What you need to know

  • Pocket Casts recently switched to a subscription model for web and desktop users.
  • Desktop and web users that purchased a $9 lifetime plan now only receive a three-year "Pocket Casts Plus" subscription.
  • The switch has upset many users who have voiced complaints online.

Updated September 18, 2019: Pocket Casts has changed its plan and will now provide lifetime access to Pocket Casts Plus to all customers that previously purchased the desktop or web app. The original story follows.

Pocket Casts recently switched its business model by making its mobile apps free and charging a subscription to "Pocket Casts Plus" which allows users to use the service on desktops and the web. The move has led to heavy criticism and feedback from users who feel that the makers of Pocket Casts misled them and committed a bait and switch.

Pocket Casts' switch to a subscription model is normal in the app industry, but it does seem to go against Pocket Casts previous marketing efforts. When you purchased Pocket Casts before, its webpage stated, "No monthly subscriptions or freemium hoo-ha. Start your 14 day trial now. If you like what you see, we'll ask you for $9. Just once." Now, Pocket Casts users who purchased the app for $9 will receive a free three-year subscription to Pocket Casts Plus.

Many users on Reddit have shared frustration for not receiving a lifetime plan. Pocket Casts did not specifically use the word "lifetime" but the use of phrases "just once," "no monthly subscriptions or freemium hoo-ha" implies that a purchase work perpetually without requiring additional payment.

Another user pointed out on Reddit that Pocket Casts specifically stated that they wouldn't switch to a freemium model.

We don't do freemium. No VC funding. No crazy. We love podcasts and we've built the web player that we want to use. We've priced it at a point where we'll stick around to keep it up to date. You can expect support, features and many more awesome things in the future.

A customer that will be referred to as "Y" shared an email exchange with Pocket Casts customer support. Y outlined many of the same complaints shared by other users online and stated

At this point, I consider you have a legal binding commitment to fulfill this purchase, for as long as your company is operating the service. Removing access to the web player after a 3-year period, in clear violation of the initial agreement, is a revocation of my purchase. Unless you can guarantee a lifetime access to the web player service, I thereby ask for a full $9 (or €9.60) refund of my purchase.

Russell Ivanovic, Chief Product Officer at Pocket Casts, responded:

You still have access until the end of 2022. If you feel at that time that you still shouldn't pay for a service that is costing us money to run (and would be shut down otherwise) please reach out and we'll see what we can do.

After being pushed by Y to refund the purchase, Ivanovic responded:

I can't refund a Paypal purchase from 2 years ago. Their refunds don't work after 6 months.

To be clear you have no legal standing here whatsoever, I'm just trying to help you out. We are under no obligation whatsover (sic) to give you a refund.

Y's sentiments have been echoed around the web, especially on the Pocket Casts subreddit. Ivanovic's response does not seem to indicate that Pocket Casts plans to reverse its stance or to grandfather in customers who previously purchased the app.