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Report: Spoken Word Audio On The Rise

Spoken word’s share of audio listening has increased by 40% over the last seven years, increasing spoken word audio’s share of time versus music listening.

Spoken Word Audio ReportSomerville, NJ (December 16, 2021)—According to a new report released by NPR and Edison Research, spoken word’s share of audio listening has increased by 40% over the last seven years—8% just in the last year—increasing spoken word audio’s share of time versus music listening.

The recently released 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 Spoken Word Audio Report, now in its third year, finds 75% 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.

In 2014, the share of time spent with all audio broke down to 20% spoken word and 80% music. This year, spoken word accounted for 28% of time spent with all audio, versus 72% with music. In 2021, spoken word audio daily listeners averaged 2 hours and 6 minutes per day listening to spoken word 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.

Podcasting Flourishes Despite the Pandemic

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.

Digital listening is also changing the spoken-word audio landscape, the report says. 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 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. One respondent to the survey, identified as Brian, states, “I guess I used to only listen to music, but now I think I listen to people talk more. Because I think it’s probably a side effect of pandemic; you just want that more human connection, I guess.”