Navigating Apple’s New Regulations And The Power Of Consistency

There are a lot of changes happening over at Apple. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll find yourself wondering what happened to your stats the next time you look at them. Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard have you covered in this episode as they dive into the recent changes in Apple’s new podcast regulations. They unpack how these changes throw a wrench into download numbers, listener habits, and the dynamic between podcasters and advertisers. They zero in on the shift in auto-downloads, emphasizing why it’s a game-changer for podcasters relying on download stats for ad revenue. Tracy also raises concerns about Apple’s automatic transcript feature, tackling accuracy glitches and how it might negatively impact the listener’s experience. Throughout, Tom and Tracy encourage consistency, valuable content creation, and alternative ways for podcasters to engage with their audience beyond podcasting platforms.

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Navigating Apple’s New Regulations And The Power Of Consistency

We are talking about podcast regulations. That sounds boring, but it’s not. It’s important because this is how the changes that they’re making affect both your intellectual property rights, access rights, and what’s going to happen with the downloads and it could affect your earning rights. There are lots of changes over at Apple. If we don’t pay attention to them, we’re going to sit back and look at our show statistics and go, “What the heck happened?”

It’s interesting that some of these changes have been in place since mid-October or early October in 2023 and I see a lot of shows. I monitor a lot of shows’ analytics and for some, I haven’t seen much of a drop off in downloads at all, and for others I have. It depends a little bit on several factors, but we’re here to talk about a few changes. That’s one of them in terms of Apple Podcasts, which is still the dominant app people listen to podcasts on. They do drive the industry with any changes.

Let’s talk about what some of these changes are. Some of you may have gotten notifications from Apple. Some of you don’t manage your own accounts. You have Podcast Managers or Editors or Assistants who may have received them as well. It forces you to log in to Apple to accept the new terms and conditions and it has also made some backend changes to some things in the way the directory shares your show with others, your listeners, your subscribers, and the way downloads are recorded from that standpoint. Some of those things are functional changes in terms of how it works for listening and downloads. Others are just straight changes that have to do with your relationship with Apple as a contributor to the show ecosystem.

That’s correct. Should we talk about some of the changes?

Let’s talk about them.

The Download Impact

Let’s talk about the one that everybody’s going to be most concerned about who’s reading this episode or watching us on social media and that is the download impact. If you’ve been podcasting for years, you’ve been used to how many downloads you get. I’m going to share a little bit of what used to happen. When somebody subscribes to your show, whether they did it months after it started or a year after or several years after it started, what used to happen is once they subscribed, the app would download every single episode to their device whether you read it or not.

That was early on. They made a change at some point which limited the number to 5 or 3. It depends on your personal settings.

There are a lot of situations where the back catalog would download, but this change changes that. Even if you are a subscriber now of a show then you don’t listen to any episodes for a few weeks or a month or two. Once you resume reading the latest episode, it used to download those ones that you hadn’t heard.

The ones you missed.

It’s not doing that anymore. Now, they’re on the list. You’ll see them in the list but you have to actively press to play them for it to download to your device. It requires a little more user interaction. Here’s the reason why Apple’s doing this. They recognize that there’s an awful lot of automatic downloads that used to happen from their app.

They can also tell who’s been reading and who hasn’t. They realized, “There’s an awful lot of episodes that podcasters are getting downloads for that are never being read to. This is Apple’s way of trying to make the download numbers more in alignment with actual listenership. That’s the key thing they’re trying to achieve.

 

Feed Your Brand | Apple's New Regulations

 

It’s flawed. I will tell you, even if you are downloading it and you’re actively pushing it to download it. That doesn’t mean you have to read it right then. You might come back later. You may never read it. Apple will know if you read it. As a podcaster, you can log into Apple Podcast Connect and see the average percentage of each episode and how much it’s been read. I’ve looked at this a lot, and there are some shows that get read to 50% of the way through. Some on average are 75%, some are 90% and 95%. I’ve seen some that are 120% read-through.

You might be thinking, “How’s that possible, Tom? I read the whole thing. How is it 120%?” It’s because I enjoyed that episode and I got something out of it. I want to go back and read a part of it and say, “What was Tom saying when he was talking about this thing with Apple?” You go back and read part of it again, the app knows that. That’s how you can get more than 100% listenership either on your entire show or in some episodes.

What they have done now is just made it if your reader behavior is such that you’re not reading every episode or you have gaps. It’s not going to automatically download them. The good and the bad of that is, the bad is if you were strictly having sponsorship based on download numbers and now your downloads are going down. That’s not going to be a great thing for you because your download numbers are less. However, if you want to know what your true listenership is. Now that listenership is more in alignment with what you see in the download analytics. Does that make sense, Tracy?

