Before we close the door on 2020 (and perhaps throw away the key!), we’re celebrating the inspirational and transformative role stories played in our lives this past year. Over and over we heard from listeners about the solace and joy stories brought them during these strange times—helping to provide escape and armchair travel, company on walks and while gardening and cooking, a break from screen time and entertainment for their family, assistance with homework for children learning remotely, and connection with friends and strangers alike through online bookclubs and Facebook groups. At a time when we were forced apart, stories helped to bring us together.
Below are just a few of the ways in which our creators, our listeners, our neighbors and our employees came together locally and globally to help each other out and lift us all up through the power of stories.
Free Entertainment and Education During Lockdown
“Can we talk about how Audible might help?” This March 7 tweet from a school librarian in Dubai to our CEO Bob Carrigan inspired an ambitious plan to create a free library of stories to meet the needs of people entering lockdown around the world. In just 10 days, Audible Stories was live, bringing families and children free listens in eight languages. It has been featured everywhere from public radio in Peru to the website of The Kahani Project in India and is still entertaining and educating listeners globally.
We also launched A Casa con Audible (At Home with Audible), offering Italian listeners free access to over 200 audiobooks and podcasts, supported our German community with a series of reading sessions performed by celebrities via live stream for children during school closure times, provided Audible versions of Canada’s Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning books to Canadian listeners for free, and teamed up with tourism movement on a mission, Empty Esky, to launch The Great Aussie Audiobook Adventure, among other initatives. To help listeners relax and wind down, we released our Sleep Collection for free in the US, UK, Australia, and Canada.
Helping Our Global Communities
The unprecedented challenges of 2020 reinforced our commitment to creating equality in our local communities. In response to the Covid-19 crisis in our headquarters city, we launched Newark Working Kitchens (NWK) in April. The free meal delivery service for local residents and frontline healthcare workers has been keeping our community fed and our fellow Newark business owners and their employees working. NWK has served more than 650,000 meals and counting, thanks to our community and corporate donors and the efforts of Audible employees.
We continued to foster the innovation economy in Newark, too, through our ongoing support of Newark Venture Partners. We also went virtual with tutoring in Newark, made the transition to reopening schools in Italy brighter, and our EU team and US employee impact groups have made holiday wishes come true for children in need with Operation Santa.
Building on the powerful economic and community impact we’ve generated in Newark, we launched the Global Center for Urban Development. Bringing together all equitable community aspirations at Audible under a single organization, the Center will scale our efforts to improve the lives of those in the cities and countries in which Audible operates.
Creating Distinctive Content
Our Studios teams around the world moved fast to increase at-home recording and support our creative community. In the US, we helped narrators and authors set up recording spaces at home and guided our international studios team through new ways of working. Our India team’s first Original production, Gadbad Clinic, was recorded from well-known Bollywood stars’ homes in just 10 days. Our UK team’s socially distanced, multi-cast recording of Hell Cats included 60-plus actors! We brought a complete theater season of a critically acclaimed festival to life when its doors were shuttered by the pandemic, and also brought our customers closer to our celebrity creators with Audible Live.
We’re looking to the future by investing in the next generation of creators and storytellers, from the third cohort of our Emerging Playwrights Fund to the creation of our new podcast development program, to vetting potential Originals through our Pitch @ Audible portal and the announcement of our Audible Accelerator Program in Singapore.
New Listening Services
We introduced a new all-you-can-listen service when people needed escape more than ever. Providing a distinctive array of Audible Originals, audiobooks, and podcasts across the content spectrum, Audible Plus includes a carefully curated catalog of 11,000+ titles. We also added more than 100,000 of the best third-party podcasts on Audible.
We also launched a dedicated service for Spanish listeners, Audible.es, that features distinctive original content in Spanish, local dialects and regional languages and an unlimited catalog of more than 90,000 audiobooks and Spanish-language podcasts.
Staying Connected While Apart
As a company, we have found new ways to arrange our days, stay connected, focus on wellness, celebrate milestones and recognize our colleagues. We not only welcomed our largest-ever cohort of summer interns this year, but also took this Newark-based internship program virtual and global, with managers in Cambridge, London and Seattle for the very first time.
We continued to connect with listeners, members of the media and thought leaders through events and speaking opportunities, like the speakeasy at the Sundance Film Festival, a virtual live event featuring best-selling author Sebastian Fitzek reading from an empty theater in Germany, and our ‘Drawn from the Dreaming’ campaign for The Sandman.