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Audiobook streaming: Understanding the megatrend
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Posted by IPG
Ebook and audiobook specialist Bookwire considers the impact of streaming on publishers’ content
Streaming is transforming the music market. After years of decline due to piracy through copied CDs and shared networks, it is becoming clear that curated playlists and the flat rate subscription model have instigated a period of serious growth in sales. And now the music industry’s megatrend has reached the audiobook industry too.
Streaming market leader Spotify hit 70 million subscribers in January—effectively more than tripling its userbase over the past three years. Spotify’s biggest competitor, Apple Music, announced 30 million subscribers last September, and while players like Deezer and Amazon Prime Music are quieter on numbers, they are growing rapidly too.
Publishers are starting to capitalise on the opportunities in audiobook streaming. The Bonnier group has launched the BookBeat platform internationally, adapting the streaming model to appeal to heavy audiobook users by offering unlimited access in return for a monthly subscription. In Germany, where the audiobook market is well developed, more progressive publishers have been making their catalogues available on music streaming platforms for a while. They make up to 30% of their digital revenues through these channels now, without any serious cannibalization.
Forecast of the German sound carrier industry for the development of the streaming business. Source: Bundesverband Musikindustrie
So far in publishing, Audible, a 100%-owned subsidiary of Amazon, has created and dominated the digital audiobook market in many countries. It has accomplished its dominance through an attractive credit subscription model with high-quality content, and has grown its catalogue of original productions and exclusive podcasts over the years.
Digital platforms like this are more important to publishers’ revenues, market reach and user base than ever. This audio trend is here to stay, and all publishers would do well to consider the opportunities for their business. Wider digital adoption of things like smartphones, smart speakers and cloud technology have made audio streaming much more appealing and accessible—to young people in particular. Bookwire’s own figures show that 70% of users are aged under 40, and 30% are younger than 25. These young people are unlikely to stop consuming audio content through flat rate models and return to traditional download offerings or CD purchases, and they will take their habits into later life.
The popularity of streaming among the young demographic. Source: Bookwire
The challenge for publishers is how to respond to the trend. What content should you make available? How can you use digital and social media marketing to reach this huge new audience? What is the right strategy for combining new channels with existing ones in a way that will grow rather than cannibalise sales? Bookwire would be delighted to talk to you about your options.
Bookwire is a Germany-based company providing publishers with support for the production, distribution and marketing of ebooks and audiobooks. It will be available for speed-dating-style meetings at the IPG’s Annual Spring Conference. For more about Bookwire’s services, click here.

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