If you notice a language change the next time you add a series in Apple podcasts, you will not be alone. Podnews and 9to5Mac report that Apple is changing the “subscribe” option to a podcast to “follow” as of iOS 14.5 and its iPadOS counterpart While Apple hasn’t explained the change (we asked Apple for a comment), it’s probably just a matter of perception. “Subscribe” implies that you pay a recurring cost, which might put off new listeners who might not realize that most podcasts are free.
Almost half of people who don’t listen to podcasts think it will cost money, Tom Webster of Edison Research found.
Apple is not the first to use the “follow” language. Spotify, Amazon, and Stitcher already do. However, Apple’s decision could have a significant impact on podcast adoption. The Podcast app is one of the most used podcast clients in the world, in part because it’s the default app on iOS. A new turn of phrase could easily change the behavior of many people. And remember, the very concept of podcasting has to do with Apple – the name comes from when you charge your iPod with new episodes. This word choice can have a ripple effect on other podcast apps, even if you are not inclined to use Apple products.
It can also be a matter of strategic necessity. Rumors have circulated that Apple has launched a premium podcast service. If so, the company may need to make a clear distinction between free and paid shows. A seemingly simple change like this could lay the groundwork for much more.