Anyone who wants to download the podcast app Pocket Casts can now do so for free.
Previously, you had to pay a one-time fee of $3.99 to access the Android or iOS apps, but CEO Owen Grover said this approach seemed increasingly at odds with Pocket Casts’ goals, and with the vision of the public radio organizations (NPR, WNYC Studios and WBEZ Chicago) that acquired it last year.
“We understood pretty clearly that we were limiting our reach and limiting the number of users that could enjoy the quality and power of the app and the platform,” Grover said. “It felt penny wise and pound foolish to continue to collect a few dollars at the top … We have the benefit of these owners who are supporting us in a way that allows us to grow our audience, habituate new listeners and deliver a pretty terrific user experience.”
So moving forward, he said the core features of the Pocket Casts app — including audio effects and cross-platform sync — will be available for free.
At the same time, Pocket Casts is launching a monthly subscription called Pocket Casts Plus, where he said “power users and super users” can pay 99 cents a month or $10 a year for access the desktop apps, cloud storage of their own audio and video files and exclusive app icons and themes.
Shifting from a one-time fee to a subscription model might seem like a move to make more money, but Grover said the company is really just charging a fee to cover the costs of the Plus features, particularly cloud storage.
“In the short term, we will make less money. It’s not about that,” he said. “It’s not about maximizing app revenue for us, it’s about maximizing the unique quality of the partnership [with] our wonderful public media partners.”
That doesn’t mean Pocket Casts isn’t interested in making money. In fact, Grover said the team will have “more to share about how we think about sensible, sane, scalable business models moving forward.” (He also assured me that the model won’t focus on advertising.)
He painted this change as part of a broader strategy after last year’s acquisition, which was followed by upgrades to Pocket Casts’ backend and frontend.
“This is really the third pillar — now we’re off to the races,” Grover said.