Gen Z leading Spoken Word Audio’s continued growth

Edison Research and NPR have released the fourth edition of their Spoken Word Audio Report, which shows continued growth in share of listening, particularly with those ages 13-34.

The Spoken Word Audio Report has been tracking the medium’s growth since 2014 from a sample base of more than 4,100 Americans, measuring the consumption of news, sports, talk, personalities and audio books.

This year’s report indicates time spent with spoken word audio has grown 45% over the last eight years and 214% with younger demos over the same period.

The report says 46% of the U.S. population now listens to some form of spoken word daily, up from 45% last year. For the first time ever, those daily listeners are spending more time with spoken word than music at 51% and listening for an average of two hours and 19 minutes per day.

“Among daily spoken word audio listeners, a majority of their time with audio now goes to spoken word,” said Lamar Johnson, VP of Sponsorship Marketing at NPR. “The main story here is that we’re seeing growth in a medium that was already big in the lives of listeners.”

“For brands and advertisers, this is a clear indicator that audio is an impactful addition to any media strategy and spoken word in particular offers a highly engaged audience that produces a higher ROI,“ he continued.

There are now an estimated 131 million daily spoken word listeners in the U.S., up from 105 million in 2014, according to the report.

Audio diaries show that spoken word audio’s reach has increased in almost every single hour, rounded out by more listening in morning and afternoon drive, but more sustained throughout the day post-pandemic.

Share of listening has risen consistently since 2014 to 29% of the general population with much of that growth driven by younger listeners, particularly those 13-34, who have increased their listening in the space by 117% over the last eight years, followed by those 35-54 (36%) and listeners 55+ (23%).

Overall, daily spoken word audio listeners skew 35+ (56% of daily listeners), followed by those 25-34 (41%), a few points higher than Gen Z.

Spoken word coming from AM/FM continues decline

The portion of spoken word originating from AM/FM Radio is continuing a gradual decline at 47%, down from 48% last year. 

AM/FM is still capturing the lion’s share of news and sports spoken word audio listeners at 62% and 63%, respectively. Podcasts now account for 10% of news’ share of spoken word audio listening and 15% of sports.

AM/FM has also lost share when it comes to time spent listening to talk/personalities where podcasting is capturing 41% of spoken word audio listeners, compared to 39% of content originating on radio.

Podcasts are among the platforms benefitting from the shift to digital, although podcast listening’s share was flat in this report, down from 22 to 21% year-over-year.

62% of the U.S. population has now listened to a podcast vs. 30% in 2014. At 78%, Gen Z is more likely than other demos to have listened to a podcast, compared to 37% in 2014.

For both those ages 18-24 and 25+, Comedy is the most popular podcast drama, but with a dramatic lead for the younger demo at 62%. Society & Culture finished a distant second at 24%, followed by True Crime at 20% and News at 13%.

For those 25+, 39% listened to a Comedy podcast in the last week, followed by News (31%) and Society & Culture which ranked third at 27%.

Among the report’s takeaways are that to reach Gen Z and other young demos, you have to be accessible on mobile as their days centre around their devices.

NPR said the growth in mobile and podcasting continues to influence its investment in podcasts. In addition, the public broadcaster said the growing use of spoken word among young people has been an important trend informing its experimentation with TikTok, including its Planet Money presence on the platform, an extension of its programming and podcast breaking down economic issues in a creative way for younger audiences.


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Connie Thiessen
Connie Thiessenhttps://broadcastdialogue.com
Connie has worked coast-to-coast as a reporter, editor, anchor and host at CKNW and News 1130 in Vancouver, News 95.7 and CBC in Halifax, and CFCW Edmonton, among other stations. With a passion for music, film and community service, she led News 95.7 to a 2013 Atlantic Journalism Award and regional RTDNA award for Best Radio Newscast. More recently, she was nominated for Music Journalist of the Year at Canadian Music Week 2019. To report a typo or error please email - corrections@broadcastdialogue.com

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