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Most Spoken Word Audio Listening Happens via Radio

Survey finds 57 percent of U.S. population has listened to podcasts

This week, we’re taking a look at NPR/Edison Research’s new report on spoken word audio.

While the latest NPR/Edison Spoken Word Audio Report defines spoken word as anything other than music, podcasting is clearly the 500-pound gorilla in the room. The research suggests that podcasting’s share of time with spoken word audio has increased by 176 percent over the past seven years, up 16 percent in the last year alone, and that those who prefer to listen to spoken word most often via podcasts has increased by 27 percent.

[Read more of our coverage of “The Spoken Word Audio Report”]

When the report parses the data by distribution of spoken word audio listening by platform, however, the results suggest that AM/FM radio has maintained a clear lead over podcasts, audio books and other platforms. That lead is steadily eroding though, falling from 79 percent in 2014 to 48 percent in 2021.

“The Spoken Word Audio Report” shows radio remains the most commonly used medium for listening to spoken word audio.

In addition to podcasts, mobile devices, according to the survey, are a key driving force in spoken word audio’s impressive growth. When broken down by demographics for share of time spent listening to spoken word audio on a mobile device from 2014 to 2021, the average increase is 278 percent.

The 18–34 demographic went from 19 to 51 percent, a 168 percent increase. Those aged 35–54 saw a 216 percent increase, up from 12 to 38 percent. Another big surprise in this report are the numbers reported for the 55+ demographic. In what seems to be a monumental game of catch up, they went from 2 to 18 percent — an 800 percent increase!

When the report breaks the numbers down by share of listening by content type of device, music is still the dominant player across the board. That said, mobile devices lead the spoken word segment with 35 percent, followed by AM/FM radio receivers with 29 percent. And the survey emphasizes that this 29 percent is actual over-the-air listening, and not listening to an AM/FM station’s stream. This is followed by computers with 27 percent and smart speakers with 24 percent.

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