The growth of spoken-word content has been a constant for the past few years. The medium has become an essential element of the media mix for publishers, advertisers, and consumers alike. Spoken-word content is now a key component for both publishers and advertisers. The data that we reference does not include music but focuses solely on spoken-word listening research in the US. These habits are indicative of broader global trends.
There is continued year-on-year growth in online spoken-word listening. Edison Research findings indicate that:
- An estimated 193 million or 68% of the 12+ population listens every month, which is 1 million more than in 2020.
- Weekly online audio listening is estimated at 176 million or 62% of the 12+ population. This is 7 million more or 60% of the population as opposed to 2020, an all-time high for this category.
- The average time spent listening weekly is 16 hours and 14 minutes, a significant increase from the 2020s of 15 hours and 12 minutes.
eMarketer findings indicate that:
- The time adults spent with digital audio recorded an 8.3% growth for a total of 1 hour, 29 minutes per day.
- Digital audio accounted for 11% of total media time per day for adults in 2020 and will account for 11.7% in 2021 or 1 hour and 34 minutes per day.
- In 2022, the average time spent listening should rise to 1 hour and 37 minutes per day.
- Active digital audio listeners spent 2 hours and 5 minutes per day on audio in 2020 and will likely add another 5 minutes this year.
- More than 70% of adults listened to digital audio content at least once a month in 2020 and 91.7% of this occurred via mobile.
Listener demographics are diverse but a growth trend is consistent across all age groups. As expected, Gen Z is leading the charge but Millenials and Gen X aren’t far behind. Also, almost half of the older and senior adults are active monthly listeners.
- Age 12 to 34: 86%
- Age 35 to 54: 72%
- Age 55+: 46%
Furthermore, 51% of those aged 12+ “frequently” or “sometimes” listen to audio with other people, with this percentage rising to 69% among those aged 12 to 34.
Podcasting goes mainstream
Podcasts are a regular source of content for over 222 million or 78% of the population. Podcats are continuing their significant and steady growth.
- About 162 million or 57% of 12+ listened to a podcast at least once.
- An estimated 116 million or 41% of the population tunes in monthly.
- The weekly podcast audience includes around 80 million people or 28% of the total population over 12.
- On average, weekly podcast audiences listen to eight podcasts or 5.1 podcast shows.
- Most podcast consumers are from the 12-34 age group, comprising 56% of the listenership in 2021, an increase from 49% in 2020.
- 39% of monthly listeners are those aged between 35 and 54 with a 39% listening share in 2021, down from 40% in 2020.
- The smallest portion of listeners comes from the group older than 55, representing 26% of monthly listeners, up from 22% in 2020.
- 48% of monthly podcast listeners are men; women 49%, while 3% are non-binary/other.
- 43% of male listenership are monthly listeners in 2021, up from 39% in 2020
- 39% of female listenerships are monthly listeners in 2021, up from 36% in 2020.
Audiobooks continue to prosper
- An estimated 131 million people listened to an audiobook in 2021, which is about 46% of the total 12+ population and a 1% increase compared to 2020.
- Even though the number of people commuting dropped in 2020, audiobook revenue was up more than 17% compared to 2019.
- The audiobook market size, measured by revenue, is $1.3 billion in 2021.
- The market size is expected to increase by 5.5% in 2021.
Audio article a major category
Audio articles may not be as dramatic as their podcast and audiobook counterparts, but they offer a convenient way for listeners to consume information. The audience for audio articles is generally multitasking consumers who choose to consume content aurally than visually.
- Spoken-word audio listening has increased by 30% over the last six years and 8% in 2020.
- 75% listen to spoken-word audio each month while 43% listen daily.
- Those who listen to spoken-word audio daily average two hours per day listening, nearly half or 48% of their daily listening time.
- Spoken-word listening accounts for 26% of all listening of the 13+ population, up from 24% in 2019.
- Mobile technology is driving spoken-word listening as 30% of all listening on a smartphone is to spoken-word audio.
- Covid-19 has had an impact on listening as 40% of spoken-word audio listeners age 13+ say they are listening more since the quarantine restrictions.
Audio audience engagement
Trinity Audio’s research indicates that:
- The total Listen-Through-Ratio (LTR) for audio versions of news articles and blog posts is 59%, meaning more than half of the total listenership listened through the entire audio content.
