Celaya on the boom in audio content in Spanish-speaking markets

Celaya on the boom in audio content in Spanish-speaking markets

Javier Celaya is the founder and c.e.o. of Dosdoce.com, a member of the executive board of the Digital Economy Association of Spain, as well as head of institutional relations at the Spanish Digital Publishing Association (Aselid). He talks to Tom Tivnan.

Can you tell us a little about Dosdoce: why you set it up, and what services you provide?
Dosdoce.com was launched in March 2004, for the purpose of analysing the use of new technologies in the cultural sector (museums, libraries, bookshops and publishing houses etc) and publishes annual studies related to digital trends in the creative industries. Throughout the years, we have compiled more than 100 studies and reports on the impact of new technologies in different areas of the cultural sector—business models, audiences and marketing etc.

We also provide strategic management consultancy services, as well as digital skills training sessions to a wide range of cultural sector professionals, be it publishers, retailers, museums, librarians or others.

And just in broad terms, what changes have you seen with digital and new technologies in the Spanish- language markets in the 15 or so years since setting up Dosdoce?
In less than a decade, we have travelled “fast-forward” in the digital race. In Spain and Latin America, we first tend to neglect every new digital trend, but later on we embrace it as if it was ours from day one.

In just five years we have seen how nearly 10 million households in Spain, representing an audience of an estimated 23 million people, have stopped illegally downloading movies and television series to become paying users of platforms such as Netflix, HBO, Filmin or Movistar.

In just three years we have also seen how more than 150,000 people have become paying customers of e-book and audiobook streaming plat- forms such as Storytel, Nubico, Kobo and Scribd etc, burying the urban legend that in Spain we were never going to have a demand for streaming services. In fact, they are generating a new market of more than €15m per year, as indicated by Dosdoce.com’s latest reports.

In just a few months we have also seen the strong common commitment of the main print media outlets such as El Pais, El Mundo and El Correo to create unlimited subscription platforms for their content, attracting an audience of close to 400,000 paying users in Spain.

Now to audio in particular: can you give an overview of the Spanish markets—and some of the other markets you cover— at the moment?
As in many other international markets, audiobooks have become the centre of attention of the publishing sector in Spain and Latin America, with spectacular growth figures in the past three years. At the end of 2018, around 8,000 audiobooks in Spanish were available to readers, while in 2017 there were no more than 6,000 titles in Spanish. In 2019, the peak of 10,000 audiobooks in Spanish was surpassed and all the data indicates that in 2020, the figure of 14,000 audiobooks in Spanish will be reached.

The recent arrival of new audiobook and podcast platforms in the Spanish market, such as Audible and Podimo, will further increase the number of users consuming audio through streaming services. Last September, the Danish-based Podimo platform launched its premium version in Spain, offering 120 exclu- sive podcasts per month, with more than 2,000 original podcasts per year, as well as a wide selection of the best audiobooks in Spanish, for €3.99 per month. Podimo users will also be able to listen to more than 50,000 free podcasts in Spanish and 650,000 in English, with unlimited online and offline listening, which will coexist with the premium version.

Following in the footsteps of Storytel, which launched its service in Spain three years ago, Audible launched an unlimited streaming access service in Spain on 1st October this year, offering thousands of audiobooks and a wide selection of podcasts and original series for €9.99 per month. Unlike other markets such as the UK, France, Germany and the US, Audible has chosen an unlimited subscription service in Spain, instead of its standard one credited audiobook per month, undoubtedly because of the high penetration of this unlimited type of consumption service in Spain.

Italy is the only other country in Europe where Audible also offers an unlimited subscription service. Going unlimited in Spain implies Audible will not be able to offer to their unlimited customers Penguin Random House titles, since the publishing group decided earlier this year to withdraw all its e-books and audiobooks from all streaming subscription platforms worldwide (from Bookbeat, Beek, Scribd, Storytel, Nextory and Ubook, among others).

What are the key audio trends in terms of devices, genres and demographics?
Mobile and streaming are the devices and consumption model preferred by Spanish listeners. Unlimited subscrip- tion services are the main sales channel for audiobooks, accounting for 83% of total audiobook sales. Revenues generated by publishers specifically through streaming plat- forms has grown by nearly 600% in value in the past three years, creating a new subscription economy. Interestingly, fiction is the most listened-to category in Spain (60%), whereas non-fiction is the most listened-to category in Latin America (70%). Spaniards listen for entertainment, while Latin Americans listen to learn new skills or be better informed.

How do you think audio has fared over lockdown?
The new consumption habits derived from the coronavirus crisis clearly indicate that the growth of the consumption of streaming digital content will be unstoppable in this new decade. The category of audio- books and podcasts will grow very quickly in Spain in the coming months as the main unlimited streaming platforms (Audible, Storytel and Podimo) will invest a lot of money in marketing and advertising campaigns to encourage thousands of people to try these services for the first time. Like Netflix, subscription platforms with unlimited access to thousands of audiobooks and podcasts create new consumption habits, new audiences and new markets.

How do you see audio fitting into the overall streaming subscription economy; do things like Netflix and Amazon Prime help the audio market? Do streaming services help backlist?
Subscription platforms are today the main audiobook sales channel in Spain and Latin America, representing 83% of sales of this format, as indicated by the lastest Bookwire Spanish Markets Report. Audiobook sales in unitary download channels— also known as “à la carte”—barely represented 14% of sales in 2019, when a year ago they represented 21%. The increasing commitment of libraries to offer more audiobooks to their users has paid off, since this sales channel has increased from 2% to 4% of total sales in just one year. In this context of unstoppable growth in listeners, the income that publishers in Spain and Latin America have received specifically through audiobook subscription and streaming platforms has grown by nearly 600% in value in 2019, when compared to the previous year.

What about podcasts— obviously very popular in general, but how do you see that side developing for publishing? Should publishers be looking to podcasts more, and can it be a vital revenue stream?
Podcasts could become the entry door to the world of audiobooks to millions of new listeners. According to the VoxNest report, podcast listeners in Spanish have grown 94% during the first half of this year, and in September of this year, 41% of Spaniards listened to content in podcast format, making it the country with the highest proportion of listeners from around the world.

In this context, I strongly suggest publishers start looking into podcast- ing as a new source of talent for storytelling creation, as well as a new source of revenue, as new streaming services are launched to meet the demands of these new listeners.

Celaya will be speaking on the panel “The Subscription Economy: Looking at Consumption Behaviour” on 15th October at BST 3.20 p.m.