I’ve been a loyal customer of Audible, the downloadable audio book service, for years, as well as a consultant and content provider to the company (disclosure: I’m a consultant to the company right now and the subject of this posting is part of the project I’ve been working on). As I’ve moved much of my browsing to RSS feeds, Audible’s lack of easy access to titles and subjects in its catalog became clear. The site is built on Broadvision, which, while a powerful system for building a catalog, is a poor foundation for external access to the data in the catalog because every page is cooked on the fly for individual visitors. In other words, you can’t bookmark a page.
But Audible’s working hard to remedy the virtual invisibility of its catalog and an important first step takes place this week: Audible has created RSS feeds for hot new titles, various genres (my favorites are history, comedy and science), as well as its own bestseller list and that of The New York Times, BusinessWeek and Publishers Weekly. The project is built on FeedBurner‘s service.
If you haven’t tried Audible, they offer some great free audio every week. Important presidential addresses, Congressional testimony, the first prayer and speech by Pope Benedict XVI, media baron Rupert Murdoch’s speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors last week, and a really great interview by Audible CEO Don Katz with Jane Fonda, whom he first interviewed for Rolling Stone in 1978. When I was back at Audible a couple weeks ago, Don was prepping for the interview; it makes me wish he’d take up the pen, again. Maybe you like American Idol and want the free update; that’s here, too.
John Federico’s giving me too much credit for the RSS feeds, but let me defer credit to Guy Story and others at Audible who really get the RSS phenomenon.
RSS is only getting started. I went into how it is misunderstood at length over at Red Herring last week, but I think it’s important to reiterate that subscriptions to data are going to be integrated into a wide range of application experiences, not just exposed as a feed for aggregation by a newsreader. RSS levels the playing field for anyone wanting to establish a direct relationship with an audience, and we’ll soon be using it routinely to engage in debate and relationships.