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A beta version of Audible's new Channels service, which launched this morning
A beta version of Audible’s new Channels service. The final product launched this morning.

Amazon-owned audiobook seller Audible today released its new commercial-free audio subscription service, Channels, to the public. The service, which includes news and original programming, had been in beta testing for several months.

All Audible members, who pay $14.95 a month for the service, will get Channels for free. Others can get Channels as a standalone service for $4.95 a month, the company announced as part of the public launch.

Audible founder and CEO Donald Katz said in a statement that Channels is the next step for the company, which emphasizes the power of spoken word.

“From our origins – harking back to the time when Audible commercialized the first digital audio player in 1997 and launched original short-form premium programming with Robin Williams in 2000 – we have believed the quality and character of everyday life would be enhanced by delivering the culture’s most compelling and artfully performed spoken words. Channels is a natural extension of that founding premise, and we believe this new shorter-form service and the exciting original productions to come will become as popular and habit-forming as Audible’s audiobook service.”

Channels will include professional readings of articles from the Washington Post (owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos), New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Scientific American, among other news organizations.

Here are a few examples of original programs coming to Channels, some of which are available now, and others that will debut in the next few months:

  • Presidents Are People Too: a series hosted by former Daily Show writer Elliott Kalan and historian Alexis Coe that depicts American presidents as real-life people with flaws, foibles, triumphs and defeats.
  • Limelight: Highlights standup performances from comedy clubs nationwide with rotating guest hosts like as T. J. Miller, Ron Funches and the Sklar Brothers.
  • Damned Spot: This series looks at what happens to properties where tragic events transpire, such as murders, suicides, hauntings and mass shootings.
  • Authorized: Ashley C. Ford interviews authors about important firsts in their careers, like first drafts and rejections.

Other exclusive programs will debut regularly on Audible, the company says. Program topics include science fiction, comedy, food, sports, history and leadership.

Podcast-like programs are becoming more popular, with shows like Serial, a spinout of public radio’s This American Life, getting lots of people into audio storytelling for the first time.

Channels is a stark shift from the open podcast environment, which let anyone download podcasts to the player of their choosing via open RSS feeds. Audible, along with a few other podcasting players, are putting content behind paywalls to monetize shows with something besides traditional advertising.

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