behind a paywall, simply because podcasts have always been synonymous with being ‘free’. But a way in which listeners can support or get closer to the creators they love, whilst still being able to listen if they don’t want to pay, might be a winning combination. There’s also a plus too in having you financially support them through your phone with a couple of taps, rather than having to fill in a form or set up a direct debit.

We’ll be keeping an eye out on how these plans develop. For more insight and analysis, read audio expert Matt Deegan’s newsletter on Apple’s podcast plans. Also, let us know what you think by responding to this email. We’re keen to hear your thoughts.

GUESTS ON PODCASTS THIS WEEK

If you have heard a great guest on a podcast, please let us know! Fill in this form and it might get featured in an upcoming newsletter.

  • James Acaster and Ed Gamble reached their 100th episode of their podcast Off Menu this week (congratulations!). Claudia Winkleman was their special guest.
  • The actor and comedian Rosie Jones, who you can see on Channel 4’s Trip Hazard: My Great British Adventure each week, is the latest guest on Bottoming, the LGBTQ+ mental health podcast. She talked about how she uses comedy as a way to tackle difficult subjects.
  • The excellent Growing Up with Gal-Dem is coming to the end of its third series. In the final episode they speak to Nigerian writer OluTimehin Adegbeye, where she reads a letter addressed to her 25 year old self back when she was 16. 
  • Material Matters with Grant Gibson, a podcast that asks a designer or maker about what material is central to their work, has artist and maker Jasleen Kaur this week. She uses food as a focus in her work, baking with mothers at a Sure Start Centre as a tool in working out the issues a local community is facing.
  • Chloé Zhao, two times BAFTA winner and nominated for six Oscars for her film Nomadland this week, was on Soundtracking with Edith Bowman.
  • Joining Rachel Johnson on the first episode of her podcast Difficult Women, a podcast that celebrates women who had to be “a pain in the backside to get where they are today” was the Supreme Court’s Baroness Brenda Hale.
  • Sir Tom Jones joined Alan Carr on his travel podcast Life’s A Beach.

Here are our podcast picks for the week ahead

If you want your podcast featured, or you have a great recommendation, all you need to do is fill in this simple form and might get featured in a future newsletter.

The Lazarus HeistRemember when cinemas around the world pulled the release of the 2014 film The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogan, after computer hackers got into the computers of the film’s distributor? The totalitarian regime was not happy with the depiction of their leader Kim Jong-un in the film, so hackers tied to the brutalist regime, known as the Lazarus Group, did all they could to bring Sony down. As a result of the hack computers didn’t work (“a horror image of a blood red skeleton with fangs and glaring eyes took over their screens,” North Korea expert and host Jean Lee explains, “an image that is as cheesy as it is threatening”). Even passes to the building were disabled, resulting in employees not being able to get into the building.

The podcast then explores an even wilder story: how the Lazarus Group then attempted one of the biggest audacious bank heists ever taken, a hacking of more than $1 billion. This podcast, which is also hosted by investigative journalist Geoff White, goes deep into explaining the hacker’s origins

Cold Case Crime CutsJon Holmes, the comedian and broadcaster behind the surreal Radio 4 show The Skewer, as well as The One Show Show, which picks apart The One Show on BBC One in exactly the same forensic fashion as the latest much hyped Netflix series, is also behind this highly enjoyable series spoofing all of those true crime series taking the podcasting world by storm. The delight comes from the wholly unnecessary and complex narration, provided by its host by Mason Lane. In telling a story looking at a fictional death at a radio station, comes lives like these: “The details of his death have remained hidden for decades. How many decades? The details of that have also been hidden for decades, so even now we’re not sure how many decades it’s been that the details of his death have been hidden for.”

Spotify Podcast of the Week – Spotify Originals acclaimed US music analysis podcast DISSECT now has a UK based spin off – Decode. Presented by Zambian-British author Kayo Chingonyi, the first series of Decode will examine rapper Dave’s revered debut album Psychodrama, which won the 2019 Mercury Music Prize, and Brit Awards’ Album of the Year, and sent out shockwaves upon its release as well as leaving a wider lasting impact on culture. 

In the series, Chingonyi dives into an in-depth exploration of the lyrical metaphors and explores the modern British Black experience embedded throughout Dave’s breathtaking debut album. While Dave’s Psychodrama is the main topic, Chingonyi expertly uses the album’s lyrics and inspiration to offer listeners thought-provoking social commentary at a time when conversations around social injustice have never been more vital. Taking the lead from the album, Decode explores a range of themes, including criminal justice, race, poverty, sexuality, toxic masculinity and mental health stigma. This approach elevates the podcast to be about much more than just the album, enabling those less familiar with Dave’s seminal album to be fully immersed in the analysis and interpretation of each episode. The podcast is exclusively available to listen to on Spotify.

Your Amazing Mind This new podcast from the University of Bristol explores the part of our body that has been through considerable strain this year: our minds. In each episode you’ll hear a student talk frankly about a mental health issue that they have experienced. You’ll then hear a psychotherapist and a specific special guest provide tailored advice and support. Whilst the podcast is clearly targeted at students, a lot of the topics are issues that are true to many of us (from LGBTQ+ mental health and acceptance to issues surrounding body image and anxiety). The emphasis that more of us share similar issues than you might realise. Weirdly, that makes you feel OK.

Who Do You Think Your Are? PodcastThis is a rather genius idea. Old episodes of the much loved ancestry television show have now been carefully turned into podcast episodes. Surprisingly, even though you now can’t see any of the documents that the experts pour out (or witness tears that then inevitably comes from the celebrity taking part), the whole thing loses none of its magic. In fact, hearing it only by audio makes the entire thing feel just that little bit more intimate. New episodes every week.

Finally, whilst the reopening of a lot of our old life can feel rather exciting, for many of us it can at times feel rather overwhelming as well too. If you’re ever in need for a break, listen out for Radio Lento, which provides uninterrupted sound recordings from a different place across the UK. This week you’ll hear thirty minutes of the sea from Norman’s Bay in East Sussex. The seaside is a tonic for pretty much everything, I think.

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