NewStar Media's publishing operations will focus on spoken-word audio and will release a limited number of books this year, Peter Engel, newly appointed president of NewStar's publishing and Internet services division, told PW. The centerpiece of NewStar's audio initiatives is a new Web site, www.audiouniverse.com, launched June 14.
The site currently offers about 15,000 audiobooks from a variety of publishers and at varying discounts and also features sound samples for more than 1000 titles. Engel reported that NewStar is acquiring a wide range of audio content beyond books that it will make available through the site, adding that audiouniverse.com will have download capabilities.
The launch of audiouniverse.com is just one way NewStar is looking to broaden the number of distribution channels for audiobooks. The company's efforts to sell audio in the massmerchandise market has gotten off to a promising start, Engel indicated. The key to reaching the mass merchandise customer is to offer tapes at affordable prices, he explained: NewStar is selling a single cassette tape at $4.99 and a double cassette tape at $7.99 through mass merchandisers.
Engel said he expects that through the Dove imprint NewStar will publish 120 audiobooks this year. The company's list will also increase with the addition of Audio Literature, which NewStar acquired last week. Print book product will be limited to no more than 20 titles this year, all of which will be accompanied by the release of an audiobook.
Engel joined NewStar earlier this year as part of a restructuring of the company that saw Terry Elkes, NewStar chairman, add the duties of CEO. Engel, who was the founder of Affinity Communications Corp. before joining NewStar, will report to Elkes. Other members of the publishing team include Howard Cohl, who was named executive v-p for marketing, and Christopher Woodward, who was promoted to v-p and CFO of the publishing unit. Both men report to Engel.
NewStar's first-quarter results were mixed. Revenues fell to $1.4 million from $2.7 million, but the company's net loss was cut to $1.6 million from $1.8 million. Publishing revenues slipped to $1.3 million from $1.5 million as NewStar shipped fewer audio titles in the period compared to the first quarter of 1998.