No unlimited subscription on offer here, but that’s a reflection of French publishing rather than a change of strategy by Storytel. The bigger question is why the launch in France is not the headline for Storytel.
Storytel has launched in three markets so far this year – Indonesia, the USA and now France, and all are part of the Tellander legacy. Storytel France is the 27th operational market (Russia was shuttered earlier this year) although the current Storytel leadership continues to play shy with its US acquisition Audiobooks.com.
While fully owned by Storytel, you won’t find mention of the USA operation on the Storytel international page. And no, that’s not just a branding decision. Storytel Denmark retains its original Mofibo brand, but is clearly denoted “a part of Storytel” – and in English at that. In fact it’s the only English on the Storytel Denmark home-page.
By contrast Audiobooks.com carries a reference to Storytel only at the very bottom of the page in a text so faint you could be forgiven for not seeing it at all.
Mofibo/Storytel Denmark of course offers the standard unlimited consumption model and so does Indonesia, the first of the 2022 launches. Audiobooks.com, notionally acquired late 2021 and live as a Storytel company in 2022, unsurprisingly stuck with the a la carte consumption model (few US publishers would touch it otherwise). And now we see Storytel France where Storytel again is eschewing the unlimited model, this time for a tiered access model.
A model which by no coincidence is what rival Nextory is using in France. Nextory acquired Youboox (now rebranded as Nextory France) to enter the French market in style.
Of course French publishing regulations and the antipathy of French publishers towards the unlimited consumption model will have played a big part.
Regardless of the consumer model, the Storytel France officially went live today (27 September) but curiously you have to dig into the press release to realise that fact.
The Storytel press release headline?
Storytel secures partnerships with leading publishers in France.
The press release is dated the same day Storytel France goes live, leaving the questions a) why Storytel is keeping this fact so low key and b) why not wait until the new CEO Johannes Larcher is in his seat on October 1?
The answer may be in the reality that Storytel management is right now at that lame duck phase where the appointed new management is still gearing up to take over and the old management has been in limbo since Jonas Tellander was forced to step down.
The French deal obviously was not suddenly magicked from thin air since Tellander was pushed, and is likely the last of the Tellander deals to work its passage, but that may or may not be in keeping with Larcher’s new management strategy we will see emerge in the next few months.
The press release headline, with its focus on Storytel having secured publishing deals with key publishers (shock! horror! Imagine an audio platform securing deals with publishers! Whatever next?!) is intended to draw as little attention as possible to the fact that Storytel has yet another market on its book where it will play second fiddle to established competition including arch-rival Nextory.
Per the TNPS post linked above, this was the first time Nextory had entered a market where Storytel was not already present. Runners-up tend not to be quite so bold in their victory laps.
But there is one line of promise in the news.
The agreements strengthen Storytel’s strategic focus on established audiobook markets and open the door for expansion into French-speaking markets.
Meaning, one must presume, Belgium, Switzerland, and just maybe Canada. And yes, Storytel is already in Belgium, but only with Dutch content, so this is an an opportunity to bolster the Storytel Belgium store with 7,000 titles in French.
For my thoughts on likely strategies from the new Storytel management once Larcher and team takes their seats, check out this TNPS post from end August.