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 desktop apps, 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 icons 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

Desktop, web app owners get Plus for free

Pocket Casts's goodwill gesture for those who bought access to the macOS, Windows, and web apps seems to have fallen flat with a lot of customers, so the company has responded saying that those who spent the money to do so will receive a complimentary lifetime subscription to Pocket Casts Plus — that includes said apps along with cloud storage and extra mobile theming features.