Storytel’s 2023 Report: The Sound of Sustainability

In News by Porter Anderson

‘One hour of listening to an audiobook on Storytel emits 2.3 grams of CO2e,’ the Swedish subscription streamer today reports.

Walking along Hantverkargatan near Stockholm City Hall. Storytel reports that the loyalty of its Nordic-market subscribers continues to increase and that 40 percent of its paying subscribers listen to Storytel daily. Image: Getty iStockphoto: Alexander Farnsworth

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘We’re Optimizing Cloud Utilization’
The appearance of a glossy 118-page Annual and Sustainability Report 2023 released today (March 28) by Storytel means a reiteration of many financial points we’d touched on in February when we reported on the international audio distributor and producer’s end-of-year-performance report.

However, this new graphically enhanced PDF offers some new insights into the question of sustainability in a part of book publishing we don’t necessarily think of first when one mentions the climate crisis. After all, Storytel is primarily a Stockholm-based streaming subscription service for audio content and has widened its presence as a producer of such content in recent years.

Recognized as the most internationally expansive service weighted mainly to audiobooks since its founding CEO Jonas Tellander (still on the board) began taking it offshore from Sweden, its led now by Tellander’s successor Johannes Larcher with a keen eye for cost-cutting and a willingness to identify 10 “core markets” of the total 25 or so in which the company has some level of engagement.

With what it says was at the end of 2023 a total in-house catalogue of 341,476 hours of available listening, Storytel reports its content is in at least nine languages, specified in a graphic you’ll see below.

Those 10 core markets are the five Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Turkey, Poland, Bulgaria, and the United States.

And indeed, Storytel’s description of itself goes beyond what many may think of it as doing as a subscription house for audiobooks and an ebook-streaming service with 2.2 million paying subscribers. “Storytel Books,” as the new publication says, includes “publishing houses and imprints such as Norstedts, Printz Publishing, Rabén & Sjögren, B. Wahlströms, Lind & Co, the Danish publisher People’s and the Finnish publishers Gummerus and Aula & Co.

“The streaming segment also includes audiobook publishing, which is run through the audiobook publisher Storyside. Through its publishing houses and imprints, Storytel is a well-known publisher and literary agency in Europe, not least in the Nordic countries.”

Image: Storytel Annual and Sustainability Report 2023

But what , then, do you expect when you talk about Storytel and sustainability? What are issues faced by streamers?

We learn here that when Storytel talks about sustainability, it talks about three anatomically suggested ideas:

  • Brainprint, meaning the wellbeing of customers
  • Footprint, as in the more common connotation of the wellbeing of Earth
  • Fingerprint, the wellbeing of employees and partners

Image: Storytel Annual and Sustainability Report 2023

“Brainprint,” is an objective to, in 2024, “help more than 1.15 million people consume one book per month.” Needless to say, this would be beneficial to Storytel, too, especially if those 1.15 million people are consuming 12+ books per year from Storytel, but certainly those who believe that books and reading are good for us will understand this goal.

And in “Fingerprint,” the company does a good job of making transparent some of its workforce demographic outlines in gender and age, with encouraging signals in “human capital development” in an environment “founded on trust, innovation, and collaboration.”

These are not uncommon but always gratifying areas of corporate responsibility in play, and Storytel moves through goals, facts, and figures for its three divisions, Storytel Streaming;; and Storytel Books.

‘Climate Impact From Audiobook Streaming’

Image: Storytel Annual and Sustainability Report 2023

It’s in that “Footprint” area that the new corporate piece becomes interesting, looking at climate impact from audiobook streaming.

“Looking at the value chain, the main sources of emissions come from the energy required for data transmission and from the device used to stream an audiobook. One hour of listening to an audiobook on Storytel emits 2.3 grams of CO2e.” Storytel Annual and Sustainability Report 2023

“Storytel is a user of Google Cloud Services to run the streaming service,” the company writes. “Google has carbon neutral operations, and is working toward running on carbon-free energy at all of its data centers by 2030. Although Storytel’s net operational emissions from Google are zero, we’re optimizing cloud utilization, for example by identifying underutilized resources, and implementing changes to reduce waste.

“Looking at the value chain,” the company writes, “the main sources of emissions come from the energy required for data transmission and from the device used to stream an audiobook. One hour of listening to an audiobook on Storytel emits 2.3 grams of CO2e.”

The challenges and responses that Storytel Books is handling make immediate sense to the traditional print trade—and like many others, Storytel is making moves to avoid air freight, print fewer four-color books, improve data on paper qualities, and reduce weights to lower transportation emissions.

But when it comes to ecological elements of sustainability, Storytel’s outline of its efforts are instructive, in that there is, actually, that CO2e emission, and more in the company’s associated subsidiaries to handle.

You can read more in Storytel’s report today (PDF, March 28). 

More from Publishing Perspectives on Storytel is here, more on digital publishing is here, more on audiobooks is here, and more on industry statistics is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.