Where’s the tip button for podcasts?

There has been a lot of attention on podcasting and podcast monetization lately. Feel free to read these three posts for a good catch-up:

All three are quite insightful. I’m a blogger, and a podcaster. I sell my own ads as part of a broader partnership deal with my subscription based WordPress news website.

I too have come to understand how podcast listeners can be very loyal, even amongst small listenerships (I average about 1,500 listens in the first week for new episodes).

Could micropayments work for podcasting?

I think micropayments may work better for podcasting than for blogging. And I think indie podcast apps — like Marco Arment’s Overcast app, which I love — could be a place to integrate such a tool.

What if there was a tip button next to the recommend button? I am often emotionally motivated to recommend/share/whatever a podcast episode after listening; it’s the point where I am most captivated, and the time I’m most likely to pay up some money to a publisher.

Theoretical tip interface for Overcast

Readability attempted a publisher signup business model several years ago, where publishers could get paid when folks read articles on Readability. It failed. Publishers didn’t sign up, people didn’t pay, free competition showed up, etc, etc. It was early days for such a concept.

I don’t know the best implementation for a “Leave a tip” option in a podcast player, but I know I’m often motivated to leave one. What if I had a setting in Overcast to set my default tip amount to $0.50, and press the button and wham, there the money goes, off to the publisher of the episode.

Let’s imagine podcasters register to enable tips in Overcast. I think it would be more successful for a podcast app than it was for Readability, for several reasons.

  1. Listening via app subscription is already the preferred behavior by publishers (whereas with Readability, the app was competition to web views and ad revenue)
  2. There aren’t that many apps with significant marketshare1, and podcasters would likely be happy to register for a handful if it means the opportunity to directly monetize
  3. Depending on app store rules, it may be possible to integrate with Apple Pay or Android Pay directly, for more seamless payments

Maybe it syncs me to Venmo or PayPal or something, if Apple and Android won’t work. I’m not all the way up to date on my phone payment rules.

Maybe apps could adopt a standard for custom meta tags, like iTunes uses for podcasts, but also Facebook uses for Open Graph and Twitter uses for cards, except this markup could be for podcast tipping instructions. And then podcasts could include the meta data in their RSS feeds and all apps could use it. If it got popular enough, maybe even Apple’s podcast app could adopt it (positive thinking ftw!).

Nevertheless, if an app provider could figure out a decent UX for implementing tips to podcasts, I bet podcasters would both sign up and promote the app that offers such a feature. And such an option might make for a compelling alternative to the gross-sounding proprietary threats Marco Arment talks about in his article linked above. And hey, since he also makes Overcast, I obviously consider him a pretty great person to play around with such a thing.

1) My stats show 41% of listens are in browser, 21% in Apple’s podcast app, 10% in iTunes directly, 8.5% Overcast, 7.5% Downcasts, 4% Android, 0.5% Stitcher (the focus app of Ben Thompson’s article), and 7.5% a slew of other apps. So of people that actually subscribe, an app like Overcast actually has a huge influence.

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