Audio News: Free on The Internet
Trudi M. Rosenblum -- 9/4/00
Maupin's novel broadcast online before publication; RioPort offers free Perfect Storm
MP3Lit.com Inc., the digital audio division of Salon.com, will serialize the audiobook on its Web site beginning on September 5, nearly a month prior to the hardcover pub date of October 1. A new installment will be added each weekday for four weeks, ending September 29. The audiobook is read by the author.
The serial will be offered in "streaming" format, meaning that consumers can listen to each installment in real time at the Web site, but cannot download or save it to their computers.
"This serial will break new ground for spoken-word works on the Web," said Carrie Kania, associate publisher of HarperAudio. "Salon.com and MP3Lit.com have millions of monthly users, so there's no better way to reach a new audience--people who might never have heard a book read out loud."
"I write to be read aloud," Maupin said. "I never finish a paragraph without being certain that it can tumble effortlessly from my own lips. I come from the Southern tradition of storytelling, and I believe that reading should be like an exhilarating run through the woods, with no ill-placed logs to trip you up."
Salon.com produces a network of 12 award-winning original content sites and in May acquired MP3Lit.com, which offers spoken word and audio literature recordings in MP3 and RealAudio formats.
RioPort is another company looking to promote audiobooks with free Internet listening. For three weeks in August, RioPort. com offered listeners free digital downloads of Recorded Books' 1998 audiobook of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm, read by Richard M. Davidson. The promotion began on August 5 with two installments of the novel, and added two new segments each day, concluding on August 29. The download also included an exclusive interview with the author.
The audio was available in MP3 and Window Media Audio formats. Consumers could save the downloads and play the audiobook in its entirely on their PCs or on portable digital audio devices.
"We're trying to develop a marketplace where publishers can distribute and sell their audiobooks online," said Monty Hudson, director of spoken audio programming for RioPort. "With The Perfect Storm, we wanted to get people excited about downloading."
RioPort plans future promotional downloads, including free excerpts of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, Edgar Allen P 's "The Tell-Tale Heart," and Jack London's The Call of the Wild.
In other RioPort news, the company has signed a deal to provide content and technology support for Earful of Books' Web site.
S&S Audio Nabs FoxAfter a heated bidding war, Simon & Schuster Audio has won worldwide audio rights to Michael J. Fox's autobiography for a sum "in the low six figures," said Gilles Dana, senior v-p and publisher of Simon & Schuster Audio. Fox himself will read the audio, which details the popular actor's battle with Parkinson's disease. S&S will publish the audiobook in the fall of 2001 simultaneously with the Hyperion hardcover.
"We are delighted to be publishing Michael J. Fox's audiobook," Dana told PW. "He has been an inspiration to so many people and we expect that this audiobook will shine a new light on Parkinson's disease."
Fox will donate his proceeds from the audiobook sales to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
The company will continue to move aggressively into the CD format, Dana said. Beginning in January, all new S&S Audio titles will be released on both cassette and CD.
--Trudi M. Rosenblum
MediaBay Trims Its SailsMediaBay reported in late August that it will take a number of steps over the next 18 months to improve profitability and cash flow. Among its initiatives, MediaBay said it will reduce the number of SKUs in its inventory. The company expects that a new ordering system will decrease returns, allowing MediaBay to reduce inventory without hindering service. MediaBay's return rate for the second quarter ended June 30, 2000, was 22.9%. The company is also cutting back on advertising expenses, both Internet and direct mail. It spent $3.1 million on advertising and promotion in the most recent period. And in a bid to focus more on its core audio operations, MediaBay is considering its options, including the possible sale, of its 3,500-title video library.
The company reported a loss before an extraordinary charge of $2.1 million in the second quarter of $3.1 million, compared to a loss of $1.3 million in the second quarter of 1999. The extraordinary charge was related to MediaBay's payment of $20.7 million in bank debt this past April. Sales at the company increased 39.2%, to $12.5 million, due in part to the inclusion of results from Doubleday Direct's Audiobooks Direct, which MediaBay acquired last June. Revenues also include $1 million from a $2-million agreement with I-Jam Multimedia that calls for MediaBay to promote the I-Jam digital player.
For the six-month period, revenues rose 23.8%, to $23.4 million, while the loss before the extraordinary charge increased to $6.6 million from $2.6 million.
To help carry out its new initiatives, MediaBay has hired Hakan Lindskog as company COO and CEO of its Audio Book Club subsidiary. Lindskog had previously held management positions with International Masters Publishing Group. In addition, Robert Cleary was named executive v-p of operations at Audio Book Club. He had been v-p of operational planning & administration at Columbia House.
Volume 246 Issue 36 09/04/2000