I want to say this a little bit differently than what you said there. If you were depending on downloads, there’s a reason why you’ve been getting these cheap junk rates for your advertising. That is because advertisers know these download numbers are not real. They devalued podcast advertising. Now that needs to change because when I have a real download, I haven’t somebody who downloaded it. They may not have read. They’re still that, but they actively took action to download it. There’s a much better indication of action-taking than it is if I had these automatic downloads happening.

Impact On Advertising

How the industry needs to reset itself to be more accurate. This is where we also have an issue. IAB has also announced a shift and difference in what they do. IAB is the Interactive Advertising Bureau. They control some of the major platforms registered with them. We refuse to do it. That’s a whole other episode. I’m not going to go into that right now.

We refuse to be IAB compliant because we disagree on this one thing and that is when they’re devaluing download numbers because they say, “These numbers aren’t real.” This is how CPM started in the industry. It’s IAB and companies like that’s fault. They decided that out of a thousand views of your banner ad way back when one of them could be counted as real. That’s what they decided. Now they’ve decided that same thing quite some time ago about podcast downloads as well.

Now Apple’s made this change and one out of every thousand is not accurate. Maybe it’s twenty out of every thousand and don’t get read to. They’re just downloaded, but they’re not read to. We don’t have the numbers on that yet because this change has only happened in October. It’s relatively new. We’ll start seeing because before I had 100 downloads and 80 of them were automatic, and they’re gone now.

I had 100 downloads that were calculated in my playthrough rate. They were at zero in my playthrough rate but now my playthrough rate should be more accurate because it’s on the ones that were downloaded. My playthrough rates should rise. That’s going to be our new metric, I believe at some point here but it’s not available to us. It’s not available and passed back to us podcasters.

We have to go into Apple Connect, log in, look at it, and find it. It’s not available to the advertisers but that’s going to have to be the new rate that we look at. The number of downloads and play-through rate are going to be an indicator of real podcaster success. When you have both, you should demand a lot more money than IAB is allowing you to have because they’ve already downgraded it.

There is a lot more data out there than Apple provides to all the podcast hosting companies or in a more efficient way to the podcaster. You have to get information from here and there and put it together. If you know your average play-through rate on your episode is 90%, that’s great. They have different kinds of play-through rates like all your episodes are read to on a total percentage of acts as well. In each episode, some get read to more than others. There is an average total show play-through rate.

If you look at that, let’s say it’s 90%. You can expect that everybody who downloaded it read every episode and only 90% of it. Another way to look at that is that 90% of your downloads read to your episode, which is probably more likely. You can apply that play-through rate from Apple and make a projection that all your downloads across all apps about 90% of those are read to but that’s not what advertisers are looking at. They base paying for advertising based on, usually. There are lots of different ways. I encourage everyone to find their own way to sell their sponsorships and not jump on the CPM bandwagon.

 

 

I wish I could convince all of you podcasters out there to boycott that low-cost advertising model. Stop enrolling with these platforms that promise you money and you don’t even get $10 for your show. Stop doing it because if they had no inventory, they’d have to raise the rates. I wish I could convince you out there. Run a general podcast advertising boycott and stop this ridiculousness of low cost.

I’ll give you an example. A customer came to Podetize from another platform and was in a programmatic ad program. They were making nothing. They weren’t getting paid anything, but they adapted to it. When we migrated their show to Podetize, you had to remove the ads and we had done that but there was a player out there somewhere that was still feeding their episodes from the old platform. This show was a family-friendly show that was on subject matter that young years would be reading to potentially.

They were running ads for condoms on this show. I couldn’t believe it. They’re like, “How’s that happening?” It was weird. Anyway, we figured out how it was happening and helped them shop that program so that wasn’t happening. The point is that you don’t get control of these programmatic ad systems. What kinds of ads are run on your show?

They’re going to run whatever they want. They’re paying very little for it because it is a random shotgun approach to advertising, which is not all advertising and podcasting. It’s some systems, but you’re going to get paid. For every thousand downloads, you’re going to get paid a certain amount of money. That’s how that works.

We have no actual data on this, but we’re hoping that this move on Apple’s side is an indication that there may be advertising coming from the Apple platform. There may be more statistics coming through because they’re trying to be more advertiser-friendly and more accurate. However, the flip side of that is, again, remember that this is supposed to be a two-way platform. You’re the content creator. They didn’t have your content. They wouldn’t get people to sit around and use their phones for hours and listen to podcasts. It’s a user grab for them.

