NPR and Edison Research released the 2021 Spoken Word Audio Report today, revealing the continued increased consumption of spoken word audio in the U.S. and the drivers behind the growth.
The latest installment of the Report finds consistent growth in spoken word listening, particularly among young and more multicultural audiences, many of whom are relatively new to spoken word audio. The findings were presented in a webinar hosted by National Public Media (NPM) VP of Sponsorship Marketing Lamar Johnson and Edison Research VP Megan Lazovick and is available now at npr.org/spokenwordaudio.
The 2021 Reports finds seventy-five percent of those in the U.S 13+ (212 million people) are monthly spoken word audio listeners, and 45% (127 million people) are daily spoken word audio listeners. Spoken word audio listening is up 40% in the past seven years, and up 8% year over year, with the share of time spent listening to spoken word audio reaching 28% of time spent with all audio.
A look at a seven-year trend shows dramatic increases among young and multicultural listeners. The study shows 26% of 13-34-year-olds’ audio time is spent with spoken word audio, an increase of 116% over 2014. Similar increases are noted among multicultural listeners:
- Black listeners spend 22% of their audio time with spoken word (an 83% increase over 2014)
- Hispanic/ Latino listeners spend 27% of their audio time with spoken word (an 80% increase over 2014).
- White listeners now spend 29% of their audio time with spoken word, a 26% increase over 2014.
While most listeners cite the ability to multitask as one of the main motivations for spoken word audio listening, young and multicultural audiences are more likely to cite other reasons such as connection, education, new perspectives, and self-improvement.
According to Edison Research VP Megan Lazovick, “While the growth in listening is really astounding, what stands out from this research is the use of spoken word audio for intrapersonal needs. The young listeners I spoke with turn to spoken word audio for help navigating life’s problems, making meaningful connection, and discovering new points of view – spoken word is, for some, an antidote to a superficial social media world”
Digital listening is also changing the spoken-word audio landscape. Mobile listening has increased 278% over the past seven years, with one-third (34%) of all time spent listening to spoken word audio being done on a mobile device. The increase in consumption on a mobile device holds for all ages, not just younger demos. Of all spoken word audio consumed by those 13+, 22% of it is to podcasts, a 176% increase over seven years ago (8%).
The comprehensive report also includes one-on-one video interviews with spoken word audio listeners, who revealed that they consume spoken word audio as a way to understand different perspectives on the world, and find personal connections and meaning in an otherwise “surface-level” digital world.
“It’s exciting to see the growth in spoken word audio over the past few years, particularly among young and diverse listeners. The demography of our country is changing, and it’s imperative that publishers and audio content creators are responding to those changes in the audio they’re producing. NPR is committed to reflecting America in its content and is dedicated to bringing new and diverse viewpoints to its programming.” said NPM VP of Sponsorship Marketing Lamar Johnson.
How the study was conducted
The Spoken Word Audio Report 2021 from NPR and Edison Research is based on a national online survey of 1,000 U.S. adults age 18 and older, conducted August 18-30, 2021. All respondents reported listening to spoken word audio in the last month. 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 U.S. population estimates.