Spotify has announced plans to acquire the audiobook services and distribution company Findaway for an undisclosed price. The company operates multiple businesses, including distributing audiobooks to various platforms and offering audiobook creation services under its business Findaway Voices. The company pairs authors with narrators, which could become a new and valuable source of revenue for Spotify.
It also makes Spotify both a commercial bookseller and a publisher of audiobooks, a title the company has been hesitant to accept for its podcasting efforts.
“With this acquisition, we’re going to be able to accelerate the addition of an audiobook catalog onto the platform so that users can effectively get all of the audio content that they want all on one platform,” says Nir Zicherman, head of audiobooks at Spotify, in a chat with The Verge.
Zicherman says the team is focusing on “innovation” in the space to make audiobooks a “richer experience,” as well as “democratization,” in that more people can create and publish more audiobooks. It also wants to work on audiobook discovery, as it has always focused on with music and podcasts.
Zicherman declined to share any specifics on exclusives that might factor into Spotify’s audiobook strategy but did praise the company’s work with creators. “Voices currently allows creators to distribute broadly,” he says, “and that is a very important part of the offering and something that we plan to keep and to continue supporting because we think that it’s part of what makes the platform so powerful from a creator standpoint.”
Zicherman also says the core Spotify app will likely gain more audiobooks in early 2022 when certain Open Access partnerships begin distributing content there. (Storytel, a major audiobook streaming app, is an initial partner.) These moves aren’t the first to signal Spotify’s interest in the audiobook space, however. It worked with YouTubers and celebrities in January to distribute readings of classic books, like Frankenstein, and also partnered with J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World to release Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in audio form.
Most importantly, the acquisition will give Spotify a new way to make money while staying in the audio business. Findaway shares in authors’ royalties, which means that whenever someone buys a Findaway-distributed book on the platform, Spotify will make money. It’ll also take some cut of revenue when people buy a book on the platform, like any retailer. (A spokesperson declined to comment on its monetization plans.) It seems possible Spotify could launch new subscription tiers, similarly to Audible, to account for audiobook consumption. Notably, however, Spotify will also have to pay royalties to other audiobook distributors and authors, similar to how it treats music content.
Correction 11/11, 4:5 ET: This story initially stated that Spotify would make money when people streamed an audiobook. It should have said when they buy one. We regret the error and have corrected it.