Top Stories
Top Stories

'Binge-listening'? Audio opens a 'Channel' to new listeners

Tyler Eyre, special to
Atsushi Yamada | Getty Images

Whenis a podcast not a podcast? When it's a 'Channel. "

In a bid to develop more personalized content, Audible is trying to bring a Netflix sensibility to reading junkies. The company, whose parent is Internet giant Amazon, recently announced the creation of 'Channels'—an unlimited, on demand service chock full of original programming, periodicals and a variety of exclusive content.

Free for existing Audible subscribers, 'Channels' can also be purchased as a stand-alone service by non-subscribers for $4.95 a month. The company has content partnerships that range from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times to original programming that features noted comedians and actors.

Audible is the world's largest seller of downloadable audiobooks, with over 300,000 available for purchase in their online library. And by opening up Channel, Audible expects to offer plenty of "spoken-word entertainment" to audiences everywhere, and perhaps introduce audiophiles to the concept of "binge-listening."

"Many millions of Audible listeners now read with their ears," Audible CEO Don Katz told CNBC in a recent interview.

"Channels will be the place where high-quality, short-form, audio information and entertainment captures and conveys a compelling sense of the world for daily consumption, in fast-twitch time," he added.

However, the company has studiously avoided labeling its content as a network of podcasts—the popular digital subscription shows that are streamed online or downloaded to a device. The medium's mainstream popularity has made it an attractive target for advertisers: According to data from Edison Research, listeners tend to be both highly educated and affluent, while 2015 Pew Research report showed the podcast audience has nearly doubled since 2008.

An Audible executive recently told The Wall Street Journal that the company wanted to avoid limiting itself to the podcast audience, or turning off those who might not even know what one is.

Yet the content strategy leaves little doubt that Channels is a virtual new universe of podcasts, as its ad-free programs have all of the characteristics of one. They are largely original, cover a wide variety of topics, and typically last between five minutes and an hour. Audible sees it as a natural extension of its existing brand.

"We see our customers using and enjoying the service daily, and as we refresh our content offerings we are excited to continue to meet the growing appetite for compelling, original, short-form audio content," Andy Gaies, Audible's chief content officer said.

Individual channels include anything from original true crime stories reminiscent of the smash hit, Serial, to the impact of Brexit on global politics and the market. Partnerships with other content providers remain in the works, the company said.

Gaies told CNBC that Audible has "dozens of original series in various stages of production that we will be announcing and including in 'Channels' over the course of the next few months and beyond."

Katz and his team are hoping the success of 'Channels' will only be another reflection of the Audible brand.

"'Channels' ultimate mission is to invent new ways to unleash the power of well-composed and artfully spoken words on behalf of an increasing population of listeners, particularly younger customers, who are able to become aware, thoughtful, and even successful by reading short, digitally delivered content," he said.