In its most sweeping change since being acquired by a public media consortium last year, podcast app Pocket Casts is making its Android and iOS apps free. Most features, including dark theming, cross-platform syncing, silence removal, and variable-speed playback will be available to all users. Other facets, including the PC app, will be available for a monthly or annual fee.

The iOS app was most recently priced at $5.99 while the Android app was marked at $3.99. Starting today, new users will pay nothing to download the app. In exchange for zeroing out the upfront cost, the company is introducing Pocket Casts Plus, a subscription service costing either 99 cents a month or $10 a year.

Plus will give users access to the macOS, Windows, and web apps, cloud storage hosting, and exclusive apps and themes. Those who spent $9 for the desktop apps will get 3 months years (!) of Plus for free.

Pocket Casts is framing this change in revenue model as a reflection on how its co-owners — NPR, WBEZ Chicago, WNYC Studios, and This American Life — operate: providing a free service with access to certain perks through a periodic subscription.

NPR, in particular, has seen explosive growth in its podcast ad revenue. Current, a public media trade magazine, reports that the broadcaster is expecting to make nearly $62 million in 2020 from its podcast and digital properties, up 15% from what it expects to make this year.

The changes — which also includes the ability to play local audio and video files within the app — will arrive in a forthcoming update.

Pocket Casts - Podcast Player
Pocket Casts - Podcast Player

POCKET CASTS NOW AVAILABLE FOR FREE

Acclaimed podcasting app now offers its premium features at no cost, while rolling out Pocket Casts Plus for listeners wanting more customization and flexibility

NEW YORK – Sept. 18, 2019 – Starting today, podcast fans all over the world can download the critically acclaimed podcast app, Pocket Casts, for free. Known for its beautiful design and robust set of controls, Pocket Casts is making the entirety of its existing premium features available at no charge. Power users looking for even more customization, however, can upgrade to Pocket Casts Plus for $0.99 per month or $10 per year. With these changes, Pocket Casts is now more closely aligned with the open-access model of its public media ownership.“Pocket Casts is built for podcast fans, by podcasts fans. Since we launched in 2010, we’ve been obsessed with the user experience and have consistently delivered powerful and intuitive features to the medium’s most passionate fans,” said Pocket Casts CEO Owen Grover. “In today’s rapidly evolving audio landscape, it’s important we stand for free and open access — not walled gardens — to grow the medium while delivering the world’s best listening experience.”

The free version of Pocket Casts will continue to add new features, as well as retain all of the existing features that listeners know and love including:

  • Discovery: easily search for podcasts, publishers, and hosts or dive deeper with episode search
  • Audio effects: playback at variable speeds such as 2X or 3X and trim silence
  • Organization: create custom filters to organize episodes based on a variety of parameters
  • Design: choose from light, dark or AMOLED-friendly dark themes and icons
  • Playback: play individual episodes with or without subscribing, automate file downloads and brand new in this update: play local audio and video files
  • Cross-platform sync: pick up exactly where you left off on another device thanks to seamless integrations across iOS and Android; Amazon Echo; Sonos; Chromecast; Airplay, Apple Watch, Carplay and Android Auto

For power listeners who are looking for even more control, Pocket Casts Plus offers:

  • Desktop apps including macOS, Windows and Web apps
  • Cloud storage for creators and listeners who want to use Pocket Casts for all of their audio and video files
  • Exclusive app icons and themes

Listeners who currently use the iOS or Android mobile app will not experience any changes. All existing features, plus the new functionality, is available in the latest update. Those who previously purchased Pocket Casts’ desktop app will receive three free years of Pocket Casts Plus.

In May of 2018, Pocket Casts was purchased by NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago and This American Life, who collectively account for nearly 200M podcast downloads per month. These public media giants acquired Pocket Casts to reflect their shared vision: to reach a new generation of listeners while providing the best experience for audio storytellers to connect with their audience.

“Pocket Casts has been my favorite podcast app, and not just because it’s owned by public radio stations,” said Ira Glass, producer and host of This American Life. “It really is the best. Easy to navigate, little podcast logos you move around to sort your favorites, quick access to 1.5 speed when I listen to The Daily or Fresh Air or, frankly, most anything else. I’ve recommended it to friends. Glad to hear it’s now going to be free!”

For podcast creators, the announcement highlights how Pocket Casts is committed to growing the medium and bringing the best listening experience to both new and existing podcast fans.

Hailed as the best podcast app for iOS and Android by The VergeWiredEngadget and Lifehacker, amongst others, Pocket Casts features more than 700K podcasts and is available in 155 countries.