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Penguin Random House on audiobooks: Hannah Telfer interview

Last week Penguin Random House announced that it’s establishing its audio business as a standalone division, Penguin Random House UK Audio. Here we interviewed Hannah Telfer, MD Audio and Group Director of Consumer & Digital Development, on what’s new and next for audiobooks at Penguin Random House UK.

1) What exactly is the new audio division?

Audio was the fastest growing part of our Penguin Random House UK business in 2015. We had a record year with publishing highlights including our biggest-ever selling audio download with The Girl On The Train and fastest-ever selling title with YouTubers Dan and Phil’s The Amazing Book is Not on Fire.

In May 2015 Penguin Random House UK became the global exclusive publishers of BBC Audio, publishing audiobooks from the bestselling and award-winning drama, comedy and landmark factual programmes from the BBC Radio network and archives.

In total, we sold more than 30 million hours of audio and we know we can sell more.

By launching as a standalone division – Penguin Random House UK Audio – we will have one unified audio strategy across Penguin Random House UK with our expert audio team working hand-in-hand with their publishing colleagues – which is great news for our authors and our readers.

As the UK’s number 1 audiobook publisher, we capture the benefit of this market for our authors and for the stories and ideas we are privileged to publish.

2) As a new department, what problem is being solved?

In a noisy world, audiences are discovering the pleasure of listening. Audiences are discovering the delight of being transported to new worlds, of experiencing new ideas, of hearing new voices.

At Penguin Random House, we believe there is alchemy to publishing audiobooks; that their magic is unlocked through the care with which they are produced.

We are expert here.

From the earliest possible conversations with authors and editors, we cast our audiobooks thoughtfully. The production of an audiobook is an intense and focused process. It’s intimate. We are uniquely placed to build on the intensity of the experience between author and editor and understand the story behind the story.

We find readers who will shine a light on the story. This can be the authors themselves, it can be actors, and it can be celebrities.

And we promote our audiobooks. From the fabulously successfully Penguin Podcast hosted by Richard E Grant, to our audience and author led campaigns, we are finding new and imaginative ways to market our books and partner well with our retailers.

3) Who is the target market?

Audiobooks are important because they reach distinct audiences and the spectrum is significant. Different audiences are growing the market. The profile of audiobook listeners in the UK is young and men are more likely to listen regularly than women.

Audiobooks over-index among BAME readers. This is critical for our industry. Audio has the potential to reach a more diverse audience than physical books and ebooks

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

At Penguin Random House Audio we are ambitious.

We are ambitious about integrating audio into our publishing strategies – to tell our stories well.

We are ambitious about pushing the boundaries of audiobooks – to seeking new listeners for our authors

We believe Audio can be a vanguard for books in a world of entertainment.

5) What will be next for Penguin Random House UK audio after this?

Watch – or should that be listen to – this space.

Hannah Telfer is responsible for consumer insight, group marketing & audience development, digital publishing & product development and the Penguin Random House UK’s Audio business. Prior to this she was Director, Digital Marketing and Digital Product Development at The Random House Group leading an award-wining programme of digital publishing and marketing.

audio publishing, audiobooks, BAME, BBC, Hannah Telfer, Penguin Random House, Penguin Random House UK Audio

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