Apple plans to use some of its spare cash to fund original podcasts for its platforms, according to a Bloomberg report. The news comes as the podcast game heats up with competitors like Spotify investing hundreds of millions of dollars in original content projects.

Up to now, Apple has participated in the podcast ecosystem by hosting the de-facto canonical directory of shows, which most third-party apps rely on to find new shows. The directory was free to join and did not require an Apple business relationship.

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Apple has been relatively hands-off on podcasting to date, at least in terms of content offerings. Its podcast apps allow access to the Apple Podcasts directory and even lets advanced users manually add shows based on their RSS feed URL. This is the strategy it has taken since the early iPod days.

Apple Podcasts is the leading podcast player by marketshare and it looks like it will now wield its influence by entering the podcast production arena. Presumably, Apple’s original content podcasts would get prime placement in its Podcasts apps. The Bloomberg report describes Apple’s conversations with podcast producers as “preliminary”:

Executives at the company have reached out to media companies and their representatives to discuss buying exclusive rights to podcasts, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the conversations are preliminary. Apple has yet to outline a clear strategy, but has said it plans to pursue the kind of deals it didn’t make before.

Apple has ramped up original content efforts in many disciplines over the last couple of years, with new original content initiatives in television and gaming debuting later this year with Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade. Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade will be offered as paid subscription services later this year.

It’s not clear if Apple would want to monetize its original content podcast efforts in a similar way. Perhaps, Apple could bundle premium podcasts as part of an Apple Music subscription.

The Apple Podcasts app is preinstalled on every iPhone and iPad sold, and is debuting on the Mac this fall with macOS Catalina, following the breakup of the iTunes behemoth.

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