Listener220

Spoken word’s share of audio listening has grown by 30% during the past six years according to Edison Research. That includes an eight percent increase in the past year. But why are people listening? The second annual Spoken Word Audio Report, which Edison produced with NPR, offers ten insights into what is behind that changing listening habit. Here’s what they found –

COVID-19

For many audio consumers, the global pandemic has prompted them to listen to more spoken word content. Four in ten adults 18 and old told Edison they are consuming more spoken word audio content than before the pandemic. That is more than three-times the 12% that said they are listening less. The rest (48%) said their listening hasn’t been affected by COVID-altered media habits. The biggest pattern change was seen among young adults. Six in ten of those aged 18 to 34 said they’re listening to more spoken word audio. The data also shows a bigger gain among Hispanics and African-Americans than whites.

More Time & Opportunity

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, 63% of those surveyed said staying close to home has given them more desire and opportunity to change their typical listening habits toward the spoken word. Three-quarters said they also have more time to listen. Once again, it was women who scored the highest on these measures. 

Convenience & Multitasking

Broadcast radio, and music formats in particular, have long been background media that allowed a listener to do something else while they listened. That continues to be an attractive feature for spoken word content, including podcasts. Edison says 79% of those surveyed said they listen to spoken word audio because they can do other things while listening. And 77% said it’s easier to listen to on-demand audio whenever they want. Those attributes scored highest among women and people aged 55 and older.

Better Content

From the latest news on the pandemic to the presidential election, lots of people are turning to audio to keep up. Two-thirds (68%) of those surveyed say they feel a responsibility to listen to spoken word content to stay informed about current events and news. And nearly as many (65%) say it offers perspectives they don’t see in other media with whites and those aged 55 and older most likely to say better content is what drives them to spoken word formats. Most unexpected is 58% that said on-demand spoken word audio feels “newer and fresher” than what they hear on live radio. 

Mental Health

This year has been a stressful one for many Americans, and Edison said it found that for a lot of listeners they are finding comfort in the spoken word. Perhaps even more unexpected is who is embracing talk shows and podcasts to help them get through things – men and Millennials. The data shows 67% said spoken word content gives them a break from negativity. And 64% said it was a way to escape news and current events. A majority 54% said they also get tips on navigating problems and hardships in their life on podcasts and radio shows, while 52% said listening makes them feel less lonely.

Identity & Religion

Edison reports one of the reasons spoken word listening has increased so much during the past year is considerable gains among Hispanics and African-Americans. One reason those ethnic groups are most likely to be embracing the genre is that 70% say it has become easier to find content that is made for people like them. And 60% say they’ve found hosts that they can identify with. During the pandemic, many people have also embraced religious podcasts and that shows up in this data too. Edison says 41% say they’re listening to spoken word content because it helps them stay connected to their faith or spirituality.

Awareness & Influence

The more you know, the more you listen is one way to sum up why spoken word consumption is on the rise. Two-thirds of those surveyed say they are more aware of different types of content available today. There’s also a FOMO factor – or fear of missing out – as four in ten say they feel like they should be listening to more spoken word content because their friends and family are talking about what they have heard. The same number says they’ve seen podcasts or radio shows mentioned on social media.

Less Interest In Music

While it may seem obvious, in reality not everyone who says they are listening to more spoken word content has less interest in music. Just 38% say that’s the case, according to Edison. But it is a factor for some, especially men and African-Americans. A majority (52%) of those surveyed say they’re not hearing a lot of new music they like these days, while at the same time there is plenty of spoken word content to select from. 

Personal Growth

Older demos have long been attracted to spoken word formats on radio, and today 71% of those surveyed cited growing more mature as a reason they consume more spoken word content. Two-thirds said they also see the medium as a way to improve or better themselves, while 61% said it helps motivate or encourage them.

Education

Half of those surveyed by Edison said spoken word content helps them continue their education. And seven in ten reported they process information more efficiently when they listen to it. Men, more than women, were more likely to say education is a reason they turn to spoken word.