Updated from 4:58 p.m. EST Audible ( ADBL) posted a loss for the fourth quarter, but it was less than the year earlier's and not as much as analysts had feared. The audio entertainment company also bested the Street's forecast for its top line. For the fourth quarter, Audible said Tuesday that it lost $700,000, or 3 cents a share, compared with a loss of $2.2 million, or 9 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had anticipated a loss of 7 cents a share. Audible reported revenue of $23.3 million, rising from $18.3 million in the same quarter last year and beating the $21.9 million average analyst forecast. "The 4th quarter of 2006 delivered across-the-board improved financial results for Audible," Donald Katz, CEO and chairman of Audible, said in a statement. "We saw a strong seasonal sales lift during the quarter, as well as positive results from focused promotional merchandising efforts." Audible added 70,400 new "AudibleListener" members during the quarter, a boost of 13.3% over the same period last year. Sales from Apple's ( AAPL) iTunes Music Store contributed 27% of consumer content revenue. Last year, Audible
extended its exclusive deal with Apple until September 2010. Katz also said on a conference call that Apple's new iPhone will be Audible-ready when it debuts in June. During the quarter, 27 new Audible-ready digital media devices were added from companies such as iRiver and Garmin ( GRMN), among others.
Audible is shifting its focus to snag and retain customers on a monthly basis instead of aiming for a yearlong commitment. Executives said the company prefers to have the monthly recurring revenue, because customers are generally "more active members of our community" when they return regularly. That also cuts down on customer service calls to the company from customers who sign up for a year, for instance, and only use the service every six months. "It's the direction we're trying to take the business at this time," Audible's
new CFO, Bill Mitchell, said on the call. Mitchell said he would not provide an outlook for the quarter and year ahead while the new program settles in to place. Eventually, the company will resume giving guidance, he said. Looking ahead, Audible expects its newer wireless "AudibleAir" program and education deals with companies such as Pearson ( PSO) to help accelerate revenue. Shares of Audible were up 2 cents in after-hours trading to $7.97.