A Change is Coming: How to use digital audio to target untapped customers and grow the publishing market

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Hannah Wolfson is a lover of all things literature. She has had the pleasure of heading up Team UK at BookBeat since its market launch in March of last year.

The publishing market in the Sweden is growing and it’s all thanks to digital audio. BookBeat believes we’ll see the same trend in the UK. I know what you’re thinking. “Who are BookBeat and why should we trust them?” Hear us out. Long story short,

BookBeat was commissioned by Bonnier Books Sweden in 2015 to bring books to the digital age. We created an unlimited digital streaming service that allows users to enjoy as many audiobooks as they want for a flat rate. After a few years, BookBeat is a major player in the more mature Swedish market and undisputed market leader in Finland. Now we’ve expanded to Germany and the UK. So what have we learned?

Don’t shy away from digital audio

Upon expanding to the UK market, we’ve found hesitation when it comes to creating content and releasing digital audio streaming services due to Moral Hazard. If you’re familiar with economics, then you might know about Moral Hazard. If you’re not, here’s how it affects digital audio publishing in layman’s terms.

Publishers are worried that if they increase digital audio production and initiate distribution to digital streaming services, they will cannibalise other sales channels.

This is not true.

In Sweden, there has been a shift from physical to digital. We’ve seen an overall growth in sales and it hasn’t been at the expense of traditional sales channels. Between 2015 and 2017 overall traditional sales remained stable, while digital sales increased by 113%. This growth was aided by streaming services, like ours which contributed 6% of market growth over the last two years. Digital audio distribution bolsters a market. It does not cannibalise it. It will be possible to achieve this kind of growth in the UK. Here’s how.

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Grow the market – carve out your space

Instead of focusing on existing listeners, find new ones. The UK has major players acting in the world of digital audio, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for expansion and growth – carve out your space and create new listeners.

When BookBeat launched in Finland in 2016, there was virtually no digital audiobook market. Upon launch, we had 180 Finnish titles available – listening to digital audiobooks just wasn’t a common behaviour. That’s no longer the case.

Between 2016 and 2017 the digital audiobook market grew by 181% in publisher revenue. BookBeat contributed to nearly 90% of the growth by motivating publishers to create content and accessed untapped listeners.

You can create new behaviours and expand markets! Growth will not come from where readers are now, it will come from creating new listeners. There is a huge demographic waiting to be accessed in the UK. It’s women. A recent market survey we have done shows that men are primary listeners in the UK, whereas in Sweden 75% of listeners are female. If publishers are looking to grow the market, they need to get more women to start listening.

We’ve found that women want quick and easy access to great titles that they can enjoy even when their hands aren’t free. The same study also shows that 46% of listeners enjoyed using audiobooks as it allowed them to “do other things while listening”. Going forward, publishers should focus on producing and distributing titles that women enjoy to digital audio providers. They are the untapped market and will be key to market growth.

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In a day and age where multi-tasking consumers are attached to their devices, why wouldn’t you want to give them content right at their fingertips? Based on what we’ve seen in the Nordics, a more mature digital market, BookBeat expects the digital audiobook market in the UK will continue growing with double digits in the decade to come as untapped listeners (women) are accessed. To ensure that happens, UK publishers must have the courage to distribute more curated digital audio to digital streaming services. A change is coming and that change is digital audio: make sure not to fall behind.

Commissioned by Bonnier Books in 2015, BookBeat is an unlimited digital service that allows users to enjoy as many audiobooks as they want for a monthly flat-rate. BookBeat is a major player in the Swedish market, undisputed market leader in Finland and is now also available in the UK and Germany.

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