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Audible: Starting to Make Some Noise

In our busy lives, we do not have lots of time to read. But we can listen. However, cassettes are not very flexible. But the Web can be. A company called Audible (ADBL) allows users to download content to a handheld device and play it back anytime, anywhere.

I wrote about the company in early November (Audible: Silent for How Long?). I think there is more room on the upside.

A substantial amount of the content from Audible is premium; that is, you pay a fee to download it. You have access to such content as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, as well as books, such as from Stephen King and John Grisham.

Last week, Audible had several major announcements. Of particular importance was bullish statements about the fourth quarter. Revenues were about $420,000, which was spurred by a 50 percent sequential increase in the growth of the company's premium content. There was also a 54 percent sequential growth rate in the customer base to 13,300. The company plans to release its earnings on January 31, 2000.

Another factor was a deal with Microsoft, which agreed to use the Audible technology for its Reader Software. The Reader software is Microsoft's new standard for reading books electronically -- such as for PCs and handheld devices.

Interestingly enough, Audible plans to create its own content offerings. The first step was signing Robin Williams. He will provide a half-hour of new original programming every week on the Audible site (which is exclusive). The program starts in April 2000.

The company has been building-up its management team. Recent hires include Sal Giangrasso, who was the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal Radio Network; David Simpson, who was formerly with Bell Atlantic as the senior manager of e-commerce strategy (he is the inventor of wireless delivery of synthesized speech from text); John Barth, who was the director of news at AOL; and Warren Cook, who was the vice president of business development at foodtopia and director of new business at iVillage.com.

Audible is still in the early stages of its marketplace. But by staking its claim, the company will be in a tremendous position for the future.