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Spoken Word Audio Share in the U.S. is Up 20% since 2014; New Spoken Word Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research

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Spoken Word Audio Share in the U.S. is Up 20% since 2014; New Spoken Word Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research

The share of time spent listening to spoken word audio has increased 20% since 2014, while time spent with music across the same period decreased 5%. This shift is led by a dramatic increase in spoken word audio consumption on mobile devices across age groups, and increases in spoken word share among those ages 13-34. These findings are part of The Spoken Word Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research, presented today in a webinar hosted by Edison Research VP Megan Lazovick and NPR CMO Meg Goldthwaite. The report is available now at https://NPR.org/spokenwordaudio.com.

This new Report examines listener behaviors and preferences related to spoken word audio – podcasts, news, sports, talk radio and audiobooks – and includes five years of previously unreleased data from Edison Research’s Share of Ear® study. Key findings from the Spoken Word Audio Report include:

  • 121 million Americans listen to spoken word audio each day, an increase of 16 million people in the last five years.
  • Growth in spoken word listening has been greatest among young people: those age 13-34 now spend 19% of their audio time with spoken word audio (up 58% from 2014).
    Mobile technology use is driving growth in spoken word audio category: 22% of listening to spoken word audio in 2019 is now on a mobile device, compared to 9% five years ago.
  • Spoken word audio yields deep connections and involvement from its consumers, with large percentages of consumers reporting they turn to spoken word audio content for information, inspiration, entertainment, and companionship.
  • 59% of spoken word audio listeners are digital-first, meaning they listen most through computers, mobile devices, and smart speakers. Forty-one percent are analog-first, meaning they listen most through AM/FM radio receivers.

“Public media accounts for a large share of spoken word audio listening. New technologies like smart speakers, the ubiquity of mobile devices, and increased connectivity, mean that NPR’s journalism and storytelling is reaching more listeners in new spaces and platforms,” says NPR CMO Meg Goldthwaite.

According to Edison Research Vice President Megan Lazovick, “Spoken word audio is different. Spoken word can be vastly more intensive listening experience than other types of audio. People lean in — they truly listen. Twenty-four percent of all time spent listening to audio is going to spoken word, and that’s especially impressive considering where it was just five years ago.”

How the study was conducted:

Spoken Word Audio Study: A total of 3,013 online interviews were conducted with persons age 18+ using a nationally representative sample. Respondents qualified for the survey by consuming spoken word audio at least monthly. Data weighted to national 18+ U.S. population estimates. Additionally, in-person interviews were conducted with individuals who listened to spoken word audio at least monthly.

Edison Research Share of Ear®: A total of 4,000 respondents age 13+ completed an online or offline survey which was offered in English and Spanish. Data weighted to national 12+ U.S. population estimates and has been tracked since 2014.

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