Spoken word audio report (NPR / Edison Research): Record high consumption; podcast share growing; AM/FM unbeatable in the car

The fifth annual iteration of The Spoken Word Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research, derived from a nationally representative survey sample of 4,193 individuals age 13+, has been released.

While this important research continues to measure basic trend lines of listening to spoken word content, such as reach and time-of-day metrics, this year the two companies bring a special emphasis on listening locations.

To that point, spoken word listening at home has grown dramatically: Sixty percent of the total daily audio time spent with spoken word audio is at home, 24% in the car, 13% at work, and 3% at some other location.

We also learn of other key takeaways:

  • Spoken Word audience size and listening time attain record highs: Almost half (48%) — approximately 135M people — of those in the U.S. age 13+ listen to some type of spoken word audio daily, up two percentage points (46%) from last year.  Listeners in the U.S. age 13+ spend 31% of their daily audio time with spoken word, which is a 55% increase over nine years ago (20%).
  • Spoken Word listening in-car has shifted post-pandemic, but AM/FM radio remains on top. Of all the daily time spent listening to spoken word audio, time spent listening in the car has declined from 36% in 2014 to 24% in 2023.In the car, 62% of spoken word audio consumed by those in the U.S. age 13+ is to AM/FM radio content, including over the air and streams.
  • For the first time ever, the mobile device is the primary way people listen to Spoken Word: 39% of spoken word audio consumed daily by those age 13+ in the U.S. is on a mobile device, followed by 35% on an AM/FM radio receiver. At home, 41% of spoken word audio is consumed on a mobile device, and at work, 47% of spoken word is consumed on a mobile device. AM/FM radio receivers still dominate in-car, garnering 60% of the spoken word audio listening there.
  • Podcasts represent a large and growing share of spoken word listening: Podcasts now represent over one-third (36%) of time spent with spoken word audio. Twenty-eight percent of time spent listening to podcasts goes to NPR/public radio. At home, 40% of spoken-word audio listening goes to podcasts.

It’s natural to suppose that the rise of podcast listening is reflected in its comparative reach within all spoken word, and Edison VP Megan Lazovick confirmed that with an interesting remark during the release webinar on Thursday:


“Podcasting now accounts for over one-third of the time spent with spoken word audio. The cultural shift to digital certainly benefits this space, or perhaps, it’s vice versa — the growing enthusiasm for podcasting is shifting the culture digital. Either way, podcast listening continues to grow.” –Megan Lazovick, VP, Edison Research


Interestingly, daily listeners to talk spend more time with spoken word than with music, unlike the general population:


Spoken word audio now claims 31% of time listening, a 55% increase from 2014. That share happens mostly at home (36%) , with work close behind. (34%).

Things are different in the car, where AM/FM radio listening remains sticky, at 62% of share. The following graphic beautifully illustrates how listener choice of radio, podcasts, audiobooks, and other spoken word types is determined by location:

Very interestingly, the report also delivers share-of-content type, depending on listening location. “Personalities/Talk” grab more share than other content types, in all measured locations:


There is much more, and the report deck is freely available HERE.

Brad Hill