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Here Are The Research Findings That Rocked The Audio World In 2020.

Edison Research released a ton of research studies in 2020, a year in which clear-eyed insights and roadmaps were more needed than ever. In a “10 for ‘20” webinar Thursday, Senior VP Tom Webster and Director of Research Laura Ivey presented what the firm considers to be the most impactful findings from their work this year. Following is a brief summary of the top audio-centric takeaways.

U.S. audio consumption changed as a result of COVID-19

Listening location changed dramatically in second quarter with 70% of total listening taking place at home, up from 49% pre-quarantine, Edison’s Share of Ear study showed. By the third quarter, at-home listening down-shifted to 59%. In addition, Americans' audio day started later as quarantine restrictions began, from 7:15am pre-pandemic to 8:30 in Q2 before moderating somewhat to 8:15 in Q3. “The location of listening was totally changed by people staying at home,” President Larry Rosin said in the webinar presentation. The firm will continue to track these trends, Rosin said, “to see if once we get past the pandemic, things go back to the way they were before or whether the pandemic has permanently changed the way people consume audio.”

100 Million Americans listen to Podcasts Monthly

While podcast listening has yet to peak, 2020 was the year it hit100 million monthly listeners, a more than 40% increase in a two-year period, per the Infinite Dial 2020. Edison Senior VP Mellissa Kiesche compared the explosive growth of monthly podcast listening, from 21% of the U.S. population in 2016 to 37% in 2020, to monthly Twitter usage, which has stayed at 17% in the same timeframe. “That means today, well over twice as many people listen to a podcast every month than use Twitter monthly,” Kiesche said. “Yet Twitter bills $1 billion quarterly, globally, while podcasting had yet to hit $1 billion annually.”

25% of U.S. Latinos Listen to Podcasts Monthly

And many are new to the medium, according to the Latino Podcast Listener Report. “The Latino community, along with all of its diversity, has and will continue to be essential to the growth of podcasting,” said Director of Research Gabriel Soto. Listenership among Latinos is poised to grow as their awareness of the medium increases, and this growth may have already started. Over half of Latino podcast listeners started listening just within the last year. “The industry will have a better chance at maintaining this momentum, if they take time to understand this group,” Soto said. “Latinos are often perceived as monolithic when, in reality, the opposite is true. We come from different regions, like South America and the Caribbean. We are first, second and third generation Americans who might live in places like New York City or a small town in Texas.”

Spoken Word’s share of audio listening increased 30% over the past six years

Women, African-Americans, Latinos and 13-34-year-olds propelled the surge, per the Spoken Word Audio Report. And 2020 was a good year for spoken word audio, including sports talk and play-by-play, talk and personality audio programming, and audiobooks. “In addition to the convenience and multitasking benefits of spoken word audio, listeners tuned in for personal growth, better content, and the positive effect on mental health,” said VP Megan Lazovick.

55% of Gen Z listeners are reached by AM/FM radio every day

That just surpasses Edison’s estimate for audio streaming, according to Radio's Roadmap to Gen Z Listenership. “In an environment where radio people are constantly hearing that no young people listen to the radio anymore, this is powerful proof that it is not the case,” Director of Research Megan Vartan said. Of the time spent listening to all audio among 13-24 year-olds, 22% of it goes to AM/FM radio, streaming audio gets 26% and 18% goes to YouTube.

60 million Americans now own a smart speaker, and usage increased during quarantine

That’s 24% of the U.S. population, according to the Smart Audio Report.Over one-third of U.S. adult smart speaker owners say they are using their device more to listen to music and entertainment since the outbreak. And 18-34-year-olds are even more likely to turn to the device for a diversion. “A little over half , or 52%, of young Americans said they are using smart speakers for music and entertainment since the pandemic started,” Edison’s Kelly Martin said.

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