The rise and rise of audiobooks

Over the last decade, audiobook listening has often been referred to as the silent revolution.

In Australia, the audiobook market continues to grow. 

Some suggest the surge in popularity comes off the back of the rise in podcasts. 

However, other figures suggest that throughout the pandemic, a huge market demand for audiobooks can be attributed to the families trying to balance education and entertainment for children while working from home. 

Today, Audible’s children’s content has become more popular than ever, and there’s no shortage of stories, with over 50,000 children’s titles on Audible alone, including Harry Potter, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Enchanted Wood.

Audible continues to dominate the audiobook market and is now moving into the original audiobook market, which means they will produce an audio book first, without the need for a traditional print version.

The global audiobook market size was valued at USD 2.67 billion in 2019 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 24.4% from 2020 to 2027.

But audiobooks aren’t exactly new. The term refers to any authored print book vocalised through a variety of technologies, from records to cassettes and CDs, which you may remember from your childhood. 

But, there is no questioning the fact that digitally downloaded, or streamed audiobooks have added a new dimension to this heritage technology.

International Dog Day, 2021

26 August is International Dog Day! With COVID lockdowns continuing around the country, what better way to raise our spirits than to celebrate the wonderful canine. 

Aside from Guinea pigs, we think dogs are just the best, so here are some of the Hardy Audio team’s beloved pooches (and pig).

Our Top 5 Podcasts in August

At Hardy Audio, our love affair with podcasts runs deep. Whether you’re into true crime or lighthearted entertainment, here are our top 5 picks in August.

Unravel True Crime – Juanita 

The seven episode series Unravel: Juanita, tackles one of Australia’s most chilling unsolved true crime stories. 

As a journalist, running her own independent newspaper, Juanita Neilson became the corporate world’s biggest opponent, fighting to preserve heritage terraces and affordable housing in Kings Cross. 

In the middle of her biggest fight, she disappeared without a trace. 

Listen here

Written Off 

Walter Thompson-Hernández speaks with formerly incarcerated young writers, whose work is read by creatives like John Legend over the course of the season.

The series features vulnerable poems and honest stories against an original soundtrack and shines a light on the youth written off in the U.S prison system. 

Listen here 

You’re Doing Great Sweetie!

Hosted by Melisa Mason and Josie Rozenberg-Clarke, You’re Doing Great Sweetie is a podcast for anyone who feels like they’ve fallen off the train of life.

Honest and unapologetic, the podcast talks candidly about life – from the serious stuff, to the stupid stuff. 

Listen here 

Deathbed Confessions

Imagine living with a secret so big, if anyone were to find out it would change everything.

From illicit affairs and fake identities to heists and murder, every episode revealsl the most explosive things people have admitted to moments before the end. 

Listen here 

Song Exploder

In Song Exploder, musicians take apart their songs piece by piece and tell the story of how they were made. 

Guests include Fleetwood Mac, Billie Eilish, U2, Metallica, Solange, Lorde, Yo-Yo Ma, The Roots, Bon Iver, and more. 

Listen here

The Ethics of AI & Deepfake

The documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, is a chronicle of the late television star’s life, which begins when Bourdain entered the public eye in 2000, with his bestselling memoir Kitchen Confidential.

To make the film, Director Morgan Neville drew on thousands of hours of video footage and audio archives, as well engaging a software company to make an AI generated version of Bourdain’s voice. A move that struck a degree of anger and unease among Bourdain fans. 

Using artificial intelligence in the film, Bourdain improbably reads aloud an email that he sent to a friend, artist David Choe.

Neville suggests that “If you watch the film… you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the AI, and you’re not going to know.”

The Director said that creating a synthetic Bourdain voice over seemed far less crass than, say, a C.G.I. Fred Astaire to sell vacuum cleaners, or a holographic Tupac Shakur.

But at a time when deepfake and computer-generated AI have troubling connections with fake news and deception, it’s probably quite natural for viewers and filmmakers to question the boundaries of its responsible use. And Neville’s creation certainly raises fundamental questions about how we define ethical use of synthetic media.

Spotify Audience Network Hits Australia

Following a successful U.S. launch of the Spotify Audience Network in April, Spotify is expanding its audio advertising marketplace to Australian advertisers and podcast publishers.

The Spotify Audience Network aims to make the podcast ad experience more personalised, by delivering a full digital suite of planning, reporting, and measurement capabilities to make podcast ads targetable, measurable and interactive. 

The Spotify Audience Network was launched off the back of their Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI), in what they described as ‘a new era for podcast advertising’.

Spotify advertisers have historically bought podcast ads on a title by title basis, which has limited their ability to reach listeners at scale. 

SAI introduced performance metrics for advertisers, and allowed creators to better monetise their content and make money off their work.

The Spotify Audience Network leverages the SAI technology to give advertisers the ability to reach listeners at scale, on and off Spotify.

Advertisers can connect with listeners consuming a broad range of content, from Spotify Originals and Exclusive podcasts, as well as via Megaphone and Anchor, and ad-supported music.

The Spotify Audience Network currently includes the audience’s listening to podcasts from Spotify’s four studios (Spotify Studios, The Ringer, Gimlet, Parcast), plus leading third-party podcasts from off-platform publishers such as ViacomCBS and The Wall Street Journal, and podcasts by local Australian publishers.

