• Ron Jaworski

Spoken word audio scored big in 2021 - here’s a recap

I know I will sound like a geek, and that’s perfectly fine, when I say that one of my favorite times of the year has become the release of the Spoken Word Audio Report by Edison Research.

The 2021 iteration brought a treasure trove of insights that once again show the upward trajectory of what is arguably the hottest media today.

The big reveal:

Three-quarters or 75% of all adult Americans listen to spoken word audio each month while 45% of the 13+ population listen daily, up from 43% in 2020.

Spoken word audio, which comprises podcasts, audiobooks, talk radio, news, and sports, continues to grow. Its share of audio listening has increased by 40% over the last seven years and 8% this year, slowly nibbling away at the music’s share of listening.

Trends, changes, listener behaviors and preferences - I take a deep dive into the spoken word segment of the audio landscape and dissect what’s going on behind the scenes.

Demographics - literally everyone

It’s interesting that the time spent listening to the spoken word is fairly consistent across every age group, which shows the medium’s universal appeal.

In 2021, spoken word audio daily listeners across all demographics averaged 2 hours and 6 minutes per day listening to said content. This suggests that during one of their favorite past times, daily consumers really focus on listening and immerse themselves.

The 35-54 and 55+ age groups spend 30% and 28% of their time listening to spoken word audio, while somewhat surprisingly, those aged between 13 and 34 spend 26% of their time doing the same.. I find this slightly unusual as younger audiences are generally touted as audio’s biggest fans.

However, there is a reason why Gen Z and Millenials are considered key audio demographics. They registered the highest increases in listening, clocking in at 116% over the seven-year period and 18% over the past year.

Young audiences being superfans of audio coincides with findings from the Audio Publishers Association’s Sales Survey published in June this year, which found that 56% of audiobook listeners are under the age of 45, up from 52% in 2020. Additional data from the Immersive Media & Books 2020 Consumer Survey shows that 41.5% of Millennials and 43% of Gen X engage with audiobooks.

In terms of gender, men spend 32% time listening while women spend 24%.