4 reasons why publishers should consider music focused streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music


Carla Herbertson joined Zebralution, a leading distributor of digital media content, as their Head of UK Audio Content in January. She has been working in the audio industry for twenty years, starting her career as a BBC Producer across a variety of programmes. Before joining Zebralution in January, Carla developed audio strategies for numerous services and products for the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

1. More than music alone!

With streaming membership services now offering spoken word in the form of podcasts, it is only natural for audiobooks to be at the forefront; opening up new target group opportunities for publishers who are willing to operate in the same ecosystem.

Some podcast numbers:

  • The latest Edison Research Consumers‘ Survey reported that 68% of all US podcast listeners have listened to a complete audiobook. Additionally they noted that podcast listeners listened to twice the number of audiobooks last year as others who listened to audiobooks.
  • Here in the UK a recent RAJAR Midas Audio Survey revealed that 6 million adults (or 11% of the adult population) use a podcast in an average week. This figure does not include the younger audience (more on this later).
  • We all know that the audiobook market is booming, Nielsen UK Books & Consumers Survey recently reported the doubling of audiobooks sales in the last five years. Jacks Thomas, director of The London Book Fair told the Bookseller that audio was bringing new consumers into the market, perhaps encouraged by podcasts. She said that the rise in podcasts and the ease of listening on digital devices “may have turned on a new generation to the joys of having a book on the go“.

So podcasts are popular and music streaming giants like Spotify are taking the medium very seriously, recently announcing a reported 1 million US dollar deal with comedian Amy Schumer to produce an original podcast.

Publishers should treat podcasts as their new best friend. To actually be where the podcast listeners are is of huge importance.

2. Discover a new (younger) audience

Eighty percent of the total active streaming audience in the UK is 35 years and younger and half are younger than 25 years old. Most of them have not spent money on audiobooks previously and are interested in accessing content rather than owning it. And with a galore of apps flooding the market, if all audio content presents itself on their preferred platform then this would be more attractive to the for example young, busy, social-media-consuming 18-year-old.

Looking again at the RAJAR Midas Audio Survey 2018, on-demand music services hold a 34% audio share with 15-24 year olds, edging closer to the 46% who listen to live radio. Looking at the weekly reach % versus average hours per listener they reported that over 50% of 15-24 year olds are consuming 15 hours of on-demand music services on a weekly basis.

It’s also important to take note of what others in the audio market are doing to be relevant to their younger audience. Back in 2016 a YouGov report, entitled New Generations and the Future of Radio 2016, warned radio stations that younger listeners were turning to streaming. Ben Chapman, Head of Digital for BBC Radio, recently said that they are investing and experimenting to reinvent audio for those less likely to listen on air, ensuring younger listeners can enjoy quality, distinctive content when and how they want to.

3. It’s all about the data!

Some download platforms don’t like sharing data and prefer to keep their cards close to their chests. Besides daily figures from all relevant streaming services, distributors like Zebralution can provide demographic target group details like age, gender and country per audiobook and author.

The data publishers can collect could transform publishers’ understanding of their audience and can help increase business and marketing efficiencies (think about book tours for example).

4. Tried and tested and most importantly successful!

German publishers started distributing audiobooks to music-focused streaming services in 2010 through Zebralution. Last year the company reported a 7-digit revenue figure for their established German publishers with millions of daily streams. Most importantly the revenue reported is additional to the also increasing download figures, which means no cannibalisation.

“Streaming adds an additional layer to the existing audiobook business,” says Kurt Thielen, Managing Director of Zebralution. According to Thielen for participating publishers in Germany, streaming can account for around a third of their sales. “Publishers who trial the service find themselves making more and more of their list available. Everyone who has worked with us, has increased the number of titles they enter into Zebralution’s catalogue, and publishers have seen that the cannibalisation they feared has not happened.”

Use the streaming services for your benefits: Experiment with genres, collect valuable data, nurture the listener of the future. It’s time to befriend these music-loving podcast listeners and let them in on the amazing gems the audiobook world has to offer.


Carla Herbertson

Head of UK Audio Content

Email: carla.herbertson@zebralution.com

Tel: +44 (0)7931728008

Zebralution is one of the leading distributors of digital media content, from music and videos, audiobooks and dramas to mobile entertainment products, with offices in Germany, London, Paris, Barcelona and Los Angeles.


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