Ever since NPR's Chief Programmer, Eric Nuzum left to join Amazon's audio book publishing unit Audible, the rumors have been flying (and a large hiring initiative had been underway) about their impending podcasting initiative. And now we know. Audible started rolling out new offerings yesterday.
Audible, which already offers every audio book on their platform for a flat fee of $15 per month, will now augment the service with a blend of original podcasts and content from outside producers including PRX, The New York Times, audio from episodes of the Charlie Rose Show and several comedy-based podcasts.
Audible has organized the content into fairly easy to navigate and customizable channels called "My Channels" as part of their app.
There are roughly two hundred titles available ranging from one minute news articles to "20 minutes of relaxation" and full hours of original content. News content comes from major publications including, and not surprisingly, The Washington Post with "voice artists" reading selected articles. Other publishers include The Wall Street Journal and the BBC.
Audible's scaling of podcast content will likely have a profound effect on podcasting in multiple ways.
This is the first large scale podcast effort with a paywall. While several podcast platforms from Midroll to Podcast One to Gimlet are experimenting with paywalls, Audible's is much grander in scope and bundled with their main audio books service. In that sense, it is much more like Netflix with a library of content and original shows. And they are starting with a large base of paying users
It also signals a fundamental change to a more vertical approach for podcast content distribution. Up to this point, just about all podcasts have ubiquitously been distributed by RSS to multiple platforms. The same podcasts could be found on Apple's Podcasts app or Stitcher and other services. Much of Audible's content is proprietary. Again, think Netflix.
Here's another thing: Rapidly, commercial podcasting is being dominated by big, well capitalized players including, NPR and other public radio suppliers, Amazon, Scripps (Midroll), and the former publishers of the Washington Post Graham Holdings which owns Panoply and invested in Gimlet. That's a big change from just one year ago.
There have been several other platform initiatives announced recently including one from former Fox TV executives.
One has to wonder why commercial radio, arguably the most skilled group in the development and curation of audio content, is not represented here, beyond CBS's Play.it.
With Audible's move, it is clear that audio is becoming an important part of business strategy.