“Podcasts are the gateway drug for audiobooks” – the words of Tom Webster, Vice President of Strategy at Edison Research. at the 2016 Audio Publisher’s Association Conference in Chicago. Webster pointed to an explosion in podcast listening as a major reason why audiobook listening is on the rise. He explained it’s directly tied to an increase in listening over smartphones.
Podcast Listening this year is showing sharp gains on both a monthly basis (17% to 21%) and weekly (10% to 13%). Those who consume podcasts on a weekly basis listened to an average of five podcasts per week.
The podcast explosion really took place with a 17-year-old murder case that riveted the nation. A 2014 free podcast series called Serial, a nonfiction story from the producers of This American Life, reopened the investigation into the 1999 strangling death of a Baltimore high-school student and her former 17-year-old boyfriend now serving a life sentence for the crime. Hundreds of thousands tuned in weekly for a great audio storytelling experience and Serial became the most popular podcast in the world.
When I told a teenager recently I was an audiobook narrator and producer, he told me enthusiastically, “I listen to audiobooks…those are the really long podcasts!”
As I wrote in my blog The Audiobook Revolution is Real, audiobook listening on Audible rose 38% last year, and audiobook sales have increased 20% worldwide each of the past two years.
“Media consumption is showing signs of being dramatically changed by both technology and by new paradigms,” said Edison’s Webster. “The rise of alternative content forms, such as podcasts and ‘bingeable’ content from on-demand video services is subverting the myth that our attention spans are shorter.“
Authors can use excerpts from their audiobooks to showcase their books in podcast format. If podcasts are indeed a gateway drug to audiobook listening, let’s hope a new generation of listeners gets hooked!