Charlie Harding, the host of the podcast Switched On Pop, noticed something strange when he searched his podcast name on Amazon yesterday: a price tag. An $8.95 price, to be exact, marked as a “limited deal” with the suggestion to buy an Audible subscription to get a discount.
Harding’s show, which details the making and meaning of popular music, is already freely available in all podcast apps through an RSS feed. It also recently became available for free inside Audible, which is owned by Amazon, when podcasts were added to its app in October. But for some reason, Amazon had started advertising the show as paid content. Even more strangely, the Audible promotion was really for a price hike, marking the show as originally costing $0 and being marked up to $8.95.
The same happened with other podcasts available in Audible, too. All the ones we checked, including The Verge’s own Vergecast, which is freely distributed through RSS, were listed as costing $8.95 and promoted an Audible membership deal. These results only showed up on Amazon’s website, not in the mobile app, and only if you were logged into an Amazon account when you searched. If you clicked on the podcast, you’d then be able to select where you wanted to listen, either Amazon Music or Audible, and you could listen for free without a subscription.
The pricing disappeared Wednesday morning after The Verge reached out for comment. Amazon has not yet responded.
It’s unclear why Amazon marked the shows as costing $8.95 given that none of Audible’s subscription tiers are that price. Its lowest tier, which it launched in August, costs $7.95 for access to these free shows, as well as exclusive Audible programming and audiobooks. The price goes up to $14.95 for a subscription that includes audiobook credits. This seems more than likely to be a bug given that the shows’ prices were raised instead of lowered as part of this “limited deal,” but still, it’s not a great look for Amazon, which just recently started focusing on podcasts.
The addition of podcasts is part of Audible’s latest push to sell subscriptions. The freely available shows add value to a costly subscription and bulk up its catalog, which might entice people to pay every month for access. It’s worth remembering, though, that most podcasts are available for free through RSS, not when you pay Audible.