The surge in digital audiobook sales has helped numerous publishers grow in the past few years, and perhaps none has benefitted more than Podium Audio. The audio-first publisher, which began life as Podium Publishing before changing its name about a year ago, hit $50 million in revenue in 2020, and its total title output passed the 2,000 mark, from 1,300 at the beginning of the year, CEO Scott Dickey told PW.
Podium is best known for its large list of science fiction titles, but Dickey said romance sales “grew dramatically” in 2020. Mysteries and thrillers also saw good gains, as did nonfiction.
Dickey has no doubt that the Podium’s recent growth is due to its focus on audio. “Audio is not the caboose on the train for us,” he said. “It is the locomotive.”
Last year’s gains were also fueled by new ownership. In March 2019, private equity firm Presidio Investors teamed with Podium cofounder Greg Lawrence to buy the publisher. Dickey joined the company in September 2019, and among the hires last year was Kate Runde, director of acquisitions and author relations; she had previously been director of publicity for Vintage Books and Anchor Books.
Independent authors and storytellers have been Podium’s main creative source for audiobooks, but Dickey said he is seeing more interest from agents who are looking to do more with their authors’ audio rights. The company pays authors on a revenue-share model and provides a variety of services to help them develop their work.
To that end, Podium has signed a growing list of professional narrators to its roster, and recent additions include Felicia Day, Katherine McNamara, Dan Stevens, Wil Wheaton, and Lou Diamond Phillips, who published his own audiobook, The Tinderbox: Solider of Indira, with Podium last fall. In addition to access to experienced narrators, the company has developed a network of production studios across North America.
Dickey has also been expanding Podium’s title base through partnerships. Last year it inked a deal with Tapas Media to produce and distribute some of Tapas’s short webcomics and fiction stories.
Audible has been Podium’s primary distribution channel, and in January the publisher made a “substantial portion” of its library available on Audible Plus, Audible’s new subscription plan that features the platform’s exclusive content. Among the Podium titles now on Audible Plus are Craig Alanson’s YA space opera Aces and a novella from Terry Mancour’s Spellmonger series. Mancour and Alanson are among Podium’s top-selling authors, along with Luke Chmilenko, James Islington, and Andrew Rowe.
Dickey said he is looking to acquire IP beyond audiobook rights, but added he is not interested in getting involved in print books. “Don’t want the inventory,” he added. He didn’t rule out expanding into podcasting at some point, and he said he is interested in developing more shorter-form audio products.
Dickey sees 2021 shaping up to be another good year for Podium, explaining that through February the company remains on track to increase revenue for the full year by 30% over 2020 and to up its title count by 850.