Guest Column: The Evolving Role of an Audio Publisher
It's been a wild ride in publishing these past five years. The rise of e‑books and e‑audio, changing business models and the role of social media in marketing are just a few things we've taken in stride. Those on the inside of this $1 billion industry know audio is no doubt headed for further evolution, and we must keep tabs on our consumers to know how to best serve their needs and reflect their behaviors.
Who Are Our consumers?
According to the most recent Audio Publishers Association's (APA) Consumer Survey released in 2010, more than one-third of Americans have listened to an audio–book. Typical audiobook listeners are better educated than non-listeners—21 percent have completed post-graduate work or hold a doctorate degree, twice as many as non-listeners. People who listen to books also have higher incomes and are more voracious readers of print books than non-listeners.
It's safe to assume this typical audiobook listener is much like the rest of the world in that they are more connected today than ever before. Smartphones and tablets have made us a mobile society and with mobility comes the expectation of accessing everything and anything with the click of a button or swish of a finger across a touchscreen.
In some ways, audiobook consumer behavior has stayed the same. Audio fans still look to their friends for recommendations, read reviews or take best-seller lists into consideration when selecting titles. However, social media and other new media have certainly influenced audiobook marketing toward savvy consumers. The popularity of social media even has led to entire audiobooks co-authored by "the Twitterverse," specifically fantasy writer Neil Gaiman's recent "Hearts, Keys and Puppetry," narrated by the multi-talented Katherine Kellgren, which was nominated for an Audie Award.
To keep audiobooks relevant in the current environment, it has become essential for publishers to pay close attention to how audiobooks are obtained and consumed. Audiobook apps, by such companies as iScroll, have emerged, pairing visuals—covers or scrolling text—with the audio production. Audiobook retailer apps from Audible and library patron-accessible apps from OverDrive now allow consumers to feed their habit while standing in line at the grocery store or by plugging their smartphones into car radios. The car is still the most popular location for listening to audiobooks, so ensuring we keep up with the technology changes is key.