I am very particular about podcasts, podcast apps, how to subscribe, and generally anything related to the podcast industry. I change my podcast app of choice on almost a weekly basis. I am passionate about all things podcasts. One trend that I’ve seen in 2020 is a move to premium podcasts for additional content. I subscribe to the premium version of ATP, Cortex, and many others. I love supporting my favorite shows to get additional content. For the past few weeks, I’ve spent some time with Wondery Plus. I’ve been a fan of many Wondery shows for quite a while, so I wanted to see what else they had to offer.
Wondery is the home of many popular podcasts. I listen to Business Wars every week, but they are also well known for Blood Ties, Murder in Hollywood, Bad Batch, Dr. Death, and WeCrashed, among many others. I would dare to say they are one of my favorite producers of podcasts because of the high quality of content, high production value, and excellent storytelling. This article isn’t about Wondery, though. It’s about Wondery Plus and the value it brings. So what do you get with Wondery Plus?
Wondery is the largest independent podcast publisher in the world. Launched in 2016, and known for its immersive podcasts, Wondery became the fastest network to join the Top 10 ranked by Podtrac, propelled by hit shows such as Dr. Death, Dirty John, American History Tellers, Business Wars, The Shrink Next Door and Gladiator. Twenty of Wondery’s shows have reached # 1 on Apple Podcasts, and Wondery is the only publisher to have simultaneously claimed the # 1 and # 2 ’Top New Podcasts” slots on an annual Podtrac ranker.
Advertising has gotten a bad reputation in recent years, but I land somewhere in the middle. I am happy to learn about new products if they are things I might be interested in buying, but I also find having no advertising whatsoever sometimes nice to get right into the show. I have occasional sponsors on my Apple @ Work podcast, but I try to keep the ad reads to the point so we can get back to the show. Advertisers are often willing to pay a premium price to advertise on popular shows, so I know that often can help the creator.
I think the model I’d be okay with in the future is limited interruption advertising (even for shows I subscribe to). Instead of longer ad reads, I’d be okay with a brief mention at the beginning of a show less than ten seconds in total with a link in the show notes. This option would allow me to have uninterrupted listening time once the show gets started but still allows the creator to earn additional advertising money on top of my subscription.
As part of Wondery Plus, you can listen to ad-free versions of all of their shows. If you listen to a lot of Wondery shows, this idea might be intriguing as it’s a way to support the creators of the show while also having a better story experience.
Coming into my Wondery Plus trial, I assumed I would have to listen to everything through their app to get the benefits. Much to my surprise, they offer private RSS feeds so you can use the podcast app of your choice. I’ve heard promotions for Wondery Plus on many of their shows, so I think that’s something they should mention in future advertisements. Like I said in the beginning, I am very particular about my podcast apps, and I am not interested in managing my subscriptions across multiple apps.
Finding the private RSS feeds is very easy once you are logged into your account on the web, but I’d like to see Wondery implement a system similar to Relay FM’s membership system where you can scan a QR code to subscribe in the podcast app of your choice. It would make the subscription process a lot easier.
The Wondery app
While it’s not something I would use, I do recognize that the Wondery app could be a great way to listen to podcasts if you don’t subscribe to a lot of shows in Apple Podcasts, don’t have the technical knowledge to find the private RSS feeds, or want a simple subscription experience. The Wondery app reminds me of a lot of Spotify’s podcast experience. It’s a basic experience that is highly functional but will frustrate power users. It’s free to use, but also works with Wondery Plus as well.
The main screen shows you the option to continue listening to what you were listening to before, new episodes from the shows you subscribe to, new/featured shows, most bingeable, daily shows to subscribe to, and then it shows you a listen of shows by category.
As you scroll through the listen, you get an idea of how vast Wondery’s lineup has become. If you could only listen to Wondery shows, you’d have no shortage of content to consume. The app has basic podcast features like variable speed playback, subscriptions, auto-downloads, and continuous playback. Overall, I would give the app an average rating, but I don’t think it needs to try for a whole lot more than that. Since Wondery offers private RSS feeds, those that want the power user experience can use an app like Overcast, Pocket Casts, Castro, or Breaker.
With any subscription service, a lot of the value will come down to what it costs. Wondery Plus is $4.99 per month or $34.99 per year. I was shocked at how inexpensive the annual option is priced. It works out to less than $3 per month, and if you listen to a lot of Wondery shows, you’ll find a lot of value in it.
Wrap-up on Wondery Plus
Wondery has found a great model with the premium service. They offer almost all of their shows for free with advertising, but with their Plus plan, you can get additional content, early episode releases, ad-free options, and the ability to subscribe in the podcast app of your choice. If you are a fan of Wondery content, Wondery Plus is a no brainer in terms of value.
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