Did the two Swedish subscription giants just do the first step to a more steady relationship?
Storytel’s headquarters are only 1.1 kilometer away from Spotify’s main office in Stockholm. It is true that you have to cross three bridges to do the walk, but it only takes 6 minutes to bike between the two Swedish subscription kings. Therefore, anyone who lives in Stockholm and is familiar with the audiobook subscription market cannot avoid the following thought, from time to time: “Shouldn’t Spotify and Storytel get together?”
Well, the viking-spirited companies are probably still far away from any serious engagement, but this morning they announced an interesting partnership deal. According to a press release, “later in 2021, Storytel subscribers will be able enjoy Storytel’s library of audiobooks on Spotify by linking the two accounts”.
“We want everyone to have access to great stories, and today Storytel offers more than 500,000 audiobooks on a global basis across 25 markets,” said Jonas Tellander, founder and CEO, Storytel. “Partnering with Spotify makes amazing audiobook experiences and exciting authorships easier than ever to access for our customers, while we will also be tapping into the opportunity of reaching new audiences who are on Spotify today.”
“It is Spotify’s goal to be the singular platform for all audio: music, podcasts, live conversations, and now via this partnership, audiobooks,” said Courtney Holt, Global Head of Studios, Spotify. “By utilizing the Spotify Open Access Platform, Storytel will be able to deliver its premium audiobooks offering to their audience using Spotify’s best-in-class platform, all while retaining direct control over their relationship to their audience.”
We will also be tapping into the opportunity of reaching new audiences who are on Spotify today.
Jonas Tellander, founder and CEO, Storytel
Is this small move a first step towards something bigger? Is it the equivalent of a first date that went well? These questions are being asked by everyone in the market today. Sölve Dahlgren, one of the sharpest book market analysts in Sweden, commented on Boktugg: “So what does this mean in the long run? Is it a step towards the deal that many experts believe is a likely scenario: that Spotify buys the entire Storytel? Or is it a way for Spotify to attract audiobook listeners so they will discover that there are already loads of audiobooks on the platform? For Storytel, it can of course open up the possibility of launching its service in more markets, in places where customers will uses the Spotify app instead of Storytel’s. There are several possible scenarios. Spotify is available in 178 markets, Storytel in 25.”
And the stock market is also giving some positive thought to the matter. The Storytel stock was skyrocketing 17% on the morning of May 20, just after the announcement. It is true that the stock value was on a falling trend for several weeks. Still, an increase of 17% is a fantastic one for a less volatile stock market like the Swedish one.
It is important to keep in mind that Spotify already offers audiobooks. The platform, however, is not prepared for them, and digital aggregators must make audiobooks into albums and tracks in order to upload them. In other words, they are consumed like music, in a terrible experience for audioreaders and publishers. This is such a barrier that the huge Swedish audiobook catalogue is almost inexistent at Spotify. This is about to change, since the music platform decided to take audiobooks more seriously recently, and even hired Sean McManus, who was a top executive at Audible, to be their Head of Audiobooks, based in New York. That hire and now this approach to Storytel are proof that things will be different for audiobooks at Spotify.
And, who knows, being already so close to each other in the heart of Stockholm, executives of Storytel and Spotify can eventually bump into each other (stöta på, as they say in Swedish) in a café half-way between their offices. Actually, it would probably happen in an Espresso House shop, where you can have an all-you-can drink coffee subscription for 15 euros per month. Powered by subscription coffee, the two Swedish companies might eventually end shacking up – or becoming sambo, as one would say in Swedish.