The Replay: Audible Highlights from 2021

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Is it just us, or does listening get better every year? 2021 was a banner year for cutting-edge, original content—and for us, creating collaborations that will redefine Audible listening for years to come. And we are listening—more closely than ever—to our customers as they look for entertainment, escapism and meaning in turbulent times. As we all continue to persevere together, we wanted to pause to reflect on the year we’ve had, celebrate its accomplishments, and look to the year ahead. May it be a brighter one for all.

A Global Hit

We’re thrilled that The Sandman: Act II, the sequel to last year’s NYT Best-Seller The Sandman, joined its predecessor on the list. We released this highly anticipated adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s DC graphic novel series globally in six languages, with two more in the works, and reunited Gaiman with award-winning director Dirk Maggs. The Sandman: Act III has already been greenlit.

The cover art for the Audible Original series "The Sandman" shows the title character illustrated against a dark gray background. He has his head bent, his black hair thick and blowing in the wind. There is sand around him, in his hair, and blowing off his open palm which is held up next to him. Neil Gaiman and Dirk Maggs are credited in the cover art and DC's logo appears in the lower left corner.
Hear how "The Sandman" adapts across languages.
A New Way to Binge, and More

Now listeners can stream a whole world of exciting titles via the Plus catalog, our first all-you-can-listen membership. Audible Plus, which won a Digiday Award in the US this year for Best Subscription Service, rolled out across most of our marketplaces and gave listeners access to thousands of titles to stream at any time. A growing number of these are even in rich, immersive 3D audio.

To enable listeners to easily access Audible through their favorite services, we’ve also integrated with apps like Waze and offered free titles in Hindi and English on Alexa in India. And our world-class customer support got even better with a redesigned help center that helps listeners find information even faster.

A Big Year for Original Content

Global demand for audio content skyrocketed this year, and we stepped up to meet it, collaborating with top talent to create more than 1,100 Originals by year’s end. In the US, we struck exciting new deals with Elizabeth Banks, Kenya Barris, Queen Latifah, Deepak Chopra and Lena Waithe to produce original podcasts. We got to work with some of the funniest people in the business on farces like Hit Job with KeKe Palmer and Pete Davidson and Hot White Heist with Bowen Yang, which made Vulture’s 2021 podcast recommendations—with more scripted original comedy podcasts to come, as featured in the LA Times. And in the UK, the Graham Norton Book Club was named among the year’s best cultural events by The Telegraph.

Audible Originals and exclusives were a hit with listeners worldwide. In the US, Project Hail Mary from The Martian author Andy Weir, and James Patterson’s multi-cast thriller The Coldest Case, starring Aaron Paul, and his thriller-comedy crossover The Guilty, starring John Lithgow and Bryce Dallas Howard all went to the #1 spot on our best-seller list. In Canada and the U.S., Oracle, starring Joshua Jackson, went straight to the top, and the modern classic epic Shantaram, performed in audio for the first time, has stayed #1 in the Australian Plus catalog since its release.

We Got Cozy with Headlining Musicians

This year’s lineup of Words + Music titles featured some stellar icons. Eddie Vedder, Yo-Yo Ma, Sleater-Kinney, Sting, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, and more took listeners through the personal trials and triumphs behind the music that made them famous. These potent blends of spontaneous memoir and intimate musical performance continued to give listeners a way to connect more deeply with artists they love.

Theater Comes to its Audience

Audible Theater also brought powerful performances to listening audiences, even when stages remained dark. We joined forces with the renowned Williamstown Theater Festival, adapting and producing several of its plays and ensuring the world could hear important stories from underrepresented voices. To that end, our Emerging Playwrights Fund is empowering a new wave of dramatists. And we were overjoyed to return to live performances at New York’s Minetta Lane Theatre in October with Wallace Shawn’s drama The Fever, starring Lili Taylor, to be released as an Audible Original.

