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Spoken Word Listening Is Up Across Dayparts And Demos, Especially Young People.

Spoken word audio continues to expand its reach and share of audio listening across all demos and dayparts, according to a new study from Edison Research and NPR. An estimated 26 million more people are listening to spoken word audio in the U.S. than eight years ago. Almost half (46%) of the U.S. population listens to spoken word audio content daily, continuing a yearslong uphill climb.

Spoken word audio includes news, sports, talk/personalities and audiobooks.

“For brands and advertisers, this is a clear indicator that audio is an impactful addition to any media strategy,” said Lamar Johnson, VP of Sponsorship Marketing at National Public Media. “And spoken word in particular offers a highly engaged audience that produces a higher ROI.”

The gains aren’t confined to any one daypart – spoken word audio listening has increased throughout the day. “We still see more listening in the morning and evening drive times,” said Edison Research VP Megan Lazovick, who presented the latest Spoken Word Audio Report Thursday in a webinar with Johnson. “But those high numbers are sustained in more places throughout the day.”

Explosive Growth In Younger Demos

Younger demographics are increasingly more interested in the medium. Listeners aged 13-24 show the most explosive growth and now spend 22% of their audio time with spoken word, compared to 7% in 2014. That’s a stunning 214% increase in eight years. “It's great that younger audiences are already seeing the value of spoken word audio, and they are likely to broaden their consumption over time,” said Johnson.

It’s not just the number of people listening that is on the rise. So is the amount of time they are spending with spoken word. While music continues to dominate the audio landscape, spoken word’s share is increasing among all listeners. Those age 13+ spend 29% of their total audio time with spoken word content, up from 20% in 2014, for a 45% increase over the last eight years.

The younger the demo, the larger the increase in spoken word’s share of audio time. Americans aged 13-34 more than doubled their time with spoken word, from 12% in 2014 to 26% in 2022. And it tripled among 13–24-year-olds, from 7% to 22%. The increases were smaller, but still substantial, with 35–54-year-olds (+ 36%) and those aged 55+ (+23%). While younger demos are growing the fastest, older listeners still allocate a larger share of their audio time to spoken word.

Music still grabs 71% of the audio listening pie. But narrow the lens to daily spoken word audio listeners and the axis tilts in the other direction. For the first time ever, daily spoken word audio listeners spend more of their audio time with spoken word than with music.

“After all these years of tracking these behaviors, this is the first time we have ever recorded such a high percentage of time with spoken word audio among this group,” said Lazovick. Those who listen to spoken word audio daily spend 51% of their total daily audio time with spoken word, or about two hours, 19 minutes. That compares to one hour, four minutes for the total U.S. population 13+.

Shift To Digital Devices

The study shows spoken word audio listening has continued the shift to mobile devices. “Digital platforms have opened up new ways for people to listen and connect,” said Lazovick. “While we do see the introduction of things like smart speakers and internet-connected TVs contribute to a little bit of the shift to digital, the device with the most growth is the item that is small enough to fit in your pocket.”

The data show more than one third (34%) of all spoken word audio is consumed on a mobile device, up from 9% in 2014. That is a 278% increase in the past eight years. While the traditional AM/FM receiver still has the lead at 39%, it has been declining since 2014 when it made up 73% of spoken word audio listening by device. Younger listeners are more likely to listen on a mobile device: Among those age 13-24, 62% of their spoken word audio is consumed on a mobile phone.

Among platforms, AM/FM radio continues to dominate, accounting for 47% of time spent with spoken word audio. That’s more than double the share for podcasts, (21%). Audiobooks captured 11% and 21% went to “other”

The study is based on a national sample of 4,118 respondents aged 13+ conducted from third quarter 2021 through second quarter 2022. Surveys were conducted online and offline and offered in English and Spanish.

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