Earlier this week, The New York Times Company announced it will acquire Audm, a subscription-based app that turns long-form journalism into professionally narrated and edited audio. The company was founded in 2016 by Ryan Wegner, director of spoken word audio production, and Christian Brink, director of product. Wegner, Brink and the Audm team will join The New York Times Company. Though the number of subscribers was not disclosed, The New York Times’ audio team said Audm had “its own strong pool of subscribers.” Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Available for iOS and Android, Audm offers narrated audio features from more than 2,000 articles from dozens of publishers including The New York Times, The Atlantic, Wired, The New Yorker, ProPublica, Vanity Fair, New York magazine, Rolling Stone, BuzzFeed News and others. New stories are added daily, and they can be listened to online or they can be downloaded for offline listening. Ideal for commuters, the visually impaired or those who prefer an audio format, Audm offers three affordable pricing options, starting at $7.99 a month.
“…and as it happens, the acquisition couldn’t have come at a more valuable time. The audio team is looking for ways to provide escape and relief in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. And so for the near future, at least, we plan to run read-aloud Times articles every Sunday on ‘The Daily.’ Hopefully you heard the two we have done so far — Taffy Akner’s great profile of Tom Hanks and Sue Dominus’s story of the Colombian twin brothers. We think they offer a welcome balm during these times, and they’ll be an effective way to introduce listeners to a different form of audio storytelling,” said Sam Dolnick, Lisa Tobin and Stephanie Preiss in The New York Times’ announcement.
Venture Beat reports that The New York Times is already using the format. Readers and listeners can access the audio content directly from the article pages or from within the Audm app. The articles will also encourage listeners to download the Audm app to access content from other publishers. The Motley Fool points out that a differentiating factor for Audm is that they use audiobook narrators, not automated voice technology, which improves the experience for the listener.
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As the rest of the publishing world has struggled to pivot from print to digital, The New York Times has found success moving away from print advertising and subscription revenue and focusing on digital revenue streams. This includes digital news subscriptions, standalone subscription products (NYT Crossword and NYT Cooking), digital advertising and revenue from acquisitions including Wirecutter and now Audm. This diversification strategy and a focus on subscriptions is working well for The New York Times. Despite the uncertainty of the world right now, there are still stories to tell, and people who are willing to pay to hear them.