Since I started living by myself, consuming different content in audio format has become increasingly present in my routine: I listen to the latest news in a podcast released daily at 6 am, I usually prepare lunch while listening to true crime stories and I often listen to some guided meditation to help me fall asleep at night. All this after remote work: until then, the path to work was accompanied by several audiobooks that I listened to.
Considering myself part of the audience of people who often prefer to consume content through their headphones, it caught my attention when, last week, Spotify executives announced to their investors that the company’s next bet is audiobooks – and that they would become the new pillar of the business.
According to Spotify CEO Daniel Esk, “we believe that audiobooks, in their many different forms, will be a massive opportunity” – and following the last year’s announcement of the acquisition of Findaway, an audiobook platform that allows authors to create, distribute and monetize their work, this has become even more noticeable.
Why Spotify is investing in audiobooks
It is not difficult to understand why Spotify has directed its efforts in this new direction. In 2010, data from Audio Publishers Association pointed to 6,200 audiobooks produced; in 2015, that number was close to 36,000; but just five years later, in 2020, that number has practically doubled: 71,500 new audiobooks produced.
According to Grand View Research, the global audiobook market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 26.4% from 2022 to 2030 to reach USD 35.05 billion by 2030. That sounds good, right?
This happens probably for a social reason: with Generation Z and Millennials as its main consumers, the audiobook market is dealing directly with a young, busy audience with no time to waste.
Born and raised with the technological advances of the last decades, these young people are used to performing several activities at the same time, often sharing the focus of manual tasks with something that requires more concentration.
For many representatives of these generations, multi-tasking optimizes the time and makes it more productive: that’s why so many young people take the opportunity to listen to an audiobook or podcast while doing the dishes, hanging the laundry, taking the dog for a walk or cleaning the house.
Unlike the video format, you don’t have to stare at the screen to stay focused or fully understand the subject.
So it’s no surprise when a research by the Audio Publishers Association shows that 54% of audiobook listeners are under the age of 45 and that among Americans over 13, consumption of this content format has grown by 60% since 2017.
And according to Grand Review Research, “the growing popularity of audiobooks among the younger generation is predicted to boost market growth, as these individuals are likely to encourage their families and inspire their peers, resulting in a larger pool of potential customers”.
But if on the one hand the advancement of technology allowed the increase in sales of audiobooks – since consumers can listen to their favorite books on their cell phones and no longer store them on CDs and cassette tapes -, the interest in past decades, in what is vintage and retro products of this generation also helps explain the growth of audiobooks and the interest in audio content.
According to Spotify’s Culture Next Report 2022, more than 73 percent of Gen Z respondents said they like retro products or content – and we can say that the audio-focused content experience is nothing more than the return of the radio era – now, with wireless headphones and no bad reception noises.
The COVID-19 pandemic also played an important role in the audiobook market: data from the same survey show that since the lockdown – where many people had to adapt their work routines to the home office – there has been a considerable increase in the consumption of podcasts and audiobooks, while many users were looking for a “no-screens” time and different ways to relax at home.
In a market where free time is disputed by different consumption channels and different streaming services, I would venture to say that Spotify is betting big for our attention: with a visually fatigued generation, the music + podcasts + audiobooks combo seems to me to be a good path for the company.
How audiobooks can be a good channel for Marketing
With all the growth potential of the audio content industry, what would be the main challenges for advertising in such a specific consumer format?
The advantages seem to be clearer: considering everything you’ve seen so far about the audiobook industry, Spotify’s CEO himself said that “what our successes in music and podcasting has clearly demonstrated is that we have built a powerful machine and solid infrastructure that enables us to go after new verticals,” which seems to me to be a demonstration of how large the available audiobook audience is and how much advertising can be reached through the platform.
The company hopes to reach a global audience of over 422 million users by entering the audiobook industry.
