In a move that further expands Audible Inc.’s reach beyond the audiobook market, the Amazon subsidiary has unveiled an on-demand, unlimited listening service called Channels. The ad-free service, which is free to Audible subscribers (and was rolled out to some members in beta this spring), features curated short-form audio. Non-subscribers can access the content for $4.95 a month.
Channels listeners will find a consistently updated roster of original programming and exclusive content that includes comedy, episodic programs, lectures, and narrated selections from newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post (owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos).
According to Audible executive v-p and publisher Beth Anderson, the content in Channels is “hand-selected" by a staff of editors and read by celebrities, authors, professional actors, and others. "Much like our audiobook and long-form original productions, the performer for each individual piece of content is chosen with tremendous care in order to achieve an outstanding listening experience,” she said.
Among the initial episodic offerings on Channels is “Presidents Are People Too,” which provides warts-and-all profiles of each American president and is hosted by Elliott Kalan, a former head writer for The Daily Show, and American historian Alexis Coe. “Authorized” is an Audible Original series that showcases authors sharing their most intimate firsts—from first rejection to first love. “Hot Mic with Dan Savage” is a no-holds-barred exploration of sex featuring true confessions offered live, on stage.
Eric Nuzum, a former programming v-p at NPR, leads the Channels team. Nuzum, who came to Audible in May 2015 as senior v-p of original content, was instrumental in establishing podcasting at NPR, but has said he came to Audible with different goals.
In an April 2016 interview with Nicholas Quah for Quah’s Hot Pod newsletter about podcasts, Nuzum said: “I’m not at Audible to build podcasts. I’m at Audible to start a revolution. In the way audio is produced, and in the way audio is distributed.” And, speaking with Current last May, Nuzum likened Channels to HBO in terms of a general model, saying that the new service would have “that same sense of quality and level of craft" and be "a place where listeners are willing to pay for both creation and curation.”
Anderson also believes that quality will drive subscription. “Channels is about creating an amazing ecosystem of quality listening experiences that become available with astounding regularity,” she said. She also noted that, because Channels is not supported by advertising, the service "opens a lot of doors for creators and enables us to focus on the content that we want to make, and the content we know our listeners want to hear.”
Channels, in Anderson's vision, will build listenership in two ways. It will draw in listeners by providing audiobook subscribers with bonus content “to enjoy between audiobooks and in shorter spurts.” It will also, she believes, attract consumers who do not currently listen to audiobooks and "may not have considered long-form listening."