A number of hours on the phone and it’s part of what they want, to create the stickiness for their devices. It’s a two-way. They win by having content and you get to have your content distributed. However, when they’ve now done this and removed the automatic downloads. It means out of sight and out of mind for some people that may have forgotten and they would have remembered. They would have seen it and they’d be like, “I got to catch up on that show.”

You have no ability to connect back with those readers. You never had it, but they should provide that and that’s the big issue that I have with this change that they’ve created. They’ve taken something away from you podcasters in terms of at least some number that was getting you a little bit more in the programmatic advertising dollars. They took that away from you and they still give you no way to send a message to your subscribers who haven’t been downloading. You don’t have a way to push them to say, “I’m here,” except to create another episode that they won’t get downloaded. It’s an unfair relationship. It’s imbalanced. They are going to need to fix it.

A serious pet peeve of yours. Honestly, every podcaster would like to be able to communicate with their subscribers and their followers on Spotify even if it was through the listening app that they’re subscribed to. For everybody to understand, each of those apps has their own users who’ve signed up like in Apple. You have to sign up with an Apple ID before you can listen to podcasts. On Spotify, you can listen for free, but hear ads. If you want to follow someone and want to have that information stored, you’ve got to have a Spotify account and sign into it.

They know to push it to you to let you know, “There’s a new episode out.” That information is who those people belong to that app or the company that owns that app and provides that app. That’s their intellectual property. They don’t share it with podcasters. Never have and I’m sure never will. You need to accept that. I talked to new podcasters all the time like, “Who are my subscribers? How many of them are men? How many are women?”

They want demographics. What are their ages? We don’t get that because the apps don’t share it with us podcasters. That’s one of the realities of the podcast ecosystem, but there’s still a lot of value that we’re getting putting our podcasts out on all these apps. We’re distributing it widely. Every time we publish a new one, it is pushed to the apps. It is in the lineup of your shows, the listing. There’s a new episode and if you’re subscribed, Apple still tells me, “A new episode of Feed Your Brand is live now. It’s available on Apple.” It does other apps do this too. It would be nice if all these different apps, especially the big ones, made it so that we could communicate even an announcement here and there that would push.

Automatic Transcriptions

It’s like, “Our new season is dropping or you won’t believe the guests that I’ve got on the next episode. Make sure you’re paying attention to your notifications.” There’s no way for us to do that. That is making the relationship imbalanced. That’s what we want to point out with those podcast regulations. If you’re not paying attention when they pass through terms and conditions and when they pass through these changes to you. It’s creating much more imbalance as we go forward. It’s significant. Another change that came forward is they made you accept the terms and conditions. They have now offered captioning. You have to go in and you have to turn it off if you don’t want it.

Feed Your Brand | Apple's New Regulations
Apple’s New Regulations: The number of downloads and playthrough rate are going to be an indicator of real podcasters’ success. When you have both, you should demand a lot more money than IAB is allowing you to have.

 

I didn’t read that. Can you turn it off?

You don’t have the ability to turn it off but you can provide your own.

Let’s lay this out for people. Any of you who have ever watched a YouTube video or are probably familiar when you watch a YouTube video, especially if your sound is off. You see captions on the YouTube video and even sometimes if the sound is on. It depends on what you’re doing, but there are captions.

I want to be clear with everyone. That is user control too, though. If you have that set as turned off as a user, as a viewer of YouTube videos, or as a listener. I don’t know about that because it’s a new feature. I don’t know if you can, as a listener, turn them off on the Apple app side. I don’t know an Apple app.

I think it is a choice. Let’s stick with YouTube for a moment. YouTube auto generates a transcript and puts captions on YouTube videos, but you can also on YouTube, when you upload your video upload a file that has a corrected transcript. I’ll tell you, the ones that are out of generated, the more technical or unique industry terms and things that are spoken in your episode. The worse the auto-generated transcript is going to be. It often gets things wrong. It never spells Podetize correctly when we say Podetize in a video.

This is very similar to what Apple is doing. Now, podcasts have always been a listening medium. Not a viewing medium, but what they say they’re doing it for is more for accessibility compliance like the hearing impaired and such people. Apple will automatically and you have to agree to the terms of conditions, will automatically transcribe your episodes in their system.

People can choose to view the equivalent of following the bouncing ball with the transcript. They’re just making the text lighter and bolder as it goes, but you follow it through if you want to. They’re doing that and they’ll auto-generate it, whether you want them to or not. Even they say on your back catalog. That’s what they said.

