Bookseller Briefing 27/18 – week ending 6 June

The Bookseller


Relaunched AudioUK to support booming audiobook industry

UK audio production sector trade association The Radio Independents Group (RIG) is relaunching as AudioUK, and with a broader remit, in the wake of the audiobook and podcasting boom, “to put audio production at the heart of the UK’s successful creative industries”.

With supporters including Penguin Random House UK and Audible, the rebranded organisation has pledged its broader remit will ensure the whole audio sector is “well represented, celebrated and developed to make sure it maximises its potential”.

RIG was originally formed in 2004 to campaign for greater access to the BBC Radio schedules and fairer BBC terms of trade; however it now has close to 100 member companies including “many” audiobook and podcast producers.

“Working closely with the BBC, we achieved a big step forward for radio production in the 2016 BBC Charter Review, with a minimum of 60% of non-news BBC Radio content to be open for competition by the end of 2022. The next challenge is to maximise creative and commercial opportunities for the audio production sector across all its other markets, in the UK and internationally,” explained Phil Critchlow, AudioUK chair and c.e.o. of TBI Media.

“Many audiobook and podcast producers are already among our nearly 100 member companies, spread across the UK. Reflecting that wider industry in our brand will help us put audio production at the heart of the UK’s successful creative industries.”

As part of its mission, AudioUK will now provide several benefits to the audiobook industry through four new “pillars” of activity it has developed in the areas of business, representation, community, and excellence, according to Will Jackson, managing director of AudioUK.

Firstly, in the interests of business, Jackson said AudioUK wanted to grow a marketplace of creative companies from which audiobook companies can pick those with the best ideas and expertise for new projects. Secondly, he said its representation work would highlight the importance of audio production as part of the UK creative industries overall. Thirdly, he said AudioUK is building “a strong audio production community” across the UK with an aim to “increase the diversity and connectedness of the overall sector, meaning new talent is less likely to be overlooked”;

And, finally, by celebrating excellence – including through its Audio Production Awards sponsored by Audible UK and its Audiotrain skills programme – Jackson said AudioUK would reward people’s efforts in the sector and encourage the next generation of audio producers who would “continue to supply content publishers with the ever-greater amount of compelling content they need to satisfy audiences”.

Hannah Telfer, managing director for Audiences & Audio at Penguin Random House UK, said: “With UK audiobooks sales doubling in the last five years, it is vital to us that we publish our authors, their stories and ideas for audiences in audio as creatively as we do in our books. We’re delighted that AudioUK will champion the continued development of audio production expertise, ensuring audio plays an increasingly high-profile role in our Creative Industries here and internationally.”

Steve Carsey, senior director for Original Content at Audible UK, said: “As proud sponsors of the Audio Production Awards, we have found RIG a great partner to work with, and we have no doubt that its new brand and mission will ensure its continuing effectiveness going forward. Having access to a wide range of audio production partners, from established companies to emerging talent, is crucial to supplying new and innovative content to our growing audience. We look forward to working with AudioUK to help build an ever-stronger UK audio production sector.”

Caroline Julian, head of policy and public affairs at the Creative Industries Federation, added: “The UK is a global leader in audio content and AudioUK is an indispensable association for the wonderful diversity of the UK’s creative audio talent. AudioUK offers new opportunities for creatives to find new business markets, network, as well as share their stories for us all to hear.”

Audiobook sales have doubled in the last five years, according to data from the Nielsen UK Books & Consumers survey, which in April also reported audiobook purchases now account for 5% of consumer book spending in the UK. Further statistics from the Publishers Association (PA) released during Love Audio Week in June, reported audiobook downloads rose 22% last year. Chief executive Stephen Lotinga said then: “Publishers are investing and innovating in audio so that audiences can experience books in new ways and that is why it continues to be the fastest growing digital format.”

In the area of podcasting, six million adults or 11% of the adult population use a podcast in an average week, and almost three quarters of podcasting hours are listened to via a smartphone (72%), according to a spring survey from radio audience data provider RAJAR.

Meanwhile the audio ad production market is also growing, as figures from the Ebiquity ROI campaign database show, reporting that radio has the second best ROI of any medium, returning £1.61 on every £1 spent.

Buckingham Palace celebrates 50 years of Man Booker Prize

Publishers and past winners joined the Duchess of Cornwall at a reception at Buckingham Palace to celebrate 50 years of the Man Booker Prize last night (5th July).

Ten former Man Booker Prize winners attended: Julian Barnes, Paul Beatty, Peter Carey, Eleanor Catton, Kiran Desai, Alan Hollinghurst, Howard Jacobson, Marlon James, V. S. Naipaul and Ben Okri. Publishers at the event included Baroness Gail Rebuck, HarperCollins UK c.e.o. Charlie Redmayne, Bloomsbury chief executive Nigel Newton, Hachette UK c.e.o. David Shelley, Head of Zeus founder Anthony Cheetham, and Publishers Association c.e.o. Stephen Lotinga. Past judges at the event were Baroness Lola Young, Dame Carmen Callil DBE, Professor Sarah Churchwell, Dr Amanda Foreman, Professor Anthony Grayling CBE and Anthony Thwaite. Publisher Tom Maschler, who alongside Graham C. Greene was responsible for setting up the prize in 1968, also attended.

Speaking at the reception, Baroness Helena Kennedy, chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, said: “The 50th anniversary is a landmark year for the Man Booker Prize, celebrating the past, present and future. Literature has the power to change lives, quite apart from the writers who the prize honours tonight. It has an enormous influence in prisons, libraries universities and schools, the work of the Booker Prize Foundation would not be possible without the very generous support of the Man Group.”

Luke Ellis, c.e.o. of Man Group, acknowledged the contributions to the prize of past literary director Ion Trewin and Dotti Irving, who runs PR company Four Colman Getty. He also defended the still controversial move to allow US authors to compete for the award. “The extending of the prize to include all novels written in English and the establishment of the Man Booker International Prize are merely recognition of something we all know – that great ideas don’t respect boundaries, that real excellence wants to perform on the widest stage possible.”

The event marked the start of a weekend of anniversary activities. From Friday 6th to Sunday 8th July, all of the past winners in attendance will take part in the Man Booker 50 Festival at Southbank Centre. Featuring more than 60 speakers, the programme of literary debates, readings and masterclasses offers an unrivalled chance to hear these giants of fiction in conversation at the UK’s leading arts centre. The final event of the weekend, Golden Man Booker Live, will crown the best work of fiction from the last five decades of the prize as voted for by the public.