All in the <head> – Ponderings and code by Drew McLellan –

Audible’s New Customer Experience

We’ve all heard the podcast ads for Audible. I listen a lot of podcasts when I’m out running, driving back and forth from the airport, or just around the house cooking or washing up. I’m doing a lot of long runs at the moment and am running out of episodes for the podcasts I subscribe to, so I thought I’d sign up and give Audible a try.

I’ve listened to audiobooks in the past, but mostly purchased as one-offs from iTunes. This would be my first time committing to a subscription service, but I was game to give it a try and get stuck in. I signed up and started browsing titles.

The first thing that surprised me a little was that Audible isn’t a Netflix-style subscription where you pay a monthly fee and get access to the whole library. A basic subscription gives you just one credit per month, and that credit can be redeemed against a book. A full, unabridged book can run for hours (the one I picked was nearly 16 hours) so that’s not so bad. It just felt a little old fashioned.

I really enjoyed listening, and the distraction certainly help pass the hours while running. About ten days later, once my book was finished, I was ready to browse the library for my next title. Of course, I’d already used my single monthly credit, so I presumed I’d be asked to purchase more credit once I’d made a selection. That didn’t happen, so I browsed around trying to figure out how to buy more credit.

Here’s the kicker. You can’t buy more credit unless you’ve been on the same subscription plan for more than two months. As a brand new user I didn’t qualify. I’d enjoyed the first book so much, I figured this was going to keep happening, so I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade my subscription a two-credits-per-month level, thinking I’d then get my second credit and I’d be away. Well, they upgraded my subscription, but no credit was forthcoming. It looks like I’m going to have to wait until I tick over into the next month to get any more credit at all.

As a brand new user, enthusiastic and ready to binge on books, I’ve been left with this artificial restriction to stop me doing so. It’s almost like Audible is a gambling site that has been constrained by regulation to prevent new customers becoming addicted.

From a business point of view, this seems like a missed opportunity. As a new customer, this is the time when my habits using the service are most easily forged. I imagine it’s quite hard to get an established customer to change the rate at which they consume books, but if you can get new customers into the habit of chain-listening they become more valuable right from the first month.

What would it take? Just the ability to purchase more credits. Literally, Audible, please take my money.