Friday, February 03, 2006

New Technologies Coming Together

Tonight, we're going to take a look at how one international publishing conglomerate displayed vision and the ability to plan ahead, and how its competitors eventually caught on and joined in a growing trend.

First, a little history lesson.

In May, 2000, Random House (a division of Bertelsmann AG) issued a press release to announce a strategic alliance with Audible, Inc. to establish "the first-ever imprint to produce spoken word content specifically suited for digital distribution." The new imprint, Random House Audible, "will be an imprint of Random House, Inc.'s Random House Audio Publishing Group division, and all titles published by the imprint will be distributed exclusively on the Internet by Audible."

Random House also announced an investment in Audible and that the RH CEO would take a seat on Audible's Board of Directors.

Four years later, Random House's competitors began to take notice. In August, 2004, Audible announced another joint venture--this time with two international publishing conglomerates. was a joint venture between Audible, Verlagsgrppe Random House and holtzbrinck networXs. was created to provide German speakers worldwide "with digital downloads of audiobooks and other valuable spoken world audio titles."

In May, 2005, Pearson Education (a division of Pearson, which also owns Penguin) announced a strategic alliance with Audible "to deliver innovative audio learning products to the higher education market." The two companies agreed to provide audio study guides which could be downloaded to iPods, Mp3 players and other digital audio players that students are increasingly using.

In June, 2005, Audible and Harlequin announced an exclusive marketing and content licensing agreement. "Under the agreement, Audible will be Harlequin's exclusive partner for digitally distributed audiobook publishing of its romance and women's fiction genres."

A week later, Audible and XM Satellite Radio (the nation's leading satellite radio service) announced an exclusive, multifaceted strategic relationship. That relationship is beginning to bear fruit. On Monday, February 6, XM Satellite Radio will start offering "The Random House Hour" on its Sonic Theater channel. According to Publishers Marketplace, "[e]ach episode will air two 30-minute readings from different books; the books will be read in their entirety over a succession of episodes." The new program will begin with "A Certain Justice" by P.D. James and poetry from Maya Angelou.

I keep beating the drum for expanding the service delivery systems by which media deliver content--whether it be radio, television, books or film--to clients. Random House showed the vision to invest in audiobooks over five years ago. Holtzbrinck, Pearson and Harlequin were slower to recognize the trend, but they did eventually figure it out and jump onto the bandwagon.

It's not about abandoning the printed format as much as it is about providing a wider array of choices in the delivery of content to clients.

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