But in addition to the channel and offers with new subscriptions, book previews, different plans for access to specific books, and even Spotify freemium subscription options, it is essential to analyze how the audiobook format and its distribution impacts on companies and marketers, advertising and Marketing agencies.
Find your audio audience
First, it is important to understand that the audience for audiobooks is essentially different from the audience for printed books – and Spotify knows that better than anyone.
It is not about “updating” a type of user’s consumption, but learning that they are different formats, with similar purposes – therefore, companies that invest in personalized and specific audio Marketing strategies tend to find good (and creative) growth opportunities.
The next step to take advantage of this channel in an assertive way is nothing new: get to know your persona! As Ardath Albee said, “A Marketing persona is an outline of a key segment of your audience. For Content Marketing purposes, you need personas to deliver really relevant and useful content to your audience.”
Therefore, the persona will help you to determine the types of content you will create, what tone to use, what your growth strategy will be, and especially whether you will invest in creating audiobooks or in publicizing your services or products in audio advertisements.
So use the persona to identify the buyer’s journey of your potential customer and understand the particularities of the segment of people who consume content in audio format. With that in hand, you’ll be able to find potential investment niches – podcasts and audiobooks that can relate to your product or service.
Say what they want to hear
After identifying the best channels for dissemination of your content, it is necessary to define the type of content that your audience is willing to hear – and, therefore, it is essential to produce relevant, educational content and always related to interesting topics for your persona.
If you’ve already produced a lot of content teaching something step-by-step, how about developing small audiobooks with these instructions? And have you ever thought about turning your top 10 blog articles into a series of podcast episodes?
Although more challenging for advertising, this channel allows marketers to explore creativity and encourages more personal and connected approaches with the audience.
According to Spotify Culture Next 2022, “Audio helps Zs explore the most niche sides of themselves and discover identities they never knew they had. In fact, 80% of American Zs said audio allows them to explore different sides of their personalities”.
And unlike the passive entertainment of movies and TV series, audio-drama series offer an immersive experience, spark the imagination and stimulate the creativity of the listener.
So, take advantage of the channel to explore the imagination of those who are listening – always in order to generate value, not just to sell something!
Find good partners
As The New York Times pointed out in 2021, digital influencers play a strong role in defining consumer culture today. When strategizing in the audio content market, therefore, it is interesting to consider these figures as a new – and often efficient – path to reaching Gen-Z and Millennials.
You can look for well-known podcasters to promote your product or service, even outside of the audio format. After all, many of them already occupy a position of digital influence on other platforms, such as Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.
This makes the audiobook an even more easily shareable content, which can further increase your presence and mentions on social media.
But if you prefer to invest directly in promoting in audiobooks and podcasts, offering a unique and exclusive discount code to listeners of that content can be a good option. For more assertive data tracking, however, it is wise to send a specific link to be added to the episode description.
Learn from those who have already done it
A good example of investing in audiobooks is when the dimensions of the same content speak in different formats. I’ll explain better: the Harry Potter series, originally released in printed book format, has already been turned into a movie and had its actors strongly related to the roles played in the film series.
Last year, Spotify announced the release of the audiobook of the first book of the saga narrated by celebrities such as Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter), Stephen Fry (who read all the audiobooks of the series), Eddie Redmayne (who plays a wizard in the series that proceeded Harry Potter, “Fantastic Beasts”) and even the globally famous football player David Beckham.
Another example is described by Maria Snelling in “The Audiobook Market and Its Adaptation to Cultural Changes”. The true crime podcast “My Favorite Murder” boosted the sales of the audiobook Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, as its audience was already engaged in the format and theme of the audiobook, the same present in the podcast.
Reading the book in audio format, according to the article, was “disproportionately more successful” than the printed book.
I hope these tips can help you understand and invest more in strategies related to audio content format. I’m sure you will find interesting opportunities! And if you (like me) are also a consumer of podcasts and audiobooks, or want to start with quality content, be sure to listen to Rock Content’s Jam Sessions to always be updated with Marketing Trends.