- Long-form content (five minutes and longer) has the highest LTR at 70%, while content up to three minutes long and content between three and five minutes long both have the same LTR at 55%.
- Click-Through-Ratio (CTR) on long-form content is three times higher than that on short-form, including editorial articles, short stories, and novels.
- Morning hours (7 am-10 am) and evening sessions (5 pm-8 pm) registered the highest spikes in listening times.
The top ten spoken-word audio topics comprise:
- News and Information 62%
- Music 50%
- Comedy and Humor 44%
- Movies/TV 39%
- Sports 38%
- Health 37%
- Food 35%
- Wellness and Self-improvement 34%
- History 34%
- Mystery/Thriller 34%
Radio remains a key category
The uptake of smartphones has played a key role in ensuring that radio, albeit mainly streaming as opposed to broadcast, remains significant.
- 63% of age 18+ are reached by radio every day.
- 41% of all daily audio time is spent listening to the radio.
- 55% of all Gen Z listens to AM/FM radio each day.
- Almost 50% of the time spent listening to audio in the car among 13 to 24 year-olds is to AM/FM radio, surpassing streaming audio, YouTube, and others.
With the further development of the ‘car as an entertainment platform’ concept, the radio will likely sustain its high listening share in 2021 and beyond.
As a hands-free medium that can follow listeners throughout their day, audio is a powerful way to reach consumers. It also offers a unique way to cut through the visual clutter and increase personalization, convenience, and loyalty with targeted, meaningful content. Research indicates that consumers are willing to listen for a variety of reasons:
- Audio is the most immersive media format that triggers memorability, trust, and connection, beating out the ad-based video on demand, digital video, linear TV, and social media.
- Audio platforms are trusted more than other media sources, while local content and host trust are the most influential drivers for listening.
- 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 number of use cases for how audio fits in with advertising campaigns is increasing, as digital audio showed great resilience in 2020.
IAB’s Annual Ad Revenue Report indicates that:
- Digital audio advertising revenue grew by more than $350 million in 2020, increased by 13% to a total of $3.085 billion.
- Eight of every ten dollars is attributed to mobile devices, with mobile audio revenue growing at a faster 15% rate in 2020 compared to desktop audio.
Adobe research indicates that:
- 58% of consumers find smart speaker ads to be less intrusive than other major formats such as TV, print, online, and social.
- 52% find them more engaging.
- 57% find them more relevant to their needs and interests.
- 51% of consumers said they found it easier to recall the brand behind a smart speaker ad versus other major ad formats.
- 53% reported a smart speaker ad drove them to a subsequent purchase.
Pandora’s research indicates that:
- Nearly half of streaming audio listeners say audio ads are less disruptive than other forms of advertising.
- Thanks to streaming audio’s ability to be highly personalized and dynamic, 43% say the audio ads are more relevant to them.
- 42% stated that audio ads are more likely to capture their attention than ads seen or heard in other places.
Trinity Audio’s research indicates that:
- The total ad completion rate of 91% indicates that nearly everyone who listened to audio content also heard an advertisement in its entirety.
- 15-second ads had a 91.7% completion rate, while 30-second ads had a 90.5% completion rate.
- 81% of media agencies used streaming digital audio advertising in 2020 and 65% used podcast advertising.
- 69% of media agencies now have streaming digital audio advertising as a significant part of their activity or regularly consider it, while 36% of media agencies now regularly consider podcast advertising.
- The predominant objective for all audio formats is to increase brand awareness, followed by increased engagement, direct response, and support for specific promotions.
- While less frequently used, audio assets are on average more effective than some visual assets.
Digital audio has shown extreme resilience and adaptability throughout this research window. COVID-19 has not impacted audio content consumption. In fact, consumers developed new habits and preferences while working and schooling from home.
Spoken-word audio has a growing importance in delivering a compelling and timely user experience as it can reach the consumer at any time and place, and more importantly, in any context. Its intimate and immersive nature is a huge advantage both for engagement and advertising purposes.
Infomo will be adding audio ad creatives to its Infomo R3 platform during 2021 to complement its already rich portfolio of web, app, and video creatives.
With thanks to Edison Research, eMarketer, Trinity Research, IAB, Adobe, Pandora, Trinity Audio