Tom, the terms and conditions say. I haven’t found the button yet. I’ve only found a place where you can upload it. I haven’t found the place where you opt out, but the actual Apple Podcast Connect terms and conditions that you all had to accept in order to use your Connect account. It says, “You grant Apple the right to create transcripts of your content and to display such transcripts on Apple Podcasts provided that Apple shall provide you with the ability within Podcast Connect or by other digital means to opt out of the public display of such transcripts on Apple Podcast. Except where the display of such transcripts is required by applicable law,” which is in some countries. Maybe you have to send an email. Here’s the second part of it that I’m not happy with, “You grant Apple a non-exclusive worldwide and royalty-free license to use your content for internal research and development to improve Apple’s products and services.” That is saying AI without saying AI.

They get to use it for whatever they want for their purposes.

For artificial intelligence research. That means a training dataset and they’re using your content without you knowing exactly how it’s being used and you’ve agreed to it in order to have your podcast distributed.

To be on Apple, you’re going to have to agree.

If you're not paying attention when they pass through terms and conditions to you, it's creating much more imbalance as we go forward. Share on X

You need to understand that these things are happening. First off, I’m not a fan at all of automatic transcripts. My last name’s Hazzard with two Z’s. It is never spelled properly. Our company, Podetize, comes out Poeditize every time. They can’t spell it. It’s always wrong. Your brand is damaged by automatic transcripts. I’ve used this example a lot. You’re messaging, if you’re in the eCommerce industry, and on-air you say, “SKU.” They will spell it SKEW. Not SKU, stock keeping units. It’s completely misinterpreted.

If someone’s reading that and not listening, they’re not getting the understanding. It reflects badly on you. They don’t understand that’s Apple’s automatic transcript problem or YouTube’s automatic transcript problem. They think you provided that and you can’t spell. You don’t even know your own industry terms. They don’t understand. The user, listener, or viewer doesn’t understand it and connects that to the app. They connect that to you. This is what I am not happy with. I understand that there are these regulations and there are some countries in the world that are requiring that. We must have a better way to do this, a better way to have control and review what’s going on there. Apple Connect does not have a way to edit that.

They do. They’ve said that.

You have to upload it.

You can download their version. After they’ve done it, you can adjust it and put it back up, which they would love if you did. There is a way to upload from the get-go before you even publish an episode with an edited transcript that will publish with it.

It doesn’t match timestamps. When you do that, you mess up the timing and you cannot be guaranteed. It’s not like in the video, they have something called an SRT file. The SRT file has the timings put into it so that it runs when the words are being said but that doesn’t work in the audience version. When you download it and you re-upload it, it changes its formatting because the system changes, it converts it, and it doesn’t always match up.

They’re trying to and there are chapter markings and other things you can do but it remains to be seen how easy this is going to be. It can be done, is the point, but it’s a lot more work for the podcaster. The typical podcaster who is recording their content, uploading it, and publishing it in real time or very quickly, like within the same day.

We have some podcasters doing that on Podetize. They’re not editing their stuff. They don’t have time to get a transcript that’s ready and make sure and correct it. Make sure it’s right before they upload it and publish that episode on the same day or the next day. They’re going to be stuck probably with Apple doing it on their own.

At least, you can say, “It wasn’t me,” because you don’t have the time to go through it that thoroughly. For lower downloads, and lower ad dollars, do you want to spend the time? They haven’t incentivized us to either. They’re reducing the quality overall of experience. I don’t think this is in your favor. We do need to pay attention to their compliance with regulations.

Effects To Subscriber And Listener Experience

The other regulation we’ve talked about ad nauseam is the email change where they allow the blocking and privacy of emails. We don’t comply with that. Make sure your email is being shown or your listeners can’t reach out to you at all. You’ve made it so much easier for them to keep your subscribers from you. Stop doing that one too. There are a lot of these regulations that are not going to make the subscriber and listener experience better. You need to make sure you understand that’s what you’re agreeing to when you randomly say, “I got to have my stuff on Apple, so I got to agree to their terms and conditions.”

Keep out and watch because I guarantee you, there’s going to be some artificial intelligence surprise as to what Apple’s doing with your data. There’s a reason they’re transcribing everything and agreeing to transcribe it. They’re going to be using it for an artificial intelligence large language model. They have not offered to pay you.

Feed Your Brand | Apple's New Regulations
Apple’s New Regulations: Apple is using your content without you knowing exactly how it’s being used, and you’ve agreed to it in order to have your podcast distributed.

 

That is a murky issue that the digital rights management of images is going through a huge shift in that business now.

By agreeing to that, you agree to allow it for research purposes but that research purpose has become a base of knowledge. It’s hard and very murky to separate the two from whatever their eventual output and the benefits that they’re achieving off the backs of your information. Keep that in mind. You’ve waved your right already to it.

