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Spoken Word Listenership Increases 40% Since 2014

Young, multicultural audiences key drivers of growth

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

“The Spoken Word Audio Report” shows steady growth in spoken word audio consumption since 2014.

How much has spoken word’s share of audio listening grown over the past 12 months? The short answer, a lot. For the third year, NPR and Edison Research have joined forces to produce “The Spoken Word Audio Report.” The results were presented at a Nov. 11 webinar led by Lamar Johnson, vice president of sponsorship marketing at NPR, and Megan Lazovick, vice president at Edison Research.

The survey defines spoken word audio as anything other than music, i.e., news, sports, talk/personalities and audiobooks. According to the research, of the 40 percent growth in spoken word listening over the past seven years cited by the survey, 8 percent took place in the past 12 months. That translates to 22 million more people listening to spoken word than eight years ago.

While music is still the overwhelming content of choice, the research suggests that spoken word is steadily chipping away at that lead. In 2014, music commanded 80 percent of listenership and spoken word got 20 percent. In 2021, those numbers shifted to 28 percent for spoken word and 72 percent for music.

[See More RW Articles About Changing Audiences]

No matter how you break it down, the report claims that the share of time spent listening from 2014 to 2021 has increased across the board. When tracked by gender, men showed an increase from 26 to 32 percent, up 23 percent. One of the big surprises of this report was the increase among women, from 14 to 24 percent, an impressive 71-percent jump.

Not surprisingly, the youngest demographic showed the highest increase. Those in the 13 to 34 bracket had a gain of 116 percent, according to the report. Those aged 35–54 saw a 36 percent jump from 22 to 30 percent, while the 55+ demographic went up from 26 to 28 percent, an 8 percent uptick.

According to the NPR/Edison report, multicultural listeners are a key driving force in the expansion of spoken word audio. Those identifying as white/other saw a 26 percent increase from 23 to 29 percent, while African-American listenership increased 12 to 22 percent, up 83 percent. The Hispanic/Latino population listening to spoken word went up from 15 to 27 percent, an 80 percent jump.

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