March 4, 2024

The Content Creation Conundrum

The Content Creation Conundrum

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What is an audiobook? What is an audiobook publisher in 2024? What do they bring to the table? Is this arena solely the home of the traditional houses that have brought us paper for centuries? Much like the TV world, the last 5 years have seen a rapid acceleration in the wealth of high-level, award winning audiobook content generated directly from the very same audiobook platforms on which we consume. These retailers are becoming the publisher and the studio. Are publishers up for that fight?

As more and more directly-commissioned fantastic stories and addictively binge-worthy content is appearing in audiobook format exclusively and directly on the likes of Audible, Storytel, Podimo and virtually every other platform (surely Spotify, the great hope of addressing balance on the audio landscape are already commissioning), the glaring question has to be what does a book publisher do to play this same game? How do they stay relevant?

What does a book publisher do to play this same game? How do they stay relevant?

I’ve often cited the term disintermediation as something for publishers to be concerned by. This scenario, in which retailers and platforms would attempt, often successfully, to disrupt the author > agent > publisher route and directly contract authors for new original works has never been more acute. With big cheques and big marketing guarantees being offered, the temptations are understandable.

More recently I find myself questioning the very premise. Who’s disintermediating who? Authors and narrators aren’t wedded to their publisher for life. Writers often write for many outlets and in varying forms. A book publisher doesn’t have control over “their” author publishing a newspaper column, scripting a screenplay or writing a podcast. If the listener discovers a work, a story, a narrative that they find interesting or compelling and narrated by a voice they find comforting and informative, then who am I to question any sense of misguided authenticity surrounding who published it?

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