October 27, 2021

Audible: Leading the Charge in Audio Publishing

By Sasha-Gay Trusty, NYU SPS MS in Publishing student

For publishing students seeking a career in the world of content, the landscape is wider than ever. A group of MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media students learned about the exciting developments in audio during a recent virtual visit to Audible hosted by Stacy Creamer, Vice President of Audible Studios, which publishes Audible Originals. Creamer came to Audible after a long and distinguished career as an acquiring editor at G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Doubleday at Penguin Random House, Reagan Arts, and the Hachette Book Group and as Publisher of Touchstone, an imprint at Simon & Schuster. “It was quite a transition,” she explained. “At first I asked myself how I got this job! I kind of reinvented myself.” For students listening in, it was refreshing and enlightening to hear that companies like Audible offer new avenues for content creation and welcome those with more traditional skill sets.

Audible was founded in 1995 by Don Katz. The company did not produce its first tangible product – a digital audio player with limited storage space – until two years later. Audible was purchased by Amazon in 2008 and since then it has grown into the most recognizable name in audio media. Its services include: providing and publishing content for customers, offering production tools, and selling rights for various audio media professionals. “We have people from all kinds of backgrounds,” said Creamer. “There are people like me who come from a traditional publishing background, but there are also those who come from industries like TV and radio.”

Stacy Creamer, Vice President, Audible Studios

Martha Little, Director, Audible Studios

Audible’s exponential growth over the last ten years reflects an enormous interest in audio books. . “With the introduction of smartphones, people can listen to all kinds of audio content wherever they are,” noted Creamer. Audible’s superpower hinges on being both a marketplace and publisher of recorded media. There is an increasing demand for audio products beyond just audio books, and Audible has capitalized on the market by expanding its offerings to include alternatives such as podcasts and other audio content. “Learning to capture the ear in the middle of blackness, essentially, is a tough thing to do,” said Director of Audible Studios, Martha Little. “You want to be able to grab your audience very quickly. Hook the ear.”

According to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobook revenue grew 12% in 2020, as did podcast streaming - a byproduct of increased listenership due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, more than 45% of all Americans reported that they have listened to an audiobook. In addition to thousands of audiobooks in every category, the company now produces Audible Originals audiobooks and podcasts in genres for every type of listener. Creamer herself has edited Kevin Hart’s “The Decision,” Russell Brand’s “Revelation,” Charlamagne Tha God’s “We’ve Got Answers,” James Patterson’s “The Coldest Case,” and Gabrielle Bernstein’s “You Are the Guru.”Other original titles include “Mind-Body Zone: Living Outside The Box” a wellness podcast by Deepak Chopra, and “The Sandman: Act II,” the follow-up dark fantasy audiobook by Neil Gaiman and Dirk Maggs.

Developing novel and impactful content in a relatively young format requires a combination of remarkable storytelling and “technical work” – such as producing and sound engineering. Little still goes out into the field to put her reporting and editing expertise to good use, but adapts those skill sets to audio storytelling, which takes on both long and short form. “I did get to direct Martin Sheen in-studio, which was fantastically fun. It’s like ‘wow.’ I’m getting to do this,” Little added.

Audible is also experimenting with audio innovations such as binaural audio (which mimics sound as if listening to a live performance) to enhance the listener's experience further. Currently there is a growing list of Audible content available in 3D audio, a technology that amplifies audio in a similar fashion to that of surround sound.

The most important component, however, is never losing sight of the audience. The Audible team constantly tests ideas and uses that feedback in their decision-making processes. Through this relationship with customers, Audible has identified a unique value proposition that allows the platform to incorporate new formats. Jess Kessler, Senior Director of Content Marketing, said, “It’s more than just adopting a story; it’s about creating that bond with the subject.” Kessler is intent on understanding “the nuts and bolts” of every story to identify the key selling points “in order to tell that story back again.”

Jess Kessler, Senior Director, Content Marketing, Audible Studios

With a membership-based business model, Audible puts a high priority on specific, targeted marketing strategies that elevate the brand. “I do photoshoots, we put the ad assets together, we talk on social media, and that’s really the package,” said Kessler.

Much like the audio industry itself, all three speakers have one thing in common: reinvention. Whereas Creamer’s career began with print books, Little and Kessler transitioned to audiobooks from journalism. Their pathways to Audible indicates the vast opportunities in audio publishing. We left the virtual visit excited and optimistic about career possibilities ahead!

By Sasha-Gay Trusty, NYU SPS MS in Publishing ‘23

Sasha-Gay Trusty is a first-year MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media student. Her journalism career is centered on creative work in the African Diaspora. In the future, she hopes to build a multimedia publishing house that amplifies underrepresented voices in journalism and the arts.

Visit our homepage for more information on the NYU SPS MS in Publishing: Digital & Print Media program.

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