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45 MIN READ TIME

Audio killed the ebook star

BY SUE CARTER
ILLUSTR ATION BY CHRIST Y LUNDY

No podcast has captured the public’s attention like the first season of Serial. According to iTunes, the 12-episode true-crime program became the fastest in the medium’s short life to reach five million downloads and streams. While diehard fans debated the minutiae of Adnan Syed’s murder conviction, fewer listeners may have noticed that in its eighth episode, Serial introduced a new sponsor: Audible, the audiobook subscription-service company owned by Amazon.

Anyone who listens to podcasts regularly will be familiar with Audible through its ads on programs like This American Life, Radiolab, and WTF with Marc Maron. Not only does Audible sponsor a large number of top podcasts, it also has an affiliate program through which new podcasters can offer their listeners a free 30-day trial membership and audiobook. And this January, the company went on a hiring spree of comedians, producers, and engineers. Much in the same way Amazon Studios’s original video content, like the Emmy-winning television series Transparent, helped support its Prime streaming service, it appears that Audible’s original podcast content is poised to drive even more listeners to audiobooks.

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