Q&A: AudioGo’s Michele Cobb | Audio Reviews

In our ongoing series of Q&As with audiobook publishers, LJ here chats with Michele Cobb, VP of sales and marketing at AudioGO and president of the Audio Publishers Association.

The audiobook market now is split between physical discs and downloadable. Where are you in terms of this? Do you do both?

MC: At AudioGO, we publish in both the CD and downloadable formats. Especially in libraries, the CD is still the biggest piece of the market. They are easy to browse on library shelves, so for people listening in their cars who are walking into a library and want to get something now, the CD format makes a lot of sense. As we have seen with other format changes, people tend to work with what is comfortable for them, and in cars, where the industry surveys show the majority of listening occurs, CDs are still at the top of the heap.

How are sales respectively for each? Is there a clear preference?

At AudioGO, we are all about titles. Since we offer four different formats (CD, MP3-CD, Playaway, and download), we encourage librarians to buy in the formats that work best for their patrons. And things are moving fast, so we try to be flexible. For instance, we’ve heard a big cry for the downloadable MP3 format, so we recently released our first 50 titles through OverDrive in this format. Even within the digital arena there are different formats and business models. Our concern is offering the best titles in the most ways possible. The industry has ramped up production heavily over the past three years, and we are no exception, nearly doubling our output in that same time period.

At last year’s Audio Publishers Association conference, there was a lot of talk of audiobooks failing to find a consumer niche, although they circulate well in libraries.

We know libraries continue to be an enormous piece of the puzzle‚ the first choice for heavy listeners and a great way for all listeners to browse and experience new authors. Libraries help us hand sell, and we want to ensure that we educate librarians about all authors, especially ones who are new to the market, or backlist titles by an established author that are new to audio.

Overall in the industry, unit sales are on the rise, and with audiobook-compatible tablets and ereaders, I’m sure we will continue to see growth. We know if we can get people to listen, they are likely to listen again.

What’s ahead in 2012?

In 2011, AudioGO built on-site studios in Rhode Island. We have been working with a wide pool of narrators who come in-house to record and have started producing videos about their experiences with the various books. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to have the narrators in the office, to interact with them, and to discuss their approaches to books and characters. Not only does it provide a better listening experience for the end user, but it also allows our in-house staff to become more familiar with the titles and provide additional insights to librarians about what we do and how we do it.

The actual process of publishing an audiobook is one I enjoy walking through from the submission of a title to casting and recording, creating marketing materials, and selling and delivering the product. By housing the process largely under one roof, we can ensure quality and enjoy projects in a different way. In February, we are pleased to bring out Miles Davis’s Autobiography, narrated by the fantastic Dion Graham. It was great to watch our executive producer, engineer, and Dion try a few different things to achieve a truly exciting recording.

This year is certain to be another wonderful one for us. We are expanding our ebook output and our children’s line, as well as celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Audio Bookshelf line that is the cornerstone of AudioGO Children’s. We will continue to keep our ears on the pulse of the industry and react to market changes, offering new formats and items while continuing to support current formats. As always, ensuring top-quality titles and recordings is our primary focus.‚ Michael Rogers

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Michael Rogers (mrogers@mediasourceinc.com) is Media Editor, Library Journal and Managing Editor of LJ Reviews.