The Symbiotic Future of Localized Audiobooks and Podcasts

Last month, the Audio Publishers Association held its largest conference ever, with 600 attendees converging on New York’s Jacob Javit’s Center. CMI’s Director of Business Development, David Kirk, was there to discuss audio trends — including audiobook localization. He took some time to discuss the event in a conversation with CMI’s CEO Haitham Wahab below.  

Haitham Wahab: So Dave, How was the conference? Anything of note to highlight? 

David Kirk: The event was terrific! One of the keynote speakers spoke about podcasts, which seem to be of great interest to audio publishers. While the business models are different (most podcasts rely on advertisers) publishers are looking for readers to pay and there’s a great deal of overlap between telling stories and compelling interest in hosts talking about those stories.

Podcasts themselves can be a potent device to generate interest in books. One of the top podcasts is about Game of Thrones, for example. And there’s a new podcast about family secrets, based on a bestselling memoir. So maybe there’s a growing opportunity for podcasts to grow out of these books, and get consumers interested in the subject matter to talk about these books.

HW: From the consumer point of view we have industry insiders tell us they’re looking to be entertained and informed in audio format. Audio is audio, whether it’s an audiobook or a podcast. There’s also a tremendous resurgence of audio-only as an entertainment format. It’s kind of funny the way things go around — video killed the radio star, but here we are in 2019 and people are very much rediscovering audio-only, the old gather-around-the radio model.

Now, however, it’s very portable and you can do what you have to do in public environments — while you’re running, walking across the street, traveling, shopping. In podcasting and audiobooks, the formats are different but feed on each other’s tremendous success. Some of the big podcasts are about audiobooks.

DK: It’s an important thing to keep in mind. That this renaissance of audiobooks is purely related to smartphones and portability –from the car, or anywhere you go. If you think about it, the audiobook started as book on tape - a cassette player in the car or in a Walkman. You had to take several cassettes with you. Now you have an Audible app and access to thousands of books wherever you are. The digital revolution has contributed more than anything to the explosion of all things audio.

HW: Audiobooks are a well-established form of entertainment—in and of themselves, they are not new. On a recent trip to Germany, I noticed how big they are, and the same in France. If you look at movies and distribution models, even the ones disrupted by streaming, it’s easier to serve international markets. The borders are not real; there’s no geographic limits on markets.

 What we’ve seen in the movie industry with the advent of Netflix even is that there’s already a model to distribute localized content through one single platform. I wonder if audio publishers are starting to grasp that too. I think analog will always have a marketing and distribution challenge to overcome. But there are some very real cost efficiencies for publishers with a large backlist of titles where they retained traditional audio rights. They could create the different versions of these different markets centrally, and reap real cost efficiencies. 

Distribution in a digital, borderless world is really just a matter of getting on the right platform and using marketing dollars to build awareness of its existence. Digital is delivering a lot of efficiencies both in cost and accelerated publication. 

DK: Back to podcasting, there’s also a fair amount of really entertaining story formats. Wherever there is talent in front of a microphone, you can have a lot more free-talking about an overall subject matter. People interviewing each other, riffing on certain subjects, if it’s crime-related for example, then things in a similar genre all focusing on the audiobook without a script for conversation is possible. At the end of day, it’s a live recording with native talent very comfortable with the subject matter.

HW: In the audiobook world, this is the revenge of the English Lit. major. Because in this digital work it revalues the words, the content and continues to deliver what they do best. Who are the best writers? What are the best stories, or subject lines out there? The editing job is so incredibly important. That gives large publishers a leg up in this digital world. They have the content and this unique strength gives publishers an understanding of the content itself. Coming full circle, that specific skill-set is really coming to the fore for a new market, in a new way. Which is a great thing. 

DK: Yes and because of the digital nature of the product, it is a global opportunity from day one. A winning formula in English can easily be duplicated in any other language, simply by localizing the already existing original content. No need to reinvent the wheel in French, German, Spanish, or any other language. 

CMI has all the talent and expertise to turn your awesome podcast into the next sensation in the nascent international podcast phenomenon.  If you’re in need of localization, dubbing and voice over assistance, CMI can help. Our years of experience in the industry get your media to the right place, in the right language, in the right format and on time. Contact us today!