Our Content and Leaders Hit the Festivals

Audible was front and center at the year’s biggest entertainment industry events. We were an official sponsor of the Sundance Festival, and as Tribeca Festival’s first-ever Exclusive Audio Entertainment sponsor, our leadership and talent took part in Festival talks and we hosted an audio premiere for Hot White Heist with Sasha Velour. We launched The Sandman: Act II at New York Comic Con with interactive experiences, tattoo artists and more. And we got our laughs on at the New York Comedy Festival with Tall Tales of Comedy, a national competition that brought together emerging comedic storytellers. Our leaders also presented or spoke at numerous events and conferences, like SXSW, the Reuters Responsible Business USA Conference, and The Economist’s Innovation@Work.

Supporting Future Storytellers

Amplifying voices from across the spectrum is central to who we are, and this year we found new ways to support and advance the next generation of creatives worldwide. We announced the first cohort from the Original Podcast Development program in the US, and launched the Indigenous Writers’ Circle to elevate the voices and stories of Indigenous people in Canada. As new sponsors of the German School of Journalism, we worked with students to develop Audible Originals, like Ggf. wahr! and Hannes soll kein Russe warden, which combine reportage and vivid storytelling. We announced the finalists of the first cohort for Audible Accelerator Singapore and sponsored the 2021 UK’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Caring for our Communities and Customers

We launched the Global Center for Urban Development (GCUD), which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, to expand our efforts to make a sustainable, positive impact in the cities where we operate. Newark Working Kitchens (NWK) surpassed its one-millionth meal delivered and received recognition from Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards. The Newark Artist Collaboration selected the first 15 artists to produce large-scale installations and public artworks at Audible’s newly renovated headquarters and in the surrounding neighborhood. Audible Bucks was launched in Newark to provide students and residents with cash stipends they can spend at local businesses.

In the UK, Audible was awarded the 2021 Corporate Engagement Award for working with National Literacy Trust to bring podcast training to the Feltham Young Offenders Institute, and in Spain, we received the prestigious ONCE Foundation Discapnet Award for innovating accessibility features for the visually impaired.

Audible’s Origin Story

We love to imagine and invent, and to articulate the possible and move fast to make it real. These core Audible People Principles are baked into our origins, when our founder and executive chairman Don Katz, while jogging in the 1990s and handling cumbersome cassette tapes, thought, what if we could make audiobooks digital and available on a dedicated player? This year, he appeared on NPR’s How I Built This With Guy Raz to tell the story of this moment and all the audacious decisions that went into creating Audible.

Workplace Culture of Caring

Our People Principles guide the way we work, including the way we hire our talent and support their growth and well-being (which earned us a Digiday Worklife Award). In a year filled with uncertainties and challenges, our employees were able to find supports they needed. We also introduced our returnship program, enabling people to resume careers after taking time off for caregiving. And our employee-led impact groups, like Black Employee Network (BEN), PRIDE and UNIDOS continued to foster a sense of belonging and allyship with events, workshops, and more.

Reimagining Our Future of Work

With feedback from our employees around the world, we reimagined our way of working with an innovative hybrid model called Hub + Home. It allows teams the flexibility to work remotely or come together in shared spaces as needed. As circumstances continue to evolve, we will keep evolving too, always balancing our dedication to the cities we work in and our distinctive internal culture with the well-being of our employees.

Celebrating our Colleagues

All of the above is made possible by our amazing colleagues around the world. Like a team of dedicated employees from the US, Germany, and India who brought more Audible Stories to families during the pandemic, growing our free catalog by adding content in even more languages. Our Director of Spanish-Language Content, Manny Miravete, has been helping us bring more Hispanic and Latino stories and voices to the world. And our Chief Technology Officer Tim Martin spoke at CIO’s Future of Business Resilience Summit about the incredible work our tech teams have done keeping Audible listeners delighted through a challenging year. We look forward to sharing more of what our talented, dedicated people are doing, here and on our social media.

Bonus Track

We discovered that Weezer likes to rock their Audible just as much as we do.

Until 2022!

Rivers Cuomo of the band Weezer stands on a surfboard heading to shore with the ocean behind him. He's wearing board shorts and has his arms raised, biceps bulging, in a strongman's pose. Above him, as if written with clouds, are the words Grapes of Wrath.