In iOS 14.5, Apple will make a seemingly small change that could have a big impact. This change doesn’t have anything to do with how you use your phone. It involves a word, and serves as a reminder of how word choice matters.
In its Apple Podcasts app, people will now “follow” podcasts instead of “subscribe” to them. The change is supported by research: According to Tom Webster of Edison Research, 47% of people thought that if they clicked “Subscribe” on a podcast, it would cost them money.
It makes sense that people would assume subscribing to a podcast would cost money. As Webster notes, other things we subscribe to cost money, from Netflix to a food delivery service. And even though the podcasts on Apple Podcasts don’t cost the listener anything, people were hesitating to “subscribe” as a result of the perceived cost.
So we move on to “follow,” with the hope that the change will get more people to receive regular updates about when a new episode of a podcast is released. “Follow” seems like a better choice, if the goal is to fix the cost expectation. We follow people on social media all the time and no money comes out of our pockets. And Spotify already uses “follow” for its podcasts—consistency across platforms benefits everyone.
What This Means for You
If you have a podcast, you’ll want to update your language to match Apple’s approach. But even if you don’t podcast, you should take this chance to rethink action words and how they may be affecting your audience.
- I’ve always been put off by “Submit” buttons on forms. It feels like a coding instruction. “Send” seems much friendlier and something I can relate to, like when I send an email or a letter by post.
- “View” is another word that seems cold and passive to me. “See” is much more active and engaging.
Thinking about words like this is part of a plain language approach to content, and it also has an impact on your overall brand. If you’re going for a friendly and accessible voice, each word does matter.