“We expect the trend towards screen-free entertainment to intensify"
No longer just a trend, audio content has now become indispensable. We asked several experts from the audio industry to learn more about the uniqueness about the sector, hear what's up and coming in the market and get some audiobook or podcast inspiration for the new year.
In this interview, we discussed current trends and digital opportunities in the audio industry with Markus Langer, Chief Product Officer at tonies® - Boxine GmbH. Since 2016, their digital audio cube Toniebox has become an indispensable element in many children's rooms and created a new audio experience for children and parents in various regions worldwide.
© Anton Drakl
In 2020, the Boxine GmbH founders Patric Faßbender and Marcus Stahl were awarded the audiobook person of the year award („Hörbuchmensch des Jahres”) in Germany. What makes your product, the Toniebox audio system, so special?
tonies® is an award-winning, imagination-building, screen-free audio experience that we developed as two dads looking to create something for our kids that inspired creativity and fostered imagination, while limiting screen-time. Our system consists of two parts, the Toniebox and the Tonies. The Toniebox is an imagination-building, screen-free digital listening experience that plays stories, songs, and more. It’s made of durable fabric and has no screens, sharp corners or edges, complicated controls, buttons, discs or cables, making it super easy, safe and fun to use. The controls are simple enough that young children can adjust the volume, fast forward, rewind, skip chapters and more, all on their own without help from an adult. The Toniebox comes to life when paired with our whimsical collection of Tonies: hand-painted characters with hours of stories to tell, worlds to explore, and songs to sing along with. Each collectable character magnetically attaches to the Toniebox, making it simple for little listeners to change stories whenever they want. Additionally, we developed a special type of Tonies: Creative-Tonies. With them, fans can record up to 90 minutes of custom content. Whether favourite books recorded in your own voice, singing favourite songs, preserving cherished family memories for the future, or sending messages to loved ones from afar, Creative-Tonies put a creative, custom spin on the wonders of our system.
Which trends and topics will set the tone in the children’s audio segment this year?
Since people started gathering around the campfire, not much has actually changed in terms of the essentials: Adults and children alike long for funny, exciting, educational stories, for inspiring (or soothing) songs that enrich their lives. This constant remains and is also reflected in our portfolio and is influenced by book bestsellers or successful films and series. In addition, there are of course topics of global importance that lead to social discussions, which are also dealt with in children’s media - then of course with a certain time lag. These are topics such as sustainability, climate change and diversity. While there are already many publications on the former in the form of children’s books and audio books, there is certainly still a lot of catching up to do when it comes to diversity. Of course, such complex topics can be better and more easily prepared for older children or adults than for toddlers. However, we see ourselves in responsibility of preparing the aforementioned content for this target group and if there is a lack of existing audio productions or templates for audio productions, we have to commission them ourselves, which we are already doing.
A look into the year 2025 - how do you think children will engage with audiobooks and audio plays, and which role will new technologies play?
We expect the trend towards screen-free entertainment to intensify. It has been proven that too much time in front of screens and at too young an age has detrimental effects on the development of cognitive skills, especially for toddlers. Thus, as far as audio use is concerned, the move towards hardware options that do not require screens will increase. Here, it also plays a decisive role that the children can operate this hardware completely independently and are thus self-sufficient. “Audio” not only as received content but also as a means of control will certainly play a certain role with older children who are able to reflect on the context and articulate themselves clearly. For younger children, tactile and haptic control concepts will certainly dominate. With regard to content, we assume that the reception of linear storytelling content will continue to be what is most desired, even if the technical possibilities allow and suggest interactive formats and hypertextual storytelling.
Thank you very much for the interview, Markus!
(Interview by Ines Bachor and Luisa Wagner, Frankfurter Buchmesse)