Bloomberg enlightened us on Friday that Amazon’s audiobook service continues to expand beyond the book world and into audio production and distribution.
Amazon.com Inc. is ramping up its investment in podcasts and other radio-style shows to expand the types of programming it offers via Audible, the audio book company it acquired in 2008.
Audible has recruited well-known comedians, along with radio and podcast producers for the initiative, and job postings suggest a significant global push. Maria Bamford and Jonathan Katz are taping episodes of “Bedtime Stories,” a show in which comedians rewrite fairy tales, according to their manager Bruce Smith.
Entertainment plays a crucial role in Amazon’s effort to push beyond its core business of selling books, laundry detergent and televisions online.
Our first clue that Amazon was looking into opportunities beyond audiobooks was in 2014, when Audible acquired Rooftop Media. Rooftop recorded comedians at clubs and distributes the video and audio to online retailers (like Audible).
That was Amazon’s first big step to doing more with audio than simply recording the recitation of books, and Amazon didn’t stop there. The retailer hired Eric Nuzum away from NPR in May 2015 to run Audible’s existing nascent original production platform, and he recruited a team of public radio talent to join him in the endeavor.
Together they oversee a program that produces original audio works. Where Netflix adapted Daredevil from the comic book and Hulu adapted Stephen King’s 11.22.63, Audible has works like an adaptation of the famous novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses which features the extracted letters from the book and a radio show quality production of the graphic novel Locke & Key starring award winning actors and authors.
Audible sees original production as the key to expanding its slaes. “Our original content is more like Netflix or Amazon for audio,” said Beth Anderson, the executive vice president of Audible, and its publisher. “We are hoping to expand our audience with people who might not be as interested in books, but in drama that we can capture on audio.”
Others in the industry have also noticed the new focus. “Amazon is doing to Audible what it’s done to Prime Video — investing in original programming,” said Nick Quah, an executive at the Graham Holdings Co.’s Panoply podcast network who also writes a newsletter about the industry. “Amazon is hiring a ton of really good producers and managers out of public radio to acquire podcasts and develop shows of their own.”
Time will tell whether original productions will prove successful, but it’s also worth remembering that the original works are only a fraction of the titles available. We shouldn’t overlook the fact that Audible also distributes recordings of live events, old radio productions, and interviews.
The original works may get all the buzz but odds are the other works generate the majority of Audible’s revenue. And that is the more important detail.
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