Audiobooks have been growing at a fast rate. Libraries have seen an increase in downloads and Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy said that sales have gone up by 40 percent through the first nine months of 2015. At Digital Book World 2016, a panel including Troy Juliar of Recorded Books, Ralph Lazaro of Findaway, Erica Lazzaro of OverDrive, and Dan Zitt of Penguin Random House discussed how companies can use this positive trend to make their titles more discoverable as well as how they work with audiobook giant Audible.
“Discoverability is a real issue for children’s audiobooks, but also a huge opportunity,” affirmed Zitt. “So at Penguin, we built something to help market titles ourselves. We put up free children’s audiobooks to help parents understand that their kids can listen to books.”
“Curation is one way to make schools and libraries aware of our [OverDrive’s] great catalog,” said Lazzaro. “Because we’re a marketplace, we leave it up to our librarians to make selections that best serves listeners’ needs. We also let our customers decide what they want and consult with publishers to ensure new material gets noticed.”
Lazaro recommended following Netflix’s model of making older content relevant and evergreen.
“Books are evergreen and audio also has chance to be evergreen as well,” noted Juliar. He added that pairing audio materials with text is another way to increase discoverability as well as close the gap between kids’ speaking and reading capabilities.
The conversation then shifted to monetizing audio materials, with each speaker giving a nod to diversification.
“We need to make sure our content is in as many places as possible that makes sense,” said Lazzaro. “Partnering with institutions can introduce audiobooks to a new generation of readers and listeners.”
Finally, the panel talked about their relationship with Audible.
“We don’t have a relationship with Audible, but we respect what they’ve done for the industry,” said Lazaro. “Competition can be really healthy. Consumers and users should have options for how they want to consume content, and authors should also be able to choose where they want to have their content. We want more providers selling audiobooks and more consumers listening to them. Maybe that will help both us and Audible.”
“You have to compartmentalize,” added Juliar. “Audible is both our friend and competitor. Would I like a more diverse marketplace? Of course. But I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
“I just want to make sure our authors are well-served and paid fairly,” said Zitt. “Audible is a great partner for us.”
In terms of the future of audiobooks, the panel emphasized the importance of building tools that will make content creation easier and why audiobooks should always retain a human element.
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