Slate starts in the audiobook industry. The seller of the online magazine and podcast subscription is launching its own audiobook store today in collaboration with several publishers. The store will offer and sell popular titles, but with the added benefit of making the audio accessible through listeners’ favorite podcast app rather than a separate audiobook-only platform. This is probably the biggest sell for listeners, although Slate will compete on price as well. Listeners will also purchase these books à la carte, meaning they won’t have to subscribe to an ongoing membership, as possible through Audible, the biggest name in audiobooks.
The store and its functionality are powered by Slate’s Supporting roles, the technology that enables recurring revenue audio services, such as subscription podcasts. This means that Slate at the back hosts audiobooks from publishers on its servers and creates private RSS feeds for them, which can then be inserted into any podcasting app that supports them, such as Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and Overcast. The process essentially looks like this: listeners navigate to Slate’s store, buy a book, and then listen online, or they can tap the app of their choice to automatically enter the feed. They can also manually copy and paste the feed.
David Stern, vice president of product and business development, shares The edge that its software automatically searches for suspicious activity and revokes access if it suspects someone is sharing their private RSS link outside of a “very narrow flexible range”.
Initial partners include Penguin-Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Hachette. Slate would not disclose its royalty deals with these companies. The original catalog is small, especially when compared to Audible’s thousands of titles, but Slate appears to be interested in books his team has reviewed for the website. As evidence for why Slate thought it should pursue an audiobook business, the company says it has generated more than $ 1 million through its book-affiliated operations, and that it has tested on Danny Lavery’s sale. Something that can shock and discredit you audiobook and sold 500 copies.
Slate’s move into audiobooks continues the trend of podcast-oriented companies looking for audiobooks and audiobook companies looking for podcasts. Spotify launched audiobooks in its app, hosted by celebrity talent, earlier this year, and has reportedly put Parcast’s founder in charge of its audiobook endeavors, per a Bloomberg report. Audible also brought podcasts to its app for the first time last year. (Apple, for its part, sells audiobooks through the Books app, not the Podcasts app.) The broader gamble seems to be that people who like to listen to things want to do it from one app.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” says Stern.
Slate positions itself to let people choose which app to listen to, although neither Spotify nor Audible support private RSS feeds.