Digital audio was again a hot topic at this year's London Book Fair. And the growing popularity of listening to a good story is also translating into growing interest for one U.K. indie already sold on the power of the spoken word—AudioBookRadio.net, a free, 24/7 Internet radio station offering a wide range of plays, poetry, short stories and author interviews.
On the show floor at the 2019 London Book Fair, AudioBookRadio Managing Director Ghizela Rowe told PW that while more consumers are discovering the joy of listening to a good book, AudioBookRadio is filling another niche—call it the spoken word soundtrack to your life.
“I think we provide an audio experience rather like music radio," Rowe says, "where it's on in the background while doing emails, or checking Instagram, cooking, shopping. You might stop to listen more intently now and again, but like radio, it just keeps playing in the background.”
Meanwhile, the audio boom isn’t the only trend driving interest in AudioBookRadio. Poetry has always been a focus for the service, which also includes an audio publishing arm, Deadtree Publishing, which focuses on poetry and short fiction—specifically “neglected, women” poets, Rowe says. That focus on poetry meshes with a resurgence for poetry—the 2019 London Book Fair featured a range of poetry programs, including an appearance by mega-selling poet Rupi Kaur.
“We are constantly amazed at the sheer beauty of so many poems and the astounding relevance they have despite many of them being written hundreds of years ago,” Rowe says. But after deciding to focus classic poetry, Rowe said it quickly became evident how few women were represented on poetry sites, or even in print—an omission she resolved to address.
“I suspect not many people professing a good knowledge of poetry could name more than a couple of women poets before the Victorian age, but actually there is a plethora who wrote wonderful verse on a wide range of subjects just like their male counterparts," Rowe says. "In addition, their poems tackled the injustice they endured—the lack of rights, and their frustration in receiving no recognition. Their voices chime with contemporary preoccupations."
Rowe notes Deadtree Publishing currently has about 8,000 poems recorded, and nearly 700 titles available, the majority of which are classic short stories and poetry collections, works which surely have yet to be discovered by many listeners. “It's a shame that even with the success of Rupi Kaur, Audible doesn't have a separate category for poetry,” Rowe says, pointing out that poetry is tucked away under Audible’s 'More Categories,’ and then stuck under Arts & Entertainment. “But a good story or poem lasts forever, and we are confident there will be a greater appetite for them.”
Even a few years ago, it would have been a stretch to predict such growth for a service focused on audio and classic poetry. But AudioBookRadio appears to be right on time, and Rowe says service's appeal is broadening. “Our analytics indicate that men and women are equally represented, and 'under 34s' that make up a slightly larger part of the listener base,” she says. “Go figure—although it does correlate to the growing numbers of younger people consuming audiobooks.”
As for the poetry focus, Rowe suggests we all could use a little more of that in our lives. “Perhaps if everyone, particularly politicians and those in power, were to spend 20 minutes a day listening to poetry," she says, "the world would be a better place.”