More than half of Americans have listened to a podcast and the growing popularity of the on-demand format is helping to re-slice the audio content pie. Edison Research reports 26% of audio time now goes to spoken-word content, an eight percent increase from a year ago, with the biggest growth coming from women, 13- to 34-year-olds, African-Americans and Hispanics.
The second annual Spoken Word Audio Report, which Edison produced with NPR, shows spoken-word listeners are hungry for content. As a group, they average two hours per day listening to non-music audio content. Yet how that listening is being divvied up is evolving, especially as podcasting becomes mainstream.
“Podcast listening keeps growing, hitting an all-time high in 2020,” said Edison VP Megan Lazovick. During a webinar Tuesday, she said Edison data shows 19% of spoken-word listening now goes to podcasts, a 137% change since 2014 and a 12% increase from a year ago. “Time spent with spoken-word audio via podcasts has grown from 8% to 19% of listening. That’s an incredible amount of growth in just six years,” said Lazovick.
The data suggests some listeners are shifting away from AM/FM radio to podcasts. That’s because at the same time spoken-word consumption has gained for podcasts, listening through radio has declined 30% between 2014 and 2020.
Yet AM/FM radio remains dominant, with more than half of all spoken-word listening still consumed that way, according to Edison. The segment includes news, talk and sports programming, as well as music station morning shows. “It is still by far the platform with the most time spent listening to spoken-word audio,” said Lazovick.
One factor in the rise of podcasting’s share is the method by which Americans are accessing content. For the first time a majority now says they don’t listen to spoken-word content through a traditional AM/FM receiver, but rather through a digital device. That includes nearly a third (31%) who listen on their phone and four percent who said they listen on a smart speaker. In the digital realm, podcast listening apps often have an advantage over the web streams of local radio stations. That gap could be widening too, as Edison reports time spent on mobile devices continues to grow across all age groups. Lazovick said the aggressive moves by Spotify and other music apps have also contributed to the growth and ease of access of podcasts.
The report also finds that when it comes to podcasts, nearly a third of listening now goes to shows produced by public radio. Its 32% share of podcast listening has grown two points in each of the past two years, despite a more competitive landscape.
“As more people are working at home, we at NPR have seen our podcast audience grow,” said NPR Chief Marketing Officer Michael Smith. “We’re thinking it has a lot to do with how easy it is to engage with podcasts while you multitask between work, remote learning, and the other new realities of the COVID age,” he said during the webinar. Because daily spoken-word audio listeners are spending more time with the format than listeners in general, Smith said NPR is focused on creating daily podcasts in response to that appetite.
Among the most-listened to topics of spoken-word content, Edison said news and information is a clear leader. But talk about music ranked second, showing that even though Americans may not be listening to music as much it’s a topic in which they remain interested. Other attractions include comedy, movies and television, and sports. And while true crime may be a big category for podcasters, across the broader landscape that includes radio listeners just 28% say they listen to true-crime shows on a monthly basis.
Smith said that when they looked at people who were listening more during the past five years, several other topics also rose to the top. They included games and hobbies, language, social justice indexed the highest.
The report should offer advertisers new incentives to embrace podcasting and other spoken-word formats, according to Smith. “As more and more people bring audio into their daily routines, marketers should be thinking about incorporating audio into their strategies,” he said.
Download the full Spoken Word Audio Report HERE.