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A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 19 – Unleashing the power of the spoken word

Matthew Gain moved from agency to in house three-and-a-half years ago with a clear goal of working at one of the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google). He wanted to work in a growth industry, to immerse himself in big data and he was a true believer that the future of media was going to be in global digital brands.

He landed at Audible, not in a communications role though, but as country head of the emerging business. Now, as Head of Audible in JAPAC and India, Matthew shares his journey from PR consultant to running a growing technology company across the region, and one that is owned by one of the world’s biggest growth companies – Amazon, no less.

Listen here, watch on YouTube or download on iTunes

Audible’s mission is to unlock the power of the spoken word. It allows people to consume books at times and in places they previously couldn’t – while driving a car, exercising, cooking or cleaning. Matthew notes that 84% of audible users say they still love the smell of books, so Audible is not about replacing physical books, but creating enjoyable entertainment experiences that keep people coming back.

The competition, in Matthew’s view, is not Netflix or other subscription services but time and attention. To grab this attention, Audible is increasingly focusing on original content –working with authors in Australia,  movie stars in Bollywood, actors in off-broadway theatre – creating great experiences that are brought to life for listening first and foremost.

At its core Audible is a data business and this, Matthew says, was one of the steepest learning curves in the move from PR.

“Sometimes I think the data knows more about us than we do ourselves,” Matthew says. “At Audible, the data informs our strategy. Every single person I work with is fluent in data and understand how to use data to inform the decisions they make. It is a huge a part of our day and part of every conversation.”

Matthew describes a future where voice becomes ever more prevalent – we use voice to engage with the devices around us, today’s smart speakers become smarter personal assistants, and the vast majority of people – especially non-english speakers – use voice to interact with the internet and technology.

After three and a half years Matthew says he’s still learning and shares a great anecdote about Audible for Dogs – that is some PR campaigns are just that, for PR, and not necessarily profitable business ventures. It shows you can’t take the PR out of the guy.

In the news this episode I discuss the fallout from a recent article in the UK Guardian that revealed a lobbying firm run by Lynton Crosby – CTF Partners – allegedly built a network of unbranded websites and news pages on facebook for dozens of clients that were reportedly promoted as independent online news sources.

I thought astroturfing was something I’d left behind in the university textbooks but it seems it is alive and well and ti seems has only become more prevalent in the age of social and digital media. With one industry veteran telling the UK’s PR week that astroturfing is “just another tool in the PR box that is widely used.”

This is a story that is worth watching as it evolves.

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