Tag: audio

Audiobooks

Narrating audiobooks: an actor’s perspective

I’ve not been narrating audiobooks for that long really. I started when I left drama school in 2010, and have now read over 150 of them (some great, some not so great…!). It is a strange experience. You spend three or four days (sometimes longer), in what is essentially a padded cell, talking out loud to yourself in different voices. But if it’s a good book, I can’t think of many better ways to make a living. I love it. You get to meet and work with brilliant people, telling stories all week.

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streaming

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.

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The Words

The Words: a cup of coffee and podcast on the bus to work?

Yesterday Simon & Schuster UK launched a new podcast, The Words, a topical series of interviews, insights, discussions and ideas, plus exclusive essays from authors, on the world of books, culture and society. Here we interview Dawn Burnett, Marketing Director, to find out a little bit more.

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Podcasts for book lovers to listen to over Christmas

Juggling lots of books at once can be overwhelming, so as we approach the end of 2017 sit back, relax, and open your ears to the following five podcast recommendations as well as their suggested reading companion. If you love reading the following titles, you’ll love listening to these podcasts…

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Quantum 2018

Don’t Delegate the Future: FutureBook event report

Friday’s FutureBook Conference, organised by The Bookseller, presented three conferences in one: alongside the main FutureBook programme, there were parallel streams on The Audiobook Revolution and EdTech for Publishers.

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Podcasts are trending – Here’s how to start now

Podcasts have steadily gained popularity over the past few years with more people looking for on-the-go entertainment as they multitask through hustle and bustle of daily life. #BookMarketingChat (read our entire Book Marketing Chat summary here) guest Rachel Moore shared her tips for starting your own podcast.

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Authors: Don’t overlook audio

Audiobooks are on the rise, particularly in retail. This is the ideal time for you to reconsider audio publishing. W.F. Howes Ltd’s Acquisitions Editor, Rachel Gregory, looks at how you can get involved.

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Infrastructure of publishing business

Talking Podcasts: The Extraordinary Business Book Club

In the second article in our Talking Podcasts series, Abbie Headon interviews Alison Jones, a regular contributor to the BookMachine blog and an expert commentator on all things digital, about her podcast, The Extraordinary Business Book Club.

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What a real ‘audiobook’ revolution would look like

Richard Brooks is a Researcher at Coventry University and the Project Manager of the Arts and Humanity Research Council project ‘Hidden Story’. At the recent FutureBook conference in London the ‘Audiobook Revolution’ was hailed as offering opportunities for publishers to reach a new demographic keen to listen to drama on the move. Yet audiobooks in their current form – as a single-narrator, spoken alternative to the print book – seems at odds with the drive towards convergence and experimentation in digital media. Audio fiction has long been a passion of mine. As a child, I remember earnestly taping Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy off the radio and chuckling to myself as I walked to school much to the bemusement of my friends. One of the joys of audio fiction it is the only media that can be (safely!) enjoyed whilst doing something else. It is this reason that has lead to the rediscovering of the medium by a younger generation; as bundles of CDs are exchanged for smartphones and streaming services there is now no need to put down a good book whilst rushing from home to office. Yet in the digital age, the distinction between audiobooks, as associated with published books and full-cast dramas aired on public broadcast radio – looks odd, especially when both now sit on your smartphone. Audible is perhaps the most notable example of where convergence across the divide is occurring. Exploiting its strong position in audiobook production and retailing it has moved into commissioning ambitious full-cast dramas creating a rush of excitement amongst independent producers. The expansion of channels to listeners has also enabled experimentation. Full-cast dramas are expensive and complex to produce, but independent producers like Big Finish have demonstrated that a compelling soundscape and readings from a number of narrators can be an attractive middle ground. A more explicit challenge to audiobook growth comes from the surge in high-quality free-to-air audio fiction available on iTunes, SoundCloud and Spotify. Often produced in serial form, dramas like We’re Alive (2009) and Welcome to Night Vale (2010) have attracted downloads in the tens of millions and benefit from alternative funding models such as crowd-funding and advertising. Podcast downloads compete for the same ears as audiobooks and may be faster to market, as seen with the release of Terms (2016), from the Wondery Network, a story about a maverick US president who wins a controversial US election. Yet podcasting is a crowded market and there remains untapped potential for the licensing of content to podcasters from the publishers of more recognisable authors. It should be no surprise that in a bid to compete in this market, BBC Radio has produced a series of high-profile Neil Gaiman titles including the much lauded ‘Neverwhere’ and ‘Stardust’ that aired this Christmas. Alongside licensing, there must surely be opportunities for publishers to use loyal podcast audiences for advertising. Audible has seized on this opportunity to promote its subscription services to the free-to-air market and podcasters would surely welcome the opportunity to promote books that match their content. The prevalence of smartphones and tablets also makes convergence with other media possible. BBC Radio and Owlfield have led the way with linking audio fiction with interactive media. Yet a perhaps more exciting avenue has been highlighted by the Six Conversations project which highlights how smartphones enable printed books to become platforms for other media such as audio. In this context its a short-step to then consider the market opportunity for ‘expanded edition’ books that come with soundscapes, music or character asides – perhaps as a way of refreshing Classics. One recent example that highlighted the potential to me, is the ‘The Dark Tome’ podcast. A story about a magical book that transports the young heroine to fantastical worlds, it is a serial drama that weaves together published short-stories into a mix of full-cast and narrated audio fiction. Now, just imagine for a moment if this had been published as an actual print book and where the magic of its stories were brought to life through links to audio dramas that could be change and be added to. For me at least, that would be a real audiobook revolution.
text-to-speech

Why is text-to-speech only an afterthought?

I spend a lot of time commuting to and from work in my car and I try to use the time wisely. I cycle through a playlist of podcasts every week but I feel like I’m missing out on other types of content. Regardless of your daily commute, I’ll bet you’d feel the same way if you’d stop to consider the possibilities. I’m thinking mostly about short-form content such as website articles, whitepapers and other documents. If someone sends me a link or I discover an interesting article online it’s highly likely I won’t have time to read it immediately. That’s why I typically save it in Instapaper or Evernote. This approach has turned me into an article hoarder as I have countless unread articles in both Instapaper and Evernote. So while I thought my problem was a lack of time at that moment, the truth is I rarely have time to read many of these things later either. To its credit, the Instapaper app for Android has a text-to-speech feature built in. But the way it’s implemented tells me it was added as an afterthought. Sure, I can tap the “Speak” button and sit back and listen, but how useful is that when you’ve got a bunch of 2-4 minute articles stacked up and you’re trying to go hands-free while driving along the highway (or taking a walk, or running on a treadmill, etc.)? Publishers sometimes talk of engaging with the consumer who’s reading their content while standing in the proverbial grocery store check-out line. Next time you’re in line at the grocery store look around. Nobody reads like that. Some people have their phones out but they’re probably scanning Facebook or sending a text message. Rather than heads-down reading you’re more likely to see people with ear buds in, listening to music while they shop or wait in line. And let’s face it: nobody reads while they’re running or doing other strenuous activities. So along with all those “send to” buttons for various social and “read later” services, why isn’t there one built exclusively for text-to-speech conversions that open up all sorts of new use-cases for content consumption? The service has to do much more than just transform text to audio though. There’s an important UI component that needs to be considered. The entire platform has to be audio-based, including voice commands. Picture an app on your phone that has all the voice command capabilities of Siri or Alexa, for example. Whether you’re driving or running, all you’d have to do is say things like “skip”, “next article”, “archive”, “annotate”, etc. The user should be able to manually create playlists and the service should offer the option of automatically detecting topics and placing each article in a relevant folder (e.g., sports, business, DIY, etc.). Don’t forget the social aspect and opportunities here. Using voice commands I should be able to quickly and easily share an interesting article via email, Twitter, etc. Let me also keep track of the most popular articles other users are listening to so I don’t miss anything that might be gaining momentum. One business model option is probably quite obvious: insert short audio ads at the start of each article, similar to the plugs I’m hearing more frequently in podcasts. And since the article topic and keywords can be identified before streaming it’s easy to serve highly relevant ads that are closely aligned with the articles themselves; think Google AdSense for audio. Give publishers an incentive to feature new “send to audio” buttons on their articles by sharing that well-targeted ad income with them. Doesn’t this seem like it’s right in Google’s wheelhouse? I suppose they’ve got bigger fish to fry but this looks like an existing marketplace gap that’s just waiting to be filled. Joe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, ‘Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies‘, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.
vintage

