Our lead storyteller, Natasha Gostwick, and Producer Hugh Fraser
Storynory is an online treasure-trove of free audio stories. Here you will find a mixture of original stories, fairytales, and specially adapted myths and histories. We also provide a sprinkling of verse.
We have published an audio story every week since November 2005. Storynory has grown and grown in popularity, and now around half a million mp3 files are downloaded every month from our servers. Our stories are listened to by families, and in schools, nurseries and hospitals the world over. Services such as iTunes make it easy to transfer our audio onto iPods and other portable players.
All our stories are beautifully read by professional actors and recorded in broadcast quality sound. And yes, they are absolutely free. If you are looking for the catch – there isn’t one.
We see our stories as being aimed at children aged around 8 to 11 years old – though we know that we have loads of younger and older listeners. We often hear from adults who listen to us and who appreciate the artistic quality of our storytelling. We never talk down to our audience. Many families have been following us for years. People particularly listen to us on long journeys or last thing at night.
Although we are mainly aimed at a slightly older audience, we continually receive requests for stories for pre-school and and early school children. We are adding nursery rhymes and other “junior” stories, and aim to do them in a way that all ages will find charming and delightful.
Our original stories include popular strands such as Prince Bertie, Katie the Ordinary Witch, and Astropup. We also have some original novellas such as Gladys and the chiX, and Awaking Beauty featuring the mysterious Princess Talia. All our original stories have strong characters and loyal followers. Just review the comments on individual stories and you will see how popular they are. You will see that we have a very lively flow of feedback.
We carry most of the well known fairytales such as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast (largely recorded in our early days using Victorian translations). We consider the Snow Queen and The Little Mermaid to be among the jewels of our traditional fairytale collection.
Adaptations of Myths and Legends
Many of the stories on the site are our own adaptations, which we have lovingly rewritten for a modern audience. For instance we have our own versions of Greek Myths, Knights of the Round Table, and Stories from our the World (Various Fairytales). Our international stories rank among our favourites including our adaptations of the Cherokee Indian tale The First Strawberries, the ancient Jewish tale, The Old Man and the Figs, and The Grateful Crane from Japan.
Writer / Producer
Most of our original stories and adaptations are written by our producer, Hugh Fraser, a former BBC journalist and one of the founders of Storynory.
All of our three main actors studied Classical Drama at the prestigious Central School of Speech and Drama.
Natasha Gostwick has been with us since the first recording and is one of Storynory’s owners. Many children around the world have grown up with Natasha’s lovely voice as their own “storyteller”. We have even heard from one family who named their latest baby daughter after her.
Elizabeth Donnelly is a young high-flying talent who is the voice of our 20 part Awaking Beauty series and whose beautiful classical voice adorns some lovely stories such as Sadko and The Emperor’s Dream.
We are lucky to have some great illustrators including Sophie Green – whose work includes Bertie the Frog, Cinderella, and Rumplestitskin. Tania Fernandes, who illustrated Gladys and the chiX and Theo the Monkey for us. And Cai Jia Eng (Tia) who perfectly captured Katie the Witch’s character for us.
Some of our stories carry original music. Our production of Swan Lake has a powerful song and of course our story about a girl band, Gladys and the chiX had to have a song for their entry in Eurovision the catchy, (Life is a Circus). Our musical arranger is the talented Gabriella Brunell.
Downloads and Audience
Getting on for half a million mp3 files are downloaded from our servers every month (the audio is hosted for us by Wizzard Media). Of course the most recent stories receive the heaviest downloads – a typical story will be downloaded around 30,000 times within a month of being released, and will creep up towards 50,000 downloads within a few months. The downloads come directly from our website (150 k visits a month, half a million page views), and very many downloads come via iTunes where you can find us under the Kids and Family Podcast section. iTunes provides a convenient way to transfer our stories directly onto an iPod.
We have two apps in the Apple Store including the Storynory App made by our partner Wizzard and our own richly illustrated app, Katie and the Witch’s Swap made by ourselves using HTML5 technology. We are working on some more interactive apps.
Storynory is very international. We are based in London, but 40% of our listeners are in the USA, and only 15% “over here”. We also have a strong contingent of English Language learners from our the world – including strong followings in countries such as China, South Korea, Iran and Vietnam. Our Facebook group attests to the global nature of our audience.
Our main source of income is from advertising on the site via Google’s AdSense programme. Some of our stories also carry brief sponsorship messages for companies like Audible and The Centre for Guided Montessori Studies. We try to remove the messages as soon as the campaign has run – and where possible, we deliver the messages only to the relevant audience (for example the latest Audible slots can only be heard in North America). The vast majority of our audio is complete free of any sponsorship messages.
We receive a steady flow of generous donations.
We also carry out projects for third parties – including writing stories, recording audio, and building websites and apps. For example we have built and e-commerce site for the educational publisher, Jolly Learning, which has a very healthy online turnover of books each day. We have recorded audio for Florida’s Planetarium and built websites for authors such as Malika Basu of QuickIndianCooking.com. We are interested in developing really creative marketing projects aimed at kids and family, and are actively working on one such campaign with a well known brand.
A number of third parties including small radio stations and language learning sites carry our stories. We usually agree a reasonable fee for overtly commercial projects – such as selling devices preloaded with our stories – but in many cases – such as for obviously altruistic projects – we are happy to share our audio free of charge.
As a an example of a great content partnership, StoryPhones who sell (almost) indestructible headphones to primary schools make it easy for teachers to load our stories onto their product.
What are our major limitations? That’s simple. We are short of time and resources.
What are our ambitions? We want the world to see us as wonderful virtual destination for entertainment, enlightenment and education – always free, and always high quality. If we had greater resources, we would love to have more original music, illustrations, and interactive elements. We are gradually adding more and more educational tools and background articles. We really want every family and school to know our name and the names of our original characters (we are already working our way down that road).
And one day, well, we would love to land some strong media partnerships with major publishing and production companies.