Thus ends the long story of Audible (NSDQ: ADBL). I have always had a particular affinity with Audible, ever since I started paidContent.org in 2002 and two years prior. It was based in Wayne, NJ, the town I moved to first when I moved out east after finishing school in Indiana (the company since moved to Newark). It was one of the few Internet companies run by a journalist and an author, and a very accomplished one at that. And then, when I started this site with the original mission of tracking premium content, it was one of the few sites with a subscription model in place.
It is a company which first Amazon.com (yes) and then Microsoft took stakes: Amazon.com (NSDQ: AMZN) was a distribution deal for Audible, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) was more of a technology deal. Amazon.com divested its stake after some reported disagreements on how Audible content would be promoted through Amazon site, and by 2003, Audible had the lucrative Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iTunes deal in place. (The pic on the right: Katz speaking at Audible’s UK launch party in June 2005)
It is also a company in which the founder and CEO left in the middle, and then came back to rescue when the going got rough. It has always suffered from the tyranny of low profile, and I have always said the company needed a bigger platform. Its tech and service issues two years ago almost brought it to its knees. Some said it missed the podcasting boat, though the company considers itself the original podcaster of sorts.
The Apple iTunes deal single-handedly kept it in the contention. I mentioned last month after Apax sold off its stake that “it has been languishing from a low profile for a long time, and of course its share price slump…it certainly needs a transformative event sometime soon. Would a strategic buyer swoop for this chunk of shares?” This is not the first time Amazon tried to buy it…from what my sources told me, Amazon almost bought it 2-3 years ago as well, but the deal fell through on various technicalities then. It finally did happen.