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Spoken-word audio statistics 2021: Listener habits & demographics

Spoken-word audio statistics 2021: Listener habits & demographics

Listen to our top ten takeaways:

An estimated 193 million people in the US (68% of over-12s) consumed online audio in the last month¹, with the average adult listening for 1 hour 34 minutes a day². 47% of Americans pay for an audio subscription³.

Spoken-word audio accounts for 28% of digital listening⁴.

The audio publishing revolution is here, and we’ve rounded up some key statistics for 2021 to help you understand listener habits, demographics, and more. While most statistics come from the US, they reflect a worldwide trend towards audio content.

We aim to keep this article up to date with the latest data, including:

Who listens to spoken-word audio?

75% of the 18+ US population listens to spoken-word audio each month⁴

45% of the 13+ US population listens to spoken-word audio daily⁴

  • Daily listeners average 2 hours 6 minutes per day listening to spoken-word audio

Share of US digital listening time spent listening to spoken-word audio (as opposed to music) in 2021⁴

  • By age: 13–34 (26%), 35–54 (30%), 55+ (28%)
  • By gender: Men (32%), women (24%)
  • By ethnic group: White/other (29%), African-American (22%), Hispanic/Latino (27%)

51% of US spoken-word audio listeners reported listening more in 2021 than they did five years previously⁴

Why do people listen to spoken-word audio?

Monthly listeners cite the following reasons for listening to spoken-word audio⁴

  • the ability to multitask (71% — the most popular reason)
  • it allows them to process information more efficiently (60%)
  • they like listening more than reading (56%)
  • they need to stay informed (52%)

Among this audience:

  • 58% say spoken-word audio is a productive use of their time
  • 54% say spoken-word audio engages their mind in a more positive way than other media
  • 45% say spoken-word audio is becoming a more important part of their life

How and where do people listen to spoken-word audio?

48% in the US listen via AM/FM radio, 22% via podcasts, 10% via audiobooks, 20% via other platforms⁴

47% in the US listen on an AM/FM radio receiver, 31% on a mobile device, 9% on a computer, 4% on a smart speaker, 9% on another device²⁴

54% in the US listen at home, 30% in the car, 13% at work, and 3% elsewhere²⁴

Searching the internet is the most common way for US listeners to discover new spoken-audio content, with 59% having done so⁴

49% of US spoken-word audio listeners listen exclusively alone, while 51% sometimes listen with others⁴

News audio publishing statistics

The most popular spoken-word audio topic in the US is news/information, with 56% of listeners having consumed this type of content⁴

News podcasts make up 7% of all those produced but account for 30% of top podcast episodes in the US⁵

Daily news podcasts make up 1% of all those produced but account for 10% of top podcast episodes in the US⁵

43% of daily news podcasts take the format of a deep dive, 24% a news roundup, 20% a micro bulletin, 14% an extended chat (US, UK, Australia, Sweden, France, and Denmark)⁵

The Daily, a podcast published by The New York Times, averages four million downloads a day⁶

News is the top genre for US podcast advertisers, accounting for 22% of revenue⁷

There were 51,406 news podcasts launched worldwide in 2020⁸

Podcast statistics

There were 885,262 new podcasts created globally in 2020, an increase of 280% year-on-year⁸

40% of millennials and Gen Zs rank their trust in podcasts higher than their average trust in traditional media sources⁹

How many people listen to podcasts?

31% have listened to a podcast in the last month: South Korea (49%), Ireland (41%), Spain (38%), Sweden (37%), Norway (37%), USA (37%), Switzerland (35%), Chile (35%), Canada (33%), Austria (32%), Australia (31%), Italy (31%), Argentina (29%), Finland (29%), Denmark (28%), France (28%), Singapore (28%), Netherlands (28%), Belgium (26%), Germany (25%), Japan (25%), UK (22%)¹⁰

29% of people across eight international markets listened to podcasts in the past week²²

53% of US podcast listeners listen weekly¹¹

78% of over-12s in the US are familiar with podcasting¹

57% of over-12s in the US have listened to a podcast¹

Who listens to podcasts?

US monthly podcast listeners by gender: 51% men, 46% women, 3% other¹

US monthly podcast listeners by age: 50% aged 12–34, 29% aged 35–54, 21% aged 55+¹

US monthly podcast listeners by ethnic group: 57% white, 13% African-American, 16% Hispanic, 4% Asian, 10% other¹

US weekly podcast listeners by generation: Gen Z (37%), Millennials (45%), Gen X (23%), Boomers (25%)¹⁹

UK weekly podcast listeners by generation: Gen Z (32%), Millennials (38%), Gen X (16%), Boomers (9%)²⁰

How and where do people listen to podcasts?

In the US, podcast listeners listen mainly through YouTube (26%), Apple Podcasts (22%), Spotify (17%), Google Podcasts (14%), Pandora (10%), NPR app or website (9%)¹⁰

In the UK, podcast listeners listen mainly through BBC Sounds (29%), Spotify (24%), Apple Podcasts (21%), YouTube (14%), Google Podcasts (7%), other (6%)¹⁰

In Germany, podcast listeners listen mainly through Spotify (29%), YouTube (22%), ARD Audiothek (15%), Audible (10%), Google Podcasts (9%), Apple Podcasts (8%)¹⁰

In Australia, podcast listeners listen mainly through YouTube (26%), Spotify (25%), Apple Podcasts (23%), ABC app or website (22%), Google Podcasts (14%) Podcast Addict (8%)¹⁰

Main ways in which people discover new podcasts (USA/Europe)¹⁰:

  • Recommendations from friends/family/work colleagues (37%/32%)
  • Searching the internet (27%/39%)
  • Recommendations or advertisements via social media (25%/27%)
  • Recommendations via my usual podcast app (24%/20%)
  • Recommendations or advertisements on other podcasts (21%/17%)
  • Promotions for podcasts via radio or TV (17%/15%)
  • Recommendations in newspapers/magazines (12%/14%)

Among US adults who have driven or ridden in a car in the last month, 30% have listened to podcasts in the car¹

Podcast advertising statistics

US podcast advertising revenues reached $842 million in 2020, and are expected to exceed $1 billion in 2021⁷

  • Half of ads last longer than 30 seconds
  • Pre-roll ads account for 22% of revenue
  • Audio-only podcasts accounted for 91% of revenue
  • 2.2% of podcast advertising inventory was sold through programmatic channels

Audio article statistics

69% of millennials and 61% of Gen Zs think audio formats are one of the greatest ways to tell stories⁹

62% of millennials and 52% of Gen Zs think audio amplifies more diverse perspectives than traditional media⁹

Zetland’s paying members consume 80% of articles via audio¹²

66% of people surveyed said there's too much visual stimulation in today's media landscape, and that audio provides a nice escape from it²¹

BeyondWords AI audio article statistics

Non-listeners spend an average of 30 seconds on-site, whereas listeners stay for 322 seconds (+973%)¹³

Non-listeners visit 1.17 pages on average, whereas listeners visit 1.39 (+19%)¹³

Listeners are 32% more likely to engage in multiple sessions than non listeners¹³

Returning visitors are 38% more likely to press play than new visitors¹³

The average new user who doesn’t engage with audio spends 2 seconds on-site, while the average new listener stays for 225 seconds (+11,150%)¹³

18–34s are 1.5x more likely to press play than 25 and overs¹³

35–54s who press play stay on-site for 9x longer than those who don’t¹³

55 and overs who press play visit 1.5x more pages than those who don’t¹³

Audiobook statistics

8% of adult British readers typically consume books into audiobook format¹⁴

  • 6% