From Publishing Trends:
Are you a good listener? More and more people consider themselves to be, and the evidence is impressive: according to NPD Group, audiobook sales grew 22.7% with over 46,000 audiobooks published in 2017, and podcasts now total more than 500,000, up from 150,000 last year. According to eMarketer, 73 million people in the US will tune in at least monthly, and 52% listen to four or more podcasts a week.
But we only have two ears and a limited amount of time to juggle our TV-watching, social media posting, and reading – so what wins in the aural battle?
Audiobook publishers interviewed for this article agree that, if a battle is brewing, it’s not between podcasts and audiobooks. Macmillan Audio President and Publisher Mary Beth Roche believes podcasts have helped develop the audiobook audience, especially among younger readers, as listeners are “reintroduced to the spoken word.” And though they have separate business models, the formats overlap – e.g. Courtney Summers’ Sadie, which integrates a character’s podcast into the audiobook, or Welcome to Night Vale, which started as a podcast and became a book – and are often complementary, as when Macmillan released the Time To Parent audiobook and podcast show in the same week. Increasingly, publishers use podcasts to promote an author’s audiobook and audiobooks advertise on popular podcasts, with Audible in the top ten list of advertisers.
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Usually, comparisons between audiobooks and podcasts focus on whether fans of one are likely to be fans of – or converts to – the other. But, as smart speakers like Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Homepod become more ubiquitous, listeners of either will have more options to hear both: two of the top three daily smart speaker requests from nine pm to midnight are short stories or audiobooks, and 49% of podcasts are listened to at home. Also, a whopping 74% of the smart speaker owners who listen to podcasts do so directly from the device, not through their mobile apps.
Smart speakers, also referred to as voice-first devices, are seen by many as a boon to the audiobook industry. “Everyone who has a smart speaker has an audiobookstore in their home,” says Penguin Random House Audio President Amanda D’Acierno.
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Libraries still remain major drivers for audiobook consumption as well. According to the Audio Publishers Association (APA), 52% of listeners said borrowing from a library or library website was instrumental to their listening habit, 43% said they downloaded an audiobook from a library, and 14% said they most often use the library for their digital listening. Fiction, specifically genres like mystery and thrillers, are top categories.
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The lines are already blurring: while podcasts take advertising and audiobooks don’t, on-demand internet radio platforms like Stitcher Premium offer podcasts either as ad-free paid subscriptions or as ad-supported exclusive podcasts available only to Stitcher Premium subscribers. Case Closed, a true crime podcast which will be published as an audiobook after its run, is exclusive with Stitcher for six months. Meanwhile, Podglomerate CEO Jeff Umbro, who also hosts a podcast called Writers Who Don’t Write, believes advertising may become more common in audiobooks – though an ad-supported platform with free audiobooks is a possible scenario as well.
Link to the rest a Publishing Trends