60-million people own smart speakers; usage grows (NPR/Edison Research Smart Audio Report)

Tom Webster (SVP, Edison Research) and Joel Sucherman (VP, New Platform Partnerships, NPR) held forth in a Zoom webinar to present the Smart Audio Report 2020, a collaboration of the two companies. The report consisted of a wealth of metrics, including specialty survey questions relevant to Covid-19, and qualitative research — videos of users talking about how they use smart assistants.

They top headline is that 24% of Americans (18+) have at least one smart speaker — that’s about 60-million people. This number is up from 53-million in last year’s report.


Multiple-device households are proliferating. In the chart below, we can see that homes which have three or more have increased from 21% in 2019 to 29% in today’s release — that is a 38% increase. Add up households which have two, three, or more devices, and it is more than half — 53%.

The report dives into considerable granular detail about how users employ their devices — and also why non-users don’t buy into the smart-speaker scene. (The main reasons for non-ownership? Security and privacy issues.)

The study also dives into the differing usage patterns between people who use their phone assistants compared to their stand-alone home devices. One interesting fact about that is how smart speaker owners have started using voice commands in their phones — it is 46%. Among people who cross that divide (smart speaker to phone assistant) 59% say they use the two platforms for different tasks.

What do people use their smart speakers for? Listening to music is the top request as discovered in this report — 85%. Other popular uses are more pedestrian — asking the time, weather, general questions and more. Here is the chart:

In summary, NPR and Edison Research provide these key takeaways:

  • Three-quarters of Americans 18+ say their routines have changed due to COVID-19, and their media habits have changed in response News is more important than ever with those who have experienced the most disruption.
  • Young people in particular are listening to more news as a result of the pandemic, with 50% of 18-34s indicating increased news consumption
    since the onset of COVID-19.
  • Voice assistant technology is in a state of evolution, not revolution, as people are using more kinds of skills and using the technology on speakers, TVs, and other devices.
  • 63% of the total U.S. online population 18+ say they use voice-operated personal assistants of any kind.
  • The voice technology in smart speakers is seen as slightly better than the same technology in smartphones, which may be due to operating systems, and environmental factors.
  • Smart speakers with screens play a crucial role in skill discovery; audio-first devices are perceived as easier to use than audio-only devices.
  • Among non-owners of smart speakers, those who currently use voice assistants are 60% more likely than those who don’t to purchase a smart speaker in the next six months.

There is much more in this 58-page graphic report of statistics. GET IT HERE.


Brad Hill