Last week I was at a premiere for a new thriller series produced in Berlin called Glashaus. It had all the makings of a mid-size or independent movie premiere; the director and writer gave an interview, the lead actors were on stage to say a few words, and there was a flashy action-packed trailer. Expect there was one catch: there was no film.
Glashaus is the first originally-produced German-language audio series from the German offices of Audible.com, the audio-book download giant, which is owned by Amazon. Producing its own serialised content is something the company has been playing around with for the last year, both here and internationally. And with the recent success of podcasts like Serial, from This American Life producers (which was the fastest podcast to reach five million downloads) and all the talk of a podcast renaissance, the timing couldn’t be better for Audible to assume the throne of original audio content in much the same way Netflix has taken over streaming video original programming.
Time for a confession: I’m a podcast addict. I almost exclusively listen to spoken audio content, while biking to work, at the gym, in the shower… but in case you weren’t aware there was a renaissance happening, here is a brief rundown on the recent reemergence of podcasting.
The New York Times goes into the raw numbers and details much better than I ever could so, I would redirect you there to get the full scoop, but here’s the gist. Due to the low production cost of producing audio content and the much higher revenue per listener, podcasts make economic sense compared to video content. Paired with the dramatic increase in Internet-connected devices (including cars), the public’s insatiable desire to consume content, and the simple fact that there are many situations throughout the day where you just can’t be staring at a screen (read: commuting), audio content makes a compelling case.
It’s a smart move for Audible to take its expertise of producing high-quality audio book recordings written by other people and put it to use producing the last piece of the puzzle as well, the content itself. There’s a niche here that not many companies are after and one in which Audible already has a massive head start. It already has a surprisingly large audience in Germany and the UK, an exclusive audiobook partnership with iTunes and of course the backing of Amazon.
What is interesting for the German capital is that Audible is a bit of a sleeping giant. With employees spread over a few floors in Mitte, the 100 percent-owned daughter company of the US firm is going to be responsible for all original audio content in Europe. That means even the UK market will see some of its original programming produced in Berlin.
The first foray into this programming is in the German language. With a cast of over 98 actors, Glashaus is not your average homebrewed podcast either, but a real top-notch production. As this is a long term play for Audible, it is also giving away the first episode for free. That’s ten episodes totalling over 70 minutes of high-paced (albeit German) thriller action. It’s available at www.audible.de/glashaus for your binge-listening pleasure.
It will be interesting to see how big of a play Audible makes at this space, but from all indications they are in it for the long haul and positioned to dominate. On the positive side, Audible is already a sponsor of many of the top podcasts in iTunes and this looks to be more of a ‘rising tide lifts all ships’ kind of scenario rather than an Orwellian ‘War of the Worlds.’
If you want something in English, you can also check out Six Degrees of Assassination this Monday, Audible’s first original drama, penned by UK author M.J. Arlidge and starting Andrew Scott (Sherlock) and Freema Agyeman (Dr. Who).