Audible’s Shakeup Leaves Podcast Strategy Unclear
According to Nick Quahs most recent edition of Hot Pod, it has recently become known that Audible is experiencing a massive shift in their business and strategy. The Amazon-owned audiobook giant eliminated several high authority roles within the company. NPR’s Neda Ulaby first reported the development in a newscast on Friday evening. In the spot, Ulaby noted that about a dozen employees were affected and that the changes came “with no warning.”
These developments come as Audible reshapes its original programming strategy. A spokesperson for the company tells me: “As you may know, we’ve been evolving our content strategy for Audible Originals (including our theater initiative, narrative storytelling ‘written to the form’ as well as short-form programming). A related restructure of our teams resulted in the elimination of several roles and the transfer of some positions to other parts of the business.”
Last month, Nick provided some further insights connecting the strategic changes and recent shake-ups at the company’s executive level:
Audible has long been a horizontal curiosity for the podcast industry, given its hiring of former NPR programming VP Eric Nuzum in mid-2015 and subsequent rollout ofthe Audible Originals and “Channels” strategy in mid-2016, which saw the company releasing products that some, like myself, perceived as comparable to and competitive with the kinds of products you’d get from the podcast ecosystem.
This signing of authors like Michael Lewis to audiobook-first deals appears to be a ramping up of an alternate original programming strategy, one that sees Audible leaning more heavily into the preexisting nature of its core relationships with the book publishing industry and the book-buying audience. It might also be a consequence of a reshuffle at the executive decision-making level: in late 2017, the Hollywood Reporter broke news that chief content officer Andrew Gaies and chief revenue officer Will Lopes unexpectedly stepped down resigned from their posts. (Later reporting noted that the resignations happened in the midst of a harassment probe.) The ripple effects of that sudden shift in leadership is probably only hitting us now, and in this form.
One thing is certain, this shake up could have something to do with the fact that more people are turning to the free version and updated content style of podcasts, instead of paying steep prices for audio books. Listeners are showing an unwillingness to pay $17.99 for a 6 hour audio book, when they can find similar content (often from the same author) on a podcast for free.