(ETX Daily Up) – As Audible launches its 1,100+ song unlimited listening catalog, Audible France General Manager Bertrand Etienne has revealed to us a secret about his subscribers’ preferences. Duration, genre, new formats and audio-focused series…meet.
Why launch this new unlimited offer?
Audiobooks are generally still a little-known format, but today we’ve reached two very important milestones. First, at the usage level of audiobooks. 27% of French people have listened to an audiobook in the past 12 months, compared to 8% in 2018 and 20% in 2020. It’s really evolving and we can see it starting to take root in French habits. From a more economical perspective, audiobooks now account for 2% of total book turnover. It really is a vehicle for the growth of the publishing house. Today, in addition to our current model of one audio credit per month, our subscribers will be able to access a variety of titles available for unlimited listening. We are working with participating publishers to roll out this model. In our catalog of 16,000 titles, over 1,100 titles will be available without limits. It’s important to say that this was done without a price hike.
Have you noticed a recent increase in listening to podcasts and audiobooks?
The practice during confinement period did increase. We did a study last year after the lockdown. More than half of the listeners were new listeners and discovered the activity during confinement. Our statement today is in response to these trends we are observing. We’ve seen a huge shift in listening trends and motivations, so we’re constantly evolving to meet these new expectations.
Before confinement, it was usually a reason to “study”. Today, the No. 1 reason is still “fitness.” But we’ve seen a surge in reasons to “break ties” and “be alone” during childbirth. Audiobooks became a way of escape. We spend a lot of time in front of the screen, in fact, “free yourself from the screen”, there is a moment when you can close your eyes, which almost doubles in terms of the reason to listen. Even today, this reason is still very important. Also, since confinement, we have observed a lot more listening between 8pm and 10pm, so the timing of listening has changed a lot. Before, listeners heard more in traffic.
Where does Audio Series stand for in your catalog?
We have a catalogue of 16,000 works in French, which is still the largest catalogue in French, and we have around 93 audio series in French. It has a low percentage at the category level but is arguably much higher in listening time since these are sound originals. We’re going to focus on them because we think they’re very innovative, like using 3D audio technology or other very unique production techniques. Our goal is to showcase the limitless possibilities of audio.
Do you think fiction will prevail in the audio world? Did you feel this appetite from the audience?
Science fiction and fantasy are the most-watched genres on Audible in 2022, followed by literature, crime fiction, children’s fiction, and romance. It’s interesting to compare it to a physical book. Ranked about the same. Audible’s science fiction and romance novels dominate. That is to say, these two categories will be slightly better in terms of audio than the physical world. We paid a lot for this. In fact, we are considering continuing to expand our catalog in this category.
What are these “current thoughts”?
Based on the comic “Lanfeust” voiced by Gérard Darmon. This one will be available with the Unlimited Catalog on Tuesday. Other items, usually quite secretive, will be announced in due course. We will publish 12 titles in 2023. These works will not have a single type, but will represent user needs.
You’ve launched a big production, a popular celebrity in France. Did you notice an increase in your subscribers after these releases?
Yes. This gives us legitimacy, and through that legitimacy, some people will discover the potential of audiobooks. Today, we do this more for the democratization and recognition of audiobooks than for pure business policy. We do this for brand image. We do this to explain what an audiobook is. These characters serve us first and foremost to guarantee that this audiobook will be on the dinner table of movies, TV shows, and be recognized as the real work. Because it really is an art. Today, we work with over 15 studios, over 450 actors, and 30 technical directors. There is a complete literary chain behind these works. Over the past two years, we have invested more than 12 million euros.
Do actors, actresses, directors or artists come to you for personal projects?
The name that comes to mind is Fred Testot because he worked with us on three different productions because he loved it. Overall, the actors enjoyed the experience. It’s nice to see how much fun they have, because they aren’t being filmed so they pay much less attention to their physical presence. However, they play as if they are actually in front of the camera. They know it’s demanding because you have to convey a lot of emotion through your voice and it usually takes a lot of recording time. Generally speaking, for an hour of rendering, we do two hours of recording. In a 10-hour audiobook, we’re going to be in the studio with this guy for 20 hours. Not to mention everything that can happen in production. It works because people really want it because it’s a popular format. We have very few rejections.
Have you observed any unexpected success?
Yes, there are two, “God Bless My English” by Paul Taylor. We even did it for three seasons and it worked well. When we looked at the 600,000 international titles in our catalog, we realized that the French listen to titles in certain original languages, such as Obama’s titles that Obama read. There is real added value indeed. This language and learning category works well, so we’re betting on it. Thriller categories, specifically “Killer Social Club” and “Styx”, are also very effective. Here are our two safe bets today.
Have you observed listener preferences for how long to listen to content?
Today, we are a bit biased about our model. That said, when you subscribe for 9.95 euros, we will encourage you to use the longer format. We know that there is one category that we haven’t pushed enough, but we’ve done a lot, and that’s the family category. Today, a third of listening is done with family members. This is something that has grown tremendously during lockdown, and today we don’t have a rich enough catalog. It’s usually in the short form, whether it’s “P’tit Loup” or “Enola Holmes”. All of these home formats will be a third of the Infinite Catalog because we think there is a real interest in short formats for families, children, educational purposes, to foster an interest in reading and develop children’s language. Home audio itself is a real market, which we will pay more attention to in the coming years.