Audible: Turning Up the Volume

In late October of last year, the chief executive officer of Audible (ADBL)
suddenly died. Obviously, it was a huge setback. However, the company has
been able to move forward.

Audible is an aggregator of premium, spoken content. For example, you can
listen to the latest Stephen King thriller by downloading the novel from the
Audible site and transferring this to a handheld device.

The Audible solution is geared for the 84 million people who drive to work
each day or 50 million people who exercise regularly and so on. With
Audible, people can add excitement to these mundane activities. The content
is diverse: Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the Nightly Business Report,
Garrison Keillor’s monologues from A Prairie Home Companion and so on.

Interestingly enough, Amazon.com has recently invested in Audible (5 percent of the
company). Audible is the exclusive provider of premium spoken content.

Audible has also made a strategic agreement with Motorola. Audible’s
internet audio will soon be available through Motorola’s iDEN digital
wireless phone. This service will enable people the convenience and
flexibility of listening to the wide variety of media from speakerphones,
headphones and other hands-free accessories.

Additionally, Audible recently made a digital audiobook distribution
agreement with Simon & Schuster, a leading audiobook publisher. Through the
deal, Audible gets exclusive rights to such best-sellers as “Beating the
Street” by Peter Lynch, “The Roaring 2000s” by Harry Dent and “Bag of Bones”
by Stephen King.

But critical to Audible has been the hiring of a new CEO. He is Tom Baxter,
who has a great track record. He was the former CEO of Comcast Cable. From
1989 to 1998, he increased the subscriber count from a few hundred thousand
to 4.5 million. When he took the reigns of Audible, he compared the company
to the cable industry — before the industry skyrocketed in the early
eighties. With him at the helm and the broad content offerings and
distribution agreements, Audible could be another chance to ride the growth
of a new, fast-growing industry.


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