From free podcasts to for-pay audiobooks?

I hate to disappoint my loyal readers, but this is the rare Krehbiel Report where I don’t suggest an answer. Not even a half-baked one. I’m curious what you think about this.

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast a couple of my kids said they liked. It was sponsored by Audible — the audio book company. That struck me as a rather odd choice.

The podcast is called “Welcome to Night Vale,” and it’s essentially a quirky short story. Kinda like The Twilight Zone. (It wasn’t my thing. But if you like Twilight-Zone-ish stories, you might like this book of mine, which is free today on Kindle.)

I found it strange that Audible would sponsor a podcast like that because it seems like such natural competition for audio books. In fact, it seems that sort of podcast is one of the primary free alternatives to the paid product. So why would Audible sponsor it?

Since the two products are similar, people who listen to that sort of podcast might be a good market for audio books, so it makes some sense from that perspective. But people who are downloading free stuff aren’t (in my experience) a good market for paid content. So … again … it’s an odd call.

More importantly, by sponsoring the podcast, Audible is helping their competition. (Or, on the other hand, perhaps they’re encouraging more people to get interested in audio stories.)

I suppose it’s working, because Audible has a standing affiliate deal for podcasters.

If it is working, it’s an interesting model for the free to paid transition.

This question reminds me of something else near and dear to my heart. The old Facebook issue, and whether publishers should participate.

I think publishers who put their content on Facebook are (among other things) selling Stalin the rope he’s going to hang them with. But if Audible can make a living selling their paid content through free channels (like podcasts), then maybe not.

What do you think?

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