Creative Writing: Don’t overcook it

Whether you’re writing a 15-second radio spot, or a long-form instructional video, your language should never be more complex than it needs to be. Clear, concise communication will always get a better result. 

Here are a few tips when writing for your next media project.

Use fewer words

People often use unnecessary words, or expressions when trying to communicate a simple message. 

For example, instead of saying “at this point in time” you might simply say “now”.

Use plain language

Some writers, or speakers believe long sentences and difficult words make them sound official, or well-educated. 

This type of language simply makes the content inaccessible for most users. 

For example, Government guidelines often stress the use of plain, or simple language to ensure complex rules and services are clearly understood.

Keep it short

Keep sentences short. They are easier to read and understand. 

Each sentence should have one thought. Too many points in a single sentence creates complexity and invites confusion.

Paragraphs can be as short as a single sentence, or even a single word.

Eliminate fluff

Qualifiers and intensifiers limit, or enhance meaning e.g. “I was somewhat busy”, or “The dog was very cute. 

Excessive use can make you sound unsure of your facts, or make your writing too informal.

Don’t ramble

Rambling is a big problem for many writers. Get to the point.

Edit ruthlessly

Shorten, delete, and rewrite. Anything that doesn’t add value should go. 

As well as the basic grammar tools you find in Microsoft Word, or Google Docs, there are several online tools like https://www.scribens.com/ to check for extra words, or overtly complex sentences.

While we might not want to be the next Hemmingway, we can all improve our writing style to better engage our intended audience.

The future of creative is sound

The onset of the pandemic in 2020 resulted in an abrupt change to people’s daily lives and commutes. 

This resulted in traditional radio taking a hit, however digital audio and streaming quickly filled the gap to see audio content consumption rise by 4% on 2019.

In the past, preference was often given to visual mediums, however things have further changed with the introduction of voice search, interactive voice ads, branded content and podcasts. In fact, Australia has among the highest rates of podcast listening in the world.

Add in real-time analytics and dynamic advertising to personalise creative and you begin to make audio much more accountable, and from a brand perspective, a very powerful marketing tool.

In the realm of audio, digital transformation is being led by personalisation and curated content. But, like any creative, knowing your audience remains key. Understanding how the ad, or content will not only deliver value for the brand, but the consumer is essential.

For example, sponsoring a podcast, or running an ad in a podcast will increase brand awareness, but if you create a branded content podcast, tailored to a specific audience, you will have undivided attention for the entire duration of the podcast.

The return of audiences and new technology provides new opportunities for the audio industry, and the challenges posed by COVID has driven more confidence in the digital options available – so how will you take advantage of audio?

Neuroscience study into audio advertising

The iab Australia ‘Advertising Audio State of the Nation: Wave 5 Report’, suggests that streaming audio and podcast advertising continues to play a significant, or regular part of advertising activities for marketing agencies across Australia.

As such, to understand how consumers’ brains respond to the different ad formats, and the subsequent brand message impact, new research was conducted by neuroscience specialist, Dr Shannon Bosshard in partnership with Australian Radio Network’s Neuro Lab.

The research mapped brain activity and analysed more than 40,000 data points across radio, podcasting and streaming ads.

The research suggests radio demonstrated the strongest ability to engage listeners for extended periods of time, with 60% more neural engagement than other audio formats. Podcasts led to higher levels of memory encoding, while music streaming advertising showed the strongest impact in promoting positive attitudes towards brands.

“This is the first time anyone has demonstrated from the perspective of the brain, that radio, podcasting and music streaming are processed differently and should be treated differently, in the same manner that audio and audio-visual mediums have been.” said Dr Bosshard.

Positioned as the first go-to-market research which measures attention, engagement, attitude and memory, the new research will form part of an ongoing initiative to better understand audio’s role and impact for brands.

You can view the full iab report here.

Ballarat Begonia Festival Audio Tours

Hardy Audio has been working with the City of Ballarat to produce audio tours for this year’s Ballarat Begonia Festival.

The audio tours delve into the rich history of Ballarat’s Botanical Gardens, the story of the festival and begonias, and the people behind the annual event today.

To share Ballarat’s history with the towns visitors and residents alike, the audio tours can be scanned on-location at the gardens, via unique QR codes.

The audio tours are designed to be listened to whilst exploring the conservatory and gardens to learn more about the festival, past and present. They can also be listened to on The Ballarat Begonia Festival website here.

Contact Hardy Audio if you would like to find out more about QR Code audio tours.

About The Ballarat Begonia Festival

Ballarat’s Botanical Gardens were placed near Lake Wendouree in 1858, seven years after the first Ballarat gold rush. 

By the 1930s the begonia displays at the gardens had become famous across the state, and the subject of Ballarat’s postcards.

In March 1938, a Floral Festival was held to celebrate Ballarat’s centenary. The festival was so successful, Ballarat decided to hold the festival every year over 3-days on the March long weekend.

Today, The Begonia festival has become a garden-based horticultural festival that showcases the city’s natural assets, including its unique and rare collection of Begonias.