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Amazon extends their dominance with Audible Channels

Screenshot_20160709-140715 (1)Even though they’re gaining momentum I’ve never been a big fan of audio books. Amazon, of course, owns the market with both Audible and Brilliance. Although it didn’t receive a lot 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 and it 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’ 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 of 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. Btw, 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 they’re still disrupting. If Channels is successful every periodical publisher will soon discover they’ll need to make their 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 I’ll be able to subscribe to audio versions of the sports sections from all the papers I care about, for example. When that happens, don’t you think newspaper publishers will deeply regret the fact that they didn’t build this platform themselves?


Michael W. Perry

Quote: "So why pay for them via Channels? One word: curation."

Ah, but that depends on whether you care for the taste of the curiator or not. My tastes tend to be eclectic and contrarian enough, that's unlikely. And keeping or dropping a podcast feed is easy with the Overcast app. I can drop a subscription in about 10 seconds.

I do agree with you that if newspapers and magazines were more clever, they would offer daily audio podcast feeds as part of a subscription rather than hide behind paywalls and beg for money. Setting that up would involved cost and risk, though, and most seem risk-adverse. They've been burned by the rise of the Internet and the loss of advertising income.

Stephen Mettee

Amazon’s dominance is often looked upon with trepidation by book-industry stake holders—and others. We’ve actually encountered instances where large publishers were unable to allow us to add the audiobook edition of a title to our catalog because they had given Amazon an exclusive on it. Reminds me of David C. Korten’s 1995 blockbuster "When Corporations Rule the World." This is one illustration of why, IMHO, Hummingbird Digital Media’s effort to “democratize e-book and audiobook retailing” is important

Laraine Flemming

I think you are absolutely right in saying Why didn't newspapers ever come up with this idea, and that has been Amazon's strength from the get go. What troubles me, though, is how much access or exposure to the world of ideas is now under the control of Amazon because Jeff Bezos is/was aware of the power of convenience pretty much before anyone else.

But if Time has an article on what life is like in the Amazon warehouse, will there be a pod cast of that article in Audible Channels? As someone above says, how good this is depends on the curating, but I'd go a step further and say I'd, just generally, prefer a little less curating, including Google deciding what points of view I prefer when I type in a key word search. I like the idea of short form journalism available as a pod cast, but I think I'll stick to finding my own

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