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Here’s what book publishers can learn from the podcast model

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 1.38.08 PMDid you make the same mistake I did and assume podcasts are yesterday’s platform, that interest in them has plateaued (at best) and they’re not worth thinking about today? If so, here’s a short article that might help you re-think your stance. If you’re still not convinced have a look at the infographic in this article, paying close attention to the chart showing how podcast listening is on the rise.

What seemed like a fad that’s dying off is actually showing nice growth. I’m contributing to that growth as I now listen to a variety of podcasts during my daily work commute. As I leverage this medium I’m realizing it offers some very important lessons for book publishers:

Simple, easy subscriptions – When I discover a new podcast I’m interested in I literally click once to subscribe and the content stream comes to me. What could be easier? More importantly, what’s the analogy in the book publishing world? How do I “subscribe” to an author, series or topic? We all have our favorite authors. Wouldn’t it be terrific if a single click could initiate a subscription to everything they write in the future? That includes having samples of their new books delivered automatically to your preferred reading app/device.

Steady rhythm – Your favorite podcasts are usually delivered on a predictable schedule. Some are daily while others are weekly. This rhythm leads to anticipation, knowing that today’s edition will be loaded on your device at the usual time. This is another concept that’s totally foreign to book publishers. Books are released according to seemingly random schedules and some publishers are still even locked into the old “season” model. If you’re going to enable readers to subscribe to an author or topic as described above, be sure to produce a steady, engaging stream of valuable content for your audience.

Discovery – This remains one of the hot topics, always on the minds of book publishers. If you’re focused on discovery think about this question: How well do each of your products enable discovery of your other, related products? Some publishers still rely on back-of-book ads, even in ebooks. How about automatically delivering other, related content to your audience? A good example is how NPR promotes new podcasts. Yes, they advertise by plugging new ones in old, established podcasts. But recently I noticed they took the bold step of automatically downloading the first segment of a new podcast onto my device. I don’t recall opting in to that and it might irritate anyone keeping a close eye on their data plans but it’s a novel concept. I wasn’t going to seek that new podcast out and now all I have to do is click “play” to try it out, yet another example of one-click access and engagement.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the podcast marketplace it’s time to take a closer look. Subscribe to two or three that look interesting and see what other lessons can be learned.

Comments

Michael W. Perry

Great ideas. As a podcast listener and writer of books, I really should ponder how my experience consuming the former should be shaping how I create the latter.

I can certainly give examples that discovery works. The Grammar Girl's podcasts help draw attention to her grammar books. The Classic Tales Podcast makes listeners aware of his commercially sold audiobooks. And I suspect that, if the creator of the hughly popular podcast, The History of the English were to write a book, it'd sell quite well.

I'm no fan of making books multi-media, meaning blending audio and video with the text. I've noticed that readers don't like media shifting inside an ebook. But having a podcast that parallels a book or book series should work quite well. What does work is having the two in separate spheres but sharing a common theme.

And interestingly, podcasting on a topic is likely to work best with non-fiction and how-to. Most of the other techniques authors can use to increase sales, i.e. making the first book in a series free or cheap, work best with fiction.

Glenn McCreedy

As it happens, my favorite podcasts are author interview podcasts produced and distributed by the Authors on the Air network, they can be found at http://authorsontheair.com/podcasts
Looking at your bullet points: Subscriptions, Steady Rhythm, and Discovery -- if you're interested in books and authors, these podcasts offer a lot.

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