In Nielsen’s consumer report into audiobook use published last year, a standout statistic was one that suggested half of all podcast listeners were also audiobook listeners.
This link between podcasts and audiobooks has often been questioned and it had been suggested that they were rivals for the attention of spoken-word consumers; that the no-fee model was a threat to audiobooks; that podcasts would ultimately devalue audiobooks.
What’s become clear is that they are more allies than rivals. Both podcast and audiobook listenerships are growing (podcast listenership has doubled in the past five years), with the key growth area 18-to 35-year-olds. The parallels are evident—and publishers have been quick to exploit the link by advertising audiobooks on podcasts. But is there also a creditable business case for publishers making their own podcasts?
Earlier this year at Bonnier Books UK, we began looking into the case for making a six-part podcast series called “The Barcelona Legacy”, to coincide with the book release of the same name.
As with any business venture, we sought to establish the parameters for success or failure before we set out—in this case, what was it we were looking to achieve with this podcast? We wanted “The Barcelona Legacy” to be a high-quality podcast: a rotating panel discussion, recorded in a studio, complete with host and producer. The outlay would be in the four figures. So where would we see a return on this investment? Could we see it as a standalone product, essentially another format of the work that would generate income through advertising?
This is an increasingly viable option, with platforms like Acast and Audioboom opening the door to podcast advertisers. And, certainly, many podcasters are now making a good living from title sponsors and the three advertising slots available in a half-hour podcast. “The Barcelona Legacy” is a football podcast, and sport is one of the most successful podcast genres, so it seemed likely that there would be advertiser interest.
Ultimately, however, our decision was to view this podcast not as a standalone product, but as a complement to the book and audiobook, a marketing tool designed to reach new audiences. The decision to go down this route changed the tone of the podcast and our measure of success. We trusted in the link between podcasts and audiobooks, and our barometer of success became audio- book sales. We plotted a sales curve for the audiobook figures we would expect to see for this title and then tracked whether our actual sales figures showed any significant deviation around the six weeks during which the podcast ran.
After five months of planning, it came down to six weeks of sales—and the results were dramatic. Perhaps we’ll make a podcast about it...
Jon Watt is head of audio at Bonnier Books UK. He will feature in a session entitled Cutting Through: How to market in a post-GDPR, post-influencer age at this year’s FutureBook Live conference, which takes place in London on 30th November. For more information about the conference and to purchase tickets, visit the FutureBook Live website.
Jonathan Wilson’s The Barcelona Legacy: Guardiola, Mourinho and the Fight for Football’s Soul was published in August by Blink Publishing (£19.99, 9781911600701). Six episodes of the tie-in podcast, “The Barcelona Legacy Podcast”, are available to listen to, for free, through a number of popular podcast providers.