Shortly after Tuesday’s newsletter — which includes my lengthy, lengthy essay that sought to piece together a theory of Audible’s strategic competitiveness and a way to think about it in the light of the restructure — went out, Variety published an exclusive on a new Audible Original featuring the comedians Merrill Markoe and Megan Koester, titled “The Indignities of Being a Woman.” The article described the project as a “comedy podcast,” despite the fact that the Audible Original must be purchased a la carte in order to be consumed.
Which is to say, it’s an Audible Original in the style of The Coming Storm — i.e. an audiobook without the pesky book part.
Markoe underscored the trickiness of that language in a tweet yesterday: “@Variety calls it a podcast but apparently they call any digital download a podcast. But its a 12 chapter book.”
A few thoughts on this:
- That structure of individual Originals purchases is, I’m told, very much the focus of Audible’s original programming focus moving forward. This marks a departure from the previous strategy of a “Channels”-subscription attached to Prime memberships that behaves a lot like Amazon Prime Video offerings, and a shift towards a business format that’s consistent with the rest of how Audible already functions. Whether that’s a good or bad idea… is up for discussion of course. As I outlined in that lengthy essay on Tuesday, it’s a doubling down on something that’s comfortable for Audible. The question, for some, is whether this is an instance where Audible passed on the opportunity to disrupt itself.
- We’re probably going to see a lot of the “what’s a podcast/what’s not a podcast” nomenclature confusion quite a bit from the entertainment trades and other general interest culture publications… which I suppose is par for the course, particularly since, in my opinion anyway, the definition and identity of podcasting has slipped into a moment of flux as more listeners flock to it and more platforms attempt to be a part of the distribution ecosystem. This is an essay for a whole other week, but while I’m generally more liberal than some about the use of the term — and have received criticism for that — I think this specific business of calling what Audible is making a “podcast” is ridiculous.