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Amazon Wants You to Pay for Podcasts

July 7, 2016, 6:15 PM UTC
Key Speakers At The 32nd Space Symposium
Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Inc. and founder of Blue Origin LLC, speaks during the 32nd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S., on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. Commercial space exploration can advance at the fast pace of Internet commerce only if the cost is reduced through advances in reusable rockets, Bezos said. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images

With the release of Channels, a new service that provides ad-free podcasts and other audio content for a price, Amazon (AMZN) is taking a leap of faith that enough podcast fanatics value quality over quantity.

A challenge of sorts to competitors like Apple (AAPL), Channels is part of Amazon’s audiobooks service Audible, which means subscribers who are already paying $14.95 a month get free access to the podcasts. Non-subscribers, however, will have to cough up $4.95 each month to access the service.

The draw of Channels is a mix of originality – it will continue to roll out new content as it expands – and quality. Eric Nuzum, Audible’s SVP for original content development, presented Channels as an alternative to Apple’s overwhelming selection of podcasts, not all of which are first rate.

“I’ve heard customers refer to podcasting as a flea market, where you’ll find some treasures, and it’s surrounded by a lot of junk,” he told Bloomberg. “You have to be in the mood to sort through the junk to find the treasure, and people don’t want to do that all the time.”


Channels doesn’t call its content “podcasts” because the service also includes audio versions of articles from major publications, comedy shows and a whole host of other stuff ranging from short fiction – perhaps an appeal to consumers of Audible’s primary audiobooks feature – to language courses.

Avoiding the “podcast” label may also be a strategic move to make the $4.95 fee work, because most consumers know they can go to Apple for free podcasts. The success of Channels may depend not just on whether Audible can convince people to pay for podcasts, but also on its ability to distance Channels from that term altogether.