Spotify launches free audiobooks to attract subscribers

Audio giant continues to pull back on podcast exclusivity strategy

Spotify is making a new attempt at driving more users to its platform using audiobooks as an incentive, with existing Premium subscriptions to the platform now offering access to 15 hours of free listening per month and access to more than 150,000 titles. 

The announcement was made by the company’s CEO Daniel Ek at a company event on Tuesday at its New York headquarters. Ek said that audiobooks will be the next phase of growth for the company, having already made a “successful” entry into the music and podcasting business. 

“I’m so excited to bring some of the same tools that have helped the music industry and podcast industry as well now to the audiobook industry,” said Ek according to The Hollywood Reporter. “This greatly improves our offering, which will lead to people increasing their engagement with Spotify, which will then, of course, reduce churn.”

“Now, in addition to that, this gives great flexibility to our business, which will ultimately help our revenue and profits.”

Premium audiobook features on Spotify are currently only accessible to users in the UK and Australia but will soon roll out globally, with the US expected to gain the same access this winter. Only individual subscribers, or the plan managers of Family and Duo accounts, can get the 15 hours of free listening monthly. Users that finish their 15 hours before the month is up can buy an additional 10-hour top-up. 

Prior to launching this feature, audiobooks were available on Spotify on an ‘a la carte’ basis with users able to purchase from a selection of more than 300,000 titles. Audiobooks that are accessible for subscribers will be labeled as “Included in Premium” and will be available to browse through on Spotify’s Premium catalogue. This includes titles from major publishers such as Hachette, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, and more. 

This new move from Spotify positions the platform as a competitor to Amazon-owned company Audible, which offers subscribers access to more than 1,000 select audiobooks, podcasts, and originals. Both Spotify and Audible also allow users to download audiobooks so that they can listen to them offline. 

Spotify’s audiobook strategy is another way that the company is attempting to bring more premium users to its platform, following its pull-back on using exclusive podcasts for this purpose. 

Earlier this year, the audio giant started to shift its podcast strategy and drop exclusivity over some of its hit podcasts - including talent-driven shows and originals from Spotify Studios - in order to increase its ad sales and expand audiences, having experienced nearly £200 million in operating loss in Q4 2022 largely due to heavy podcast investments. A spokesperson from Spotify previously told PodPod that this will continue to be done to other podcasts over time and on a case-by-case basis. 

Ek at the time admitted that he got “a little carried away” and overinvested in the podcasting space but said that he does not regret the investments. Spotify is continuing to grow its podcast strategy, having recently announced that it is now testing AI to translate podcasts into multiple languages using the host’s voice.