Spotify is reportedly set to introduce a free audiobook trial for its subscribers, a strategic move aimed at diversifying its services and increasing its market share in the audiobook sector, currently dominated by Amazon’s Audible.
Free Audiobook Trial for Subscribers
- The pilot program will offer subscribers up to 20 hours of free listening per month, equating to approximately two audiobooks.
- Titles will be sourced from some of the largest US publishers.
- This program will be available in select English-speaking countries, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K., with plans to roll out gradually.
- The initiative is described as a temporary test, aimed at gauging the appeal of audiobooks to Spotify’s user base.
- Details regarding compensation for publishers remain vague, though payment might be determined by listening durations.
Spotify’s Journey into Audiobooks
- Having initially dabbled in the audiobook market in 2020 with a few public domain titles, Spotify took a more serious step with the acquisition of the audiobook platform, Findaway, in 2022.
- This acquisition added approximately 300,000 titles to Spotify’s library.
- The main distinction in Spotify’s approach has been its pay-per-download model, compared to subscription models popularized by services like Audible.
- Earlier models made users purchase audiobooks via a browser to avoid Apple’s 30% commission fee. The new pilot program, however, promises in-app downloads.
User Experience at the Core
Given that many audiobook enthusiasts are loyal to platforms due to integrated features, recommendations, and user experience, Spotify needs to leverage its expertise in these areas. Users have come to expect personalized suggestions based on their listening habits, seamless transitions between devices, and high-quality audio. Meeting and exceeding these expectations will be pivotal.
Competing with Audible
- Amazon’s Audible remains a giant in the industry, claiming about 63.4% of the market share as of 2022, translating to nearly $1.8 billion in sales.
- Spotify seeks to challenge this dominance and has attempted to lure independent authors with more attractive fee structures.
- Post acquiring Findaway, Spotify modified its model, reducing its cut from 70% to 50% while eliminating Findaway’s distribution fee.
- In contrast, Audible takes up to 75% of retail revenue, which can drop to 60% if authors agree to exclusivity terms.
Looking Beyond Music
- As The Wall Street Journal highlighted, Spotify’s move into audiobooks is in line with its broader strategy to expand beyond music streaming.
- Spotify’s price increase, its first in over a decade, may also be a factor propelling its exploration of new revenue streams.
- This venture follows Spotify’s earlier foray into podcasting, though the success of that venture remains to be clearly established.
Implications for the Broader Industry
The music streaming giant’s recent movements suggest a recognition of the shifting dynamics in the audio entertainment space. The realm of audiobooks, given its potential for growth, offers platforms like Spotify a chance to not only diversify their services but also tap into a thriving market.
Spotify’s bold move into audiobooks is not without challenges:
- Establishing a Foothold: Competing against industry behemoth Audible requires not just an expansive library but also innovative features, impeccable user experience, and perhaps exclusive content.
- Monetization Strategy: Deciding on a sustainable model — whether it’s subscription-based, pay-per-download, or a hybrid — will be crucial for long-term success.
- Apple’s Commission Fee: As highlighted, navigating the treacherous waters of Apple’s commission fees for in-app purchases will be a hurdle. Finding ways to offer a seamless user experience without compromising profitability will be a tightrope to walk.
With the audiobook market seeing steady growth, Spotify’s decision to venture into this domain can be seen as a strategic attempt to diversify its revenue sources and cater to a broader user base. The outcome of this pilot program and its potential impact on industry leader Audible remains to be seen. Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, remains optimistic, signaling their intent to make a mark in this sector, much like their ambitions in podcasting.