How to build a community: Interview with Will Rycroft

Will Rycroft is Community Manager at VINTAGE, and speaker at our next event, ‘How to build a community‘, on the 18th May. VINTAGE books have over 80,000 Twitter followers and over 250,000 fans on Facebook, so it’s quite the community. Here Norah Myers interviews Will to learn more..

1) Why was it important to include a podcast as part of Vintage’s community?

Audio has been growing in importance for several years now and podcasts and audio books have never been so popular or easy to download. The intimacy of the listening experience means it’s a really effective way of communicating about our books. We knew that we had a range of writers and books that would allow us to create brilliant monthly podcasts involving interviews and readings but also stimulating content like cocktail making, food and location-specific recordings. All of this is to show the diversity of VINTAGE’s publishing and also our place as part of a wider cultural conversation.

2) How have you seen Vintage’s offline community – book launches, literary events – grow as a result of the online conversation?

Social media has allowed us to live-tweet events so that people could get an idea of how amazing they can be (this enhanced even further when they see tweets from other people there too). We’ve definitely seen our online community keen to meet us and each other offline and when we trialed a literary walk in London last year, with no idea if anyone would turn up, we were thrilled to see so many join us. We’ll be doing even more VINTAGE Walks this year.

3) Which social media platform has been the most effective for engaging conversation? Why?

Twitter, without a doubt. That’s how the platform is set up really and our approach on there is all about starting and participating in conversation. The fact you’re communicating in real-time, to multiple people but without a clogged feed, means it’s perfectly suited. We’re not there to sell books directly; we’re there to share our passion for them. Even things like the new polling feature can help stimulate conversation and engagement.

4) Why does using visual content in posts – GIFs and pictures – increase engagement?

People love to share things on social media so if you have a gorgeous picture of your books, or a scene to share, then your followers are more likely to share it to theirs. I love GIFs, mainly because they make me laugh and can communicate several things at the same time. They also allow you to reference films, music and popular culture whilst talking about your books. If you imagine someone scrolling through their feed, what posts do you think are going to stand out: text-only or those with a picture, GIF or video?

5) How should social media managers prepare themselves to use new apps and platforms?

Don’t rush in with your brand account. Download new apps and platforms and try them out personally first. Follow other accounts to see what they’re doing and keep an eye out to see what works and what doesn’t. Beware of spreading yourself too thin however. New apps and platforms seem to launch every week and very few of those that break through are attracting lots of users a few months down the line. We concentrate our energies on the main platforms whilst keeping an eye on those that might fit us in the future.

6) What is the best publishing-specific advice you could give to social media managers?

Keep it authentic. People can spot a phony (and will relish the opportunity to point it out!). When it comes to books, the readers you’re talking to will be passionate and fervent so you have to know your stuff – if you get something wrong they WILL tell you. But generally, as long as you’re communicating who you are, what you stand for and doing so with belief, you can’t be wrong. Unless you’re actually wrong of course. Will Rycroft seeks to engage the reading community wherever they are with his passion for books. He commissions and creates digital content for VINTAGE’s social media channels and the new Penguin consumer website. You can follow his musings on Twitter, his vlog on YouTube and hear him interviewing authors and more on the VINTAGE Podcast.
audio

10 pieces of sound advice on audio publishing from #Quantum16

Videl Bar Kar (Penguin Random House, UK Audio), Claire Powell (audioBoom) and Adam Martin (Acast) formed the panel on Audio Publishing at the Quantum conference today. Here are the top 10 things we learned.

