Amanda D’Acierno has lived in New York for 20 years, but as a Texas native she’s kept a subscription to Texas Monthly to stay up-to-date with the news from her home state.
As executive vice president and publisher of Penguin Random House Audio, D’Acierno focuses on trends in audiobook publishing and saw a market need for shorter form content, more like the length of podcasts. She reached out to her contacts at Texas Monthly last summer to see if they could collaborate.
That interest eventually produced a partnership between the two companies to create a series of audio “shorts” — popular Texas Monthly features read by native Texans.
“I very rarely interfere with our production department casting, but when we had our meeting about the titles, I had to insist that a native Texan read them,” D’Acierno said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Tim Taliaferro, editor in chief of Texas Monthly, said they polled the newsroom for suggestions of stories that would lend themselves to audio. Out of Texas Monthly’s archive, 21 stories will be released by Penguin Random House Audio, available for purchase this spring in four collections: True Crime, Social Studies, Texas Business and Culture, and National Magazine Award-Winning Features.
“We’re hoping it can drive some revenue, but it’s not intended to be a sea change,” Taliaferro said. “We’re trying to make Texas Monthly stories available to readers in different ways, and let them consume our storytelling wherever they want to consume it.”
The target audience, Taliaferro said, is existing readers and subscribers, as well as people who value good storytelling and would listen to a 40-minute story, but wouldn’t necessarily read a 10,000-word piece. D’Acierno also pointed out that audio listening is growing among younger people: according to the Audio Publishers Association 2016 consumer survey, 48 percent of frequent listeners are younger than 35.
This is Texas Monthly’s first big foray into audio storytelling, and Penguin Random House’s first partnership of this breadth with a magazine. The magazine also launched a podcast in early January, a weekly conversation between reporters and editors about their stories.
Both Taliaferro and D’Acierno mentioned the potential for future collaborations if this one turns out to be successful. They’ll be soliciting reader feedback and tracking metrics like number of listens and conversions — engaging readers on other platforms such as social media or in-person events.
“It’s not enough in this day and age to make something great,” Taliaferro said. “It has to get read or listened to or watched. We’re able to make use of our partner’s reach and travel up the money curve faster than if we tried to do this ourselves."