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Spoken Word Audio Share in the U.S. Up 30% Since 2014


NPR and Edison Research
NPR and Edison Research

The share of time spent listening to spoken word audio in the U.S. has increased 30% in the past six years, and 8% in the last year, with the highest levels of growth coming from women, African-Americans, Latinos and 13- to 34-year-olds. Music's share of listening decreased by 8% over the last six years. These findings are part of the second annual Spoken Word Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research.

The Report examines spoken word audio, which includes podcasts, news, sports, talk radio and audiobooks, and finds that 43% of the U.S. population 13+ listen daily to spoken word audio. Additional findings include:

  • Those who listen to spoken word audio daily average two hours per day listening to spoken word -- nearly half (48%) of their daily listening time.

  • Spoken word listening accounts for 26% of all listening by those A13+ in the U.S, up from 24% in 2019.

  • Podcast and audiobook listening both attained an all-time high reach with 55% of the U.S. population having ever listened to a podcast and 54% having ever listened to an audiobook

  • Mobile technology is driving spoken word listening: 30% of all listening on a smartphone is to spoken word audio

  • In addition to the convenience and multitasking benefits long recognized for spoken word listening, other strong motivators for increased listening are personal growth, better content, and spoken word's ability to improve mental health.

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on listening as 40% of spoken word audio listeners age 13+ saying they are listening more since quarantine restrictions

The Spoken Word Audio Report also includes six years of tracking data from Edison Research's Share of Ear from 2014-2020, which finds the largest increases in the share of time spent listening to spoken word audio among the following groups:

  • African-Americans, 12% to 27% (125% increase)

  • Age 13-34, 12% to 22% (83% increase)

  • Women, 14% to 22% (57% increase)

  • Hispanic/Latinos, 15% to 22% (47% increase)

"Growth in diverse listeners is exciting to see and is in sync with our initiatives. As the audio leader, NPR has helped move the needle for spoken word audio and we are encouraged to learn that we are reaching more listeners with our public-service journalism and programming," says NPR CMO Michael Smith.

According to Edison Research Vice President Megan Lazovick, "The spoken word listeners we interviewed across the country gave incredible insight into how important the medium is in people's lives especially during COVID-19 disruptions. People are turning to spoken word audio for companionship, self-improvement, mental health and so much more. While music is still a large part of American's audio diet, spoken word audio is an essential ingredient."

The report is available now at www.NPR.org/spokenwordaudio.

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