10 insights to help launch and grow a subscription on Apple Podcasts

Podcasters have launched thousands of shows with premium experiences on Apple Podcasts. While each subscription is different and offers a unique value to listeners, there are a growing number of tactics and takeaways they share in common.

Here are 10 key learnings to help you create subscriptions that resonate with audiences.

1. Launching a subscription grows the total audience.

When considering subscriptions, a common question from creators is “how might it affect my existing free listenership?” When looking at the top subscriptions introduced for shows with existing audiences on Apple Podcasts, the results are positive. On average, the total free listening audience increased in the four weeks after a subscription launch.

Why? Launching a subscription creates new marketing opportunities for the show overall. With Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, creators do not face a trade-off between the reach of a show and generating subscription revenue.

2. Subscriptions integrated into the largest shows convert the best.

For creators with multiple shows, listener adoption improves when subscriptions are integrated into the most-listened-to shows. The more listeners that encounter a subscription — including promotions for the subscription in audio, episode notes, and in-app banners — the more free listeners convert to paying subscribers.

Put simply: more listeners equal more impressions which equals more subscribers.

3. Releasing new subscriber content with a consistent cadence increases subscription sign-ups.

The most successful subscriptions incorporate benefits on a consistent cadence, ensuring there is always a premium benefit available to current and new listeners.

As creators clearly and consistently state the frequency of subscription benefits (for example, “New episodes for subscribers are released every Thursday”), the more likely free listeners will become paying subscribers and remain happily subscribed.

We see a strong correlation between new episode releases and subscriptions. And for creators with multiple shows, we see an even stronger correlation between new show launches and subscriptions.

4. Early and exclusive access are the best performing subscriber benefits.

Creators can choose from a wide range of benefits for subscriptions across individual shows and channels. Early access, such as a two-week window on new episodes, and exclusive content, such as a weekly bonus episode, are the best benefits for converting free listeners to paying subscribers.

This is driven by a few factors. Distinctive content and premium access outperform ad-free listening in terms of promotional visibility and the resulting impact on conversion. Also, free listeners encounter a compelling visual prompt when attempting to play subscriber-only audio on Apple Podcasts.

5. Among the best performing creators, more than 10% of listeners have signed up for a subscription.

One of the most important questions podcasters have about subscriptions is “how many subscribers will I get?” In the six months following the launch of Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, one in five subscriptions enjoy an adoption rate of more than 10%. This is an extraordinary and encouraging trend that speaks to the unique potential to build a meaningful subscription business on Apple Podcasts. There is no better place to offer premium audio than where listening and purchasing is already a frequent and trusted experience.

6. Annual plans are popular and effective.

Annual plans are proving popular with subscribers. One-third of all new subscription sign-ups are for annual plans, and creators offering the biggest annual price discounts have the highest share of annual subscribers. A noteworthy advantage of gaining annual subscribers is that you get paid up front, and listeners can count on a full year’s worth of benefits.

7. Subscribers listen and share more.

Subscribers listen to more than two times as many shows per month than nonsubscribers. Subscribers are also more than two times as likely to share podcasts with people they know. Offering a subscription on Apple Podcasts invites the most engaged listeners to spend more time listening and help spread the word about your show.

8. Subscribers are more likely to finish your serialized show. 

Podcasts already enjoy high completion rates relative to other forms of media. When it comes to subscriber content, engagement is even higher. For serial shows, subscribers are 20% more likely to reach the end of a series compared to nonsubscribers. Subscriptions give creators a way to engage more deeply with their biggest fans.

9. Free trials convert listeners to subscribers.

Listeners want to sample your premium benefits before they subscribe. When you offer a free trial, you are two and a half times more likely to convert free listeners to paying subscribers.

You can choose and change the duration of your free trial, with a range of options, from three days to a full year. A common trial length is seven days. When you offer a free trial, make sure you’re publishing new subscriber content regularly so listeners have an opportunity to appreciate the value of your subscription during the trial window.

10. Channels help subscribers discover and listen to your other shows. 

If you have multiple shows, you can group them into a channel for free. You can also offer a channel subscription with premium benefits for one or more of your shows. Listeners who subscribe to your channel are 20% more likely to listen to your other shows in your channel than nonsubscribers.

Need some inspiration on where to get started? Check out how to find your subscription strategy or register for a free virtual session.

Note: These early insights have been gathered by looking at aggregated data across all subscriptions on the platform between May and December 2021, unless stated otherwise, and are focused on freemium subscriptions, where creators keep existing content free and provide additional benefits for paying subscribers.