Listen and subscribe to “Vietnam Innovators” in English: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | YouTube.
Listen and subscribe to “Vietnam Innovators” in Vietnamese: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | YouTube.
With the brain’s self-rewarding mechanism, we always feel excited after completing a task. The same goes for reading books, we get excited with the intention of starting a new book when we just finished the previous one.
However, finding spare time in our already-jam packed schedule is usually what hinders us from actually picking up that next book. Audiobooks, therefore, are developed to help readers optimize their time in a day and still have time to explore the boundless magic written in each page of a book.
Despite being a phenomenon in developed countries, the audiobook business is still quite unfamiliar among the Vietnamese. Le Hoang Thach, CEO at the audiobook platform Voiz FM, acknowledges that the two biggest challenges in running this business are copyright and production.
Possessing diverse content (ranging from literature, art, to psychology, health), having every book title copyrighted and being integrated with many convenient features, the Voiz FM audiobook app is expected to change the reading habits of young people. Voiz FM has already attracted more than 300,000 users with more than 20 million minutes of paid content.
Paid or free?
Like any other content businesses, Hoang Thach has to give an answer to the question: charge readers, or free for readers but charge advertising and sponsorship?
According to Hoang Thach, charging readers will help them gain more motivation to consume content. By assessing Vietnamese people’s access to information, Hoang Thach found that free content is often left forgotten in the “See Later” folder. Therefore, charging a moderate cost will create motivation for both readers and businesses.
With this, Voiz FM is also pushed to constantly update new book titles for readers to continue their journey of discovery. However, securing copyright is still a top priority. When asked about the first steps in the process of cooperation with publishers, Hoang Thach shared that it’s been a big help to have connections with publishers that are very open to Voiz FM’s format.
Since the audiobook market is still new in Vietnam, the database is not big enough to predict business performance. Therefore, Voiz FM will have to commit to bear the full impact if the business does not get the expected response from the Vietnamese market, without compromising the agreements it has with publishers.
However, Hoang Thach is faced with another problem: readers need to see various book titles to decide to register on Voiz FM, meanwhile, publishers need to see a platform that has many registered readers to negotiate copyright. After careful discussions, the publishers agreed to share some of the hit book titles with Voiz FM. There are also instances when publishers and authors willingly share their books to Voiz FM’s audience after they have already gained enough revenue when they were first released.
The “voice” matters
The reading voice is the determining factor in how readers feel when listening to audiobooks. Not only does an emotionless tone of voice create aversion, but it can also destroy the opportunity to attract potential readers of audiobooks.
At Voiz FM, the content production process needs to ensure that the reading voice is stable and coherent. However, with the large number of book titles updated every day, Voiz FM cannot record real voices. There could hardly be any editor who can read hundreds of pages of a book with Voiz FM’s production schedule.
To keep up with the demand and ensure quality, Voiz FM is now using AI. Hoang Thach shared that the AI voice has been carefully selected according to the following criteria: standard pronunciation, and precise punctuation breaks. But the current AI voice is not the final solution of Voiz FM. In order for readers to immerse themselves in the author’s style and tone of voice, Hoang Thach believes that it is necessary to develop the expressiveness in the reading voice.
For the future, Hoang Thach is excited to share that Voiz FM will improve the reading voice so that it can convey emotions to listeners, as well as bring more book titles to the platform. With its convenience, not only students but also busy adults — such as office workers or housewives — can also listen to audiobooks while working. These are small steps to changing the reading culture in Vietnam, and Voiz FM is willing to take on the challenge one book at a time.
The program “Initiative for Startup Ecosystem in Vietnam until 2025” (also known as National Program 844) was approved by the Prime Minister on May 18, 2016 and assigned to the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam in charge of implementation. The program aims to create a favorable environment to promote and support the formation and development of fast-growing businesses based on exploitation of intellectual property, technology, and new business models.