The Market

1) People are listening to podcasts and audiobooks on their runs, commute, in the car and when going to sleep. 2) Men listen more regularly than women and audiobooks reach a more diverse audience in comparison to print. 3) Podcasts are proving to be a highly engaging and intimate means of storytelling. Once people start to listen to them, they tend to carry on. 4) Podcast production is dominated by white middle class men. It’s not making the market any bigger and this needs to change in order to reflect the audience and content available. A broader, mass, millennial appeal needed.

Monetising Podcasts

5) Only when a podcast is downloaded is data available on how much it’s listened to, at which points users stop listening, and how they are shared. It’s hard to monetise without this. 6) Producers are beginning to incorporate data for streaming too, so that they can inform creators of what’s working and what’s not. 7) Data shows that an endorsement by the host is most effective form of advertising and that the commercial message better received. Creators are changing the model: it’s not the advertising agencies coming up with ideas, but the podcaster telling the brand’s story in their own way. If the creator gets it right, the users wants to stop and listen, not skip ahead.

Discoverability

8) The current challenge is reaching potential new users. Go direct to your audiences with links to, and snippets of, your content, e.g. Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. Users will often find the gateway show that pulls them in. 9) Listeners are discovering new podcasts by reading recommendations on podcasts themselves. 10) Curated podcast playlists are also becoming increasingly popular.  
audio

Startup snapshot: The Owl Field

Michel LafranceMichel Lafrance is the founder and managing director for The Owl Field, an audio entertainment company specializing in 3D audio storytelling. In addition to managing the startup, he is the content producer and sound designer. Here we interviewed him.   

1) What exactly is The Owl Field?

The Owl Field is about 3D Audio storytelling. We produce immersive audio dramas that place the listener as the story’s central character, and from a first person perspective, everything happens around the listener in a 3D audio soundscape. Characters, sound effects and music surround the listener just as in the real world. The listener wears a pair of headphones, closes their eyes, and is simply transported to their virtual world.

2) What problem does it solve?

Audiobooks have seen amazing growth over the past five years, but the future of entertainment is immersive media like virtual reality and 360video. Our audio dramas fill the current gap between traditional audiobooks and virtual reality, and are a way for publishers to keep pace with those future forms of entertainment. Filling this gap would help attract new listeners, would provide new content for existing fans, and would offer a virtual experience for people living with sight loss who are currently completely underserved in the visuals-based virtual reality industry. audio 3D

3) Who is your target market?

Our storytelling format can be applied to any story genre so our target market is wide open. We currently have numerous productions for ages 13+, and also one for ages 3+ that we plan to turn into a series. The beauty of 3D audio is that it can be experienced on any standard pair of headphones. There’s no need to purchase expensive or clunky virtual reality headsets so it’s an affordable and accessible form of virtual reality for everyone.

4) What are your goals for the next few years?

We want to be a pioneer in 3D audio storytelling. The popularity of audio entertainment will continue to grow over the next few years and with it the demand for immersive experiences. Our goal is to work with publishers to meet that demand by giving authors and publishers an exciting new format for existing fans and by attracting new listeners to publishing audio entertainment.

5) After you initial success, what will be next for The Owl Field?

We’ve just released a new podcast for all things 3D audio and we’re currently pursuing funding for our next production. We’re thrilled to be working with an award-winning fantasy audio drama writer for it and are equally excited to be augmenting the experience by adding elements of interactivity and personalisation. You can get in touch with The Owl Field via email, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
skills for publishing

2016: A license to innovate

This is a guest post from Tom Chalmers, Managing Director at IPR License, on rights and licensing in 2016. The advent of any New Year tends to generate numerous calls to action from many sectors within the business world, so why should the publishing industry be any different? 2015 was, by and large, a positive year which saw some significant growth across many areas of the market. Looking forward, some of these sectors will be coming under increased pressure and the impact of such will provide plenty of interest within the industry and beyond.

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