Amazon’s Audible Goes Long on Short-Form Audio


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A display at Audible’s offices in Newark. Audible’s new subscription service, Channels, will cost $4.95 a month.

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Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

Amazon hopes to persuade people to pay for something they have traditionally enjoyed free: short-form audio.

Audible, Amazon’s audiobook and spoken-word subsidiary, on Thursday announced Channels, a subscription service that will offer a new library of audio, including original programs, articles read aloud and more. At $4.95 a month, it presents a lower-priced entry point to the service and significantly expands on Audible’s core audiobook offering, while giving listeners more incentive to stick with the company.

Channels will be free under Audible’s traditional $14.95 monthly membership, which provides access to hundreds of thousands of programs and audiobooks.

“It’s pretty obvious there’s an audience for it, to us at least,” said Eric Nuzum, who leads the Channels team and is a former vice president at National Public Radio.

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Victor Bevine reads from “The Hooligan’s Return: A Memoir,” by Norman Mane at Audible’s offices in Newark. Audible’s new service will feature short-form audio.

Credit
Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

Roughly two out of five Audible customers listen to podcasts, he said. But those customers are not always satisfied with what they find.

“When you talk to those customers and you ask them about podcasting, they describe something that equally enthralls them and frustrates them,” he said. In that frustration, Audible sees an opportunity.

Similar programs, in the form of podcasts — a label Audible resists as too narrow — have traditionally been free, supported by advertising, sponsorships, user donations or support from media and radio organizations. That a subsidiary of a company as aggressive as Amazon would invest in such a service suggests that it anticipates a willingness among the public to pay for short-form audio.

Subscribers to Channels will have access to programs such as comedy acts, renditions of short stories, nonfiction accounts, talk shows, newspaper articles and more. (The New York Times is among Audible’s partners.)

The service will also include several episodes of the original program “Presidents Are People Too,” which explores the private lives of the nation’s commanders in chief.

Users will be able to preview other forthcoming original shows, too. “Breasts Unbound” will examine the history of those often-fetishized body parts. In “Mortal City,” the host and former crime reporter Kathleen Horan will interview people living on society’s fringes. Authors will share a variety of firsts in “Authorized.” A series of interconnected events and stories will be explored over 10 episodes in “The Butterfly Effect.” And “Damned Spot” will document stories of places forever changed by murders, hangings, hauntings and other unfortunate events.

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