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Digital Audio... Some Willing to Pay Already

Techstination feature for Friday, March 2, 2001

When it comes to digital audio... .are people willing to pay for play? Many already are. I'm Fred Fishkin with Bloomberg Bootcamp. While Napster fans prepare for the shock of having to pay to download music... .a company called Audible has been winning more and more subscribers... who pay for access to its 28 thousand hours of digital audio. The key... .says Audible Chairman Don Katz... is content...

"We've actually created the great brands as audio programming. We have about 170 content partners. We have Stephen King and John Grisham. We have Forbes and the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The great brands that people are used to paying for, that people depend on for their information and their entertainment. So everyday we have hundreds and hundreds of new customers."

Audible has forged agreements with a wide range of partners, to ensure its content can play on everything from PocketPCs to a wide range of digital music players on the market. That allows subscribers to automatically download content to take with them on the road...

"If you go to our Web site, you can get a Rio 500, popular MP3 player, for 49 dollars, unlike the 269 dollars it would cost you at retail. And what you do is pay us a year's subscription, 12.99, for two audio books... any two audio books you want for a year."

One of Audible's chief backers is Microsoft... which now has about a one third stake in the company. The expectation, says Katz, is Audible's corner of the digital audio business will be profitable in 2002. Bootcamp, I'm Fred Fishkin, Bloomberg Radio.