I’m glad they’re saying it’s for research purposes only because that implies they’re not allowed to directly profit off of it.

That implies that but they are profiting off of it. Let’s say they build an amazing large language model that does conversations better than anyone else because they use real language patterns because you all do it. You’re great speakers. Way better than just taking Reddit information and regurgitating that into, “That’s what conversation should sound like.”

That’s not how humans speak. That’s how people type. It’s not accurate as to it. It could be an even better conversational AI than anyone out there because they’re using our data. They’re going to get paid a lot of money off of that because their AI is better, but we didn’t get paid a dime in the process for training that for being the research basis of that.

That’s problematic. I agree.

I do not know that. For a fact to everyone out there, I understand how AI LLMs are created, large language models. I understand the training data sets and the research side of things and this is how it happens.

It’s a slippery slope.

Exactly, Tom. These are why we wanted to bring these up to you but here’s the thing that we know. If you want to make sure that your subscribers, listeners, and community, everything that you do is being nurtured to their maximum so that they will download your episodes, play through, and do these things. The number one thing you can do is be consistent and constant. Everything in this system is geared against you.

This is why we are against seasonal shows. They’re harder. This is why you can’t take more than three weeks off. Make sure you don’t take three weeks off. Make sure you drop an episode once a month. That’s what we recommend to you, in between seasons, if that’s what you want to do. All of these algorithms are geared to making sure that you are no longer found. You can be a contributing factor in making this more harmful to your show. Not just the regulations. That’s what we wanted to leave you with. This idea that these things are happening and they are happening to you here, but that doesn’t mean that you’re without power.

Your ability to be consistent with your audience is the number one thing you can control. Consistency is the most rewarded thing because readers are out there looking for shows. They don’t want fly-by-night podcasts who show up now and again. The ones that show up consistently are the ones they’re going to read to consistently. There are a lot of readers out there looking for content.

Make sure your email is being shown or your listeners can't reach out to you at all. Share on X

Power Of Consistency

To that end, create viable content that your readers are going to want to come back to and read over and over again. They like you and want to keep hearing from you. They are going to find you. If you make yourself available to be found and to be communicated with, even with a unique email for the podcast, if that’s what it is, or over through LinkedIn or however you want to be communicated. Incentivize those listeners to get off that listening app and engage with you elsewhere so you know who they are and you benefit.

There are ways to do this. We talk about it all the time here on Podetize. We’re here to support you. Not only with making sure you’re aware of the murky waters, digital rights, your copyrighted material, and podcast episodes. We’re keeping an eye out for you. We’re going to keep coming back and sharing our thoughts with you on it. Aside from that, there are many things you can do to engage your listeners outside of that app and provide them with more value. They will seek you out.

That’s right. I don’t want the automatic downloads. I want to know who’s listening to my show because I’m out here talking to you. It’s worthless to me to share this advice and share this information with a download. I want to share it with a human who can do something about it. We are doing a little study on our end because we are these coaching calls every single week for our community in Podetize. We live-stream them on social media and YouTube as well.

We want to see if you’re listening and taking action. Is your show growing faster than those that don’t show up to our calls? We’re doing an internal study from our client base that says, “These people showed up. The A-people showed up and they took action and the B-people didn’t show up.” Is there a growth difference in shows that are at the same stage, start-up stage, 25 episodes, or 100 episodes?

We’re taking a look at that, and I can’t wait to share that information and some of the case studies about what growth has happened because this is the one thing we know. Those that take action are few and far between. They are 10 to 100 times more successful than their counterparts who never take action, who listen but don’t do anything, or who don’t listen at all and say, “I don’t need to know.”

I love what we do. That’s why I get charged and I keep coming back, showing up for all of you. I love it. We’re all about the numbers and measuring results.

Thanks, everyone. We appreciate you. We’ll be back with another episode and another coaching topic for those of you in the podcast industry.

 

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Tracy Hazzard and Tom Hazzard

As podcasting and monetization marketing experts, husband and wife team, Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard help major publications, sports stars, and entrepreneurial influencers broadcast their original messages. A highly successful inventor and product designer, Tom has been rethinking brand innovation to build in authority and high-converting revenue streams. Tracy brings an insider media/promotion perspective as a former Columnist for Inc. Magazine, contributor to BuzzFeed and international speaker. Together, they are the blog writers and podcast co-hosts for Feed Your Brand and The Binge Factor. They provide businesses of all sizes actionable tactics and strategies to spread marketing messages, grow valuable audiences, and retain valuable platform authority without a lot of time, cost or effort.
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