Company News · October 13, 2020

The Spoken Word Audio Report 2020 from NPR and Edison Research

By Edison Research

Spoken Word Audio Share in the U.S. Up 30% Since 2014 

NPR & Edison Research report Women, African-American, Latino/Hispanic, and 13-34-Year-Olds Drive Growth

The share of time spent listening to spoken word audio in the U.S. has increased 30% in the past six years, and 8% in the last year, with the highest levels of growth coming from women, African-Americans, Latinos and 13-34-year-olds. Music’s share of listening decreased by 8% over the last six years. These findings are part of the second annual Spoken Word Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research, presented today in a webinar hosted by Edison Research Vice President Megan Lazovick, and Michael Smith, NPR’s Chief Marketing Officer. The report is available now at

The Report examines spoken word audio, which includes podcasts, news, sports, talk radio and audiobooks, and finds that  43% of the U.S. population 13+ listen daily to spoken word audio. Additional findings include: 

  • Those who listen to spoken word audio daily average two hours per day listening to spoken word — nearly half (48%) of their daily listening time.
  • Spoken word listening accounts for 26% of all listening by those A13+ in the U.S, up from 24% in 2019.  
  • Podcast and audiobook listening both attained an all-time high reach with 55% of the U.S. population having ever listened to a podcast and 54% having ever listened to an audiobook 
  • Mobile technology is driving spoken word listening: 30% of all listening on a smartphone is to spoken word audio  
  • In addition to the convenience and multitasking benefits long recognized for spoken word listening, other strong motivators for increased listening are personal growth, better content, and spoken word’s ability to improve mental health. 
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on listening as 40% of spoken word audio listeners age 13+ saying they are listening more since quarantine restrictions.

The Spoken Word Audio Report also includes six years of tracking data from Edison Research’s Share of Ear® from 2014-2020, which finds the largest increases in the share of time spent listening to spoken word audio among the following groups:   

  • African-Americans, 12% to 27% (125% increase) 
  • Age 13-34, 12% to 22% (83% increase)  
  • Women, 14% to 22% (57% increase) 
  • Hispanic/Latinos, 15% to 22% (47% increase)

“Growth in diverse listeners is exciting to see and is in sync with our initiatives. As the audio leader, NPR has helped move the needle for spoken word audio and we are encouraged to learn that we are reaching more listeners with our public-service journalism and programming,” says NPR CMO Michael Smith.    

According to Edison Research Vice President Megan Lazovick, “The spoken word listeners we interviewed across the country gave incredible insight into how important the medium is in people’s lives especially during COVID-19 disruptions. People are turning to spoken word audio for companionship, self-improvement, mental health and so much more. While music is still a large part of American’s audio diet, spoken word audio is an essential ingredient.” 

How the study was conducted:
Spoken Word Audio Study: A total of 1,000 online interviews were conducted with persons age 18+ using a nationally representative sample. Respondents qualified for the survey by consuming spoken word audio at least monthly. Data weighted to national 18+ U.S. population estimates. Additionally, in-person interviews were conducted with individuals who listened to spoken word audio at least monthly.

Edison Research Share of Ear®: A total of 4,318 respondents age 13+ completed an online or offline survey which was offered in English and Spanish. Data weighted to national 12+ U.S. population estimates and has been tracked since 2014.

About Edison Research
Edison Research conducts survey research and provides strategic information in over 50 countries for clients including AMC Theatres, AMC Theatres, Amazon, Apple, The Brookings Institute, Facebook, The Gates Foundation, Google, the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, Oracle, Pandora, The Pew Research Center, Samsung, Spotify, and SiriusXM Radio. The national tracking study The Infinite Dial® and the syndicated Share of Ear® are two of the most widely cited studies in the audio space. Edison is also the leading podcast research company in the world and has conducted research for NPR, Slate, ESPN, PodcastOne, WNYC Studios, and many more companies in the podcasting space.  Edison’s network of more than 20,000 experienced interviewers allows the company to conduct research in almost any location. Since 2004, Edison Research has been the sole provider of Election Day data to the National Election Pool. For the 2020 U.S. elections, Edison will provide exit polls and will tabulate the national vote across every county in the United States for ABC News, CBS News, CNN, and NBC News.

About NPR
NPR’s rigorous reporting and unsurpassed storytelling connect with millions of Americans every day — on the air, online, and in person. NPR strives to create a more informed public — one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas, and cultures. With a nationwide network of award-winning journalists and 17 international bureaus, NPR and its Member Stations are never far from where a story is unfolding. Listeners can find NPR by tuning in to their local Member stations (, and now it’s easy to listen to our stories on smart speaker devices. Ask your smart speaker to, “Play NPR,” and you’ll be tuned into your local Member station’s live stream. Your speaker can also access NPR podcasts, NPR One, NPR News Now, and the Visual Newscast is available for screened speakers. Get more information at and by following NPR Extra on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Contacts, Press Only:   

  Laura Ivey
Edison Research
(908) 707-4707

Devon Landis
National Public Media at NPR
(202) 513-3490


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