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Even though they’re gaining momentum, I’ve never been a big fan of audiobooks. Amazon, of course, owns the market with both Audible and Brilliance. Although it didn’t receive a lot of fanfare last week, Audible introduced one of the most interesting and long overdue services that I’ve seen in a long time.
I’m talking about Audible Channels, which takes short-form listening to an entirely new level. Some have mistakenly written Channels off as nothing more than a glorified podcasting option, but it’s much more than that.
First of all, thanks to Channels, I’m finally able to listen to periodicals. Popular brands like The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and Bezos’s own Washington Post are just a few of the feed options. Rather than having to find the time to read a few newspaper articles each day, I can quickly zip through them with the combination of phone+Bluetooth+car radio during my morning commute.
Isn’t it amazing that the newspaper industry never bothered to jump on the convenience and popularity of audio before now? Newspapers have been struggling for years with flat or declining subscription levels, and now Amazon steps in to fill the audio void.
Next, taking a page out of the Netflix playbook, Channels also offers a growing number of original content feeds. Amazon, the king of data, is uniquely positioned to quickly determine which topics and genres will likely be most successful, so even though original content could be viewed as an expensive venture, the risk is probably quite low. And hey, Amazon is never one to shy away from losing a lot of money, so this is a no-brainer for them.
Now let’s go back to the podcast topic for a moment. Yes, Channels offers access to many of the same podcasts you can get for free via iTunes and other services. So why pay for them via Channels? One word: curation.
Over the past six months I’ve immersed myself in the podcast arena—not as a creator but as a listener. I’ve spent countless times trying to find the next great podcast, and it’s like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. I’ve really only found three that I listen to on a regular basis, but I’ve tried at least 30+ others along the way. Part of my exploration involved working my way top to bottom through the popular lists while others hit my radar through recommendations from similar feeds. I’m convinced that neither approach is optimal, and that there’s a huge opportunity to dramatically improve the inefficient discovery experience here.
Channels promises a curation process powered by editors who handpick only the best of the best. Will it improve podcast discovery? Only time will tell, but it’s got to be better than the discovery options we’ve dealt with up to now.
All this comes to you for the low, low price of $4.95 per month. If you’re already an Audible subscriber, typically paying $14.95 per month, you now have access to Channels for no additional charge. By the way, if you’re looking for that pricing info and a quick way to sign up, just go to this rather hard-to-find page.
Audible Channels isn’t just for consumers interested in short-form audio content. It’s also an important lesson for publishers of all types of written content. Amazon is 20+ years old, and it’s still disrupting. If Channels is successful, every periodical publisher will soon discover it’ll need to make its content available on it, producing yet another new chapter in the story of Amazon’s marketplace dominance.
Subscription options are pretty limited today, but I can see a future where, for example, I’ll be able to subscribe to audio versions of the sports sections from all the papers I care about. When that happens, don’t you think newspaper publishers will deeply regret the fact that they didn’t build this platform themselves?
This article first appeared on Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies.
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