The great thing about podcasts—and I say this as both a listener and a creator of podcasts—is that it is, like the web, a free and open ecosystem for content. You can listen to any podcast in any podcast player. If Apple creates podcasts that can only be listened to in Apple’s own app, it is furthering a potential future where your favorite shows are scattered across multiple services and siloed in different apps.
No one is too alarmed by this Apple rumor, because maybe nothing will come of it. But a good way to think about it is to imagine if the popularity of Apple and Spotify were reversed. Imagine if Spotify was the one with 60% of the podcast app market and then they decided to release Spotify-only exclusive “podcasts”. It would be an obvious threat to the openness of podcasts.
I wish I could give Apple the benefit of the doubt on this, but the risks are too great. Apple has more power than any other company over the podcast ecosystem. Just because they haven’t interfered with anything so far doesn’t mean they can’t still ruin what we’ve got.