How Born-Audio Narratives and Audiobook Originals Are Changing the Publishing Industry

We’re all familiar with original content that is exclusive to a particular service, whether it’s a Netflix Original like WandaVision or a Hulu Original like Monsterland. What we may be less familiar with is how original content is shaping other forms of entertainment.

The book world has caught on to this interest in original content and has started offering it on their platforms. Wattpad, a popular site where you can publish your own content, has Wattpad Originals, which are books behind a paywall that boast a higher-than-average quality for the site. Scribd, a digital library you can access with a subscription, also has its own original content that can only be accessed using the service. This digital form of exclusive content functions similarly to how a publisher might hold the rights to a book, and it’s a smart business choice to keep companies from having to pay for rights to their content.

It seems like the natural progression of digital entertainment services, regardless of the form of entertainment, is leaning toward each platform making its own content. We’re starting to see that change in the world of audiobooks in the form of “born-audio narratives.” Born-audio narratives are very similar to audiobooks, except there is no paper version; instead, they are born in the audio format. Born-audio narratives are also typically available in a serialized format, making them a sort of hybrid between podcasts and audiobooks.

So, what does this mean for publishers?

There are many ways that publishers can interact with born-audio narratives. Some may choose to partner with born-audio narrative publishers like Scribd, Audible, or Storytel (an overseas company). Others might choose to create their own audio narrative streaming services, similar to how Disney created Disney+.

Whether publishers decide to partner with existing audio streaming services or create their own, the workflow for these narratives will be dramatically different. Serialized narratives will have multiple launch dates that are closer together, usually only a few weeks apart. Production and marketing teams will need to use different tactics from the long-term strategies of traditional book publishing in order to promote an active, ongoing series.

All of these new tasks have the potential to create new departments in publishing houses, as well as new positions to help with streaming services, project management, marketing, production, and general internal technology work that is needed to get the services running. If publishers choose to create their own streaming services, there will also be job opportunities for creating those websites and apps.

New technologies that come into the publishing industry always require an adjustment period. However, this new kind of content will ultimately create growth in the industry by creating new needs within publishing houses. These new needs will require new jobs and will lead to more people into the industry, and as all book-people will be happy to hear, more books (and book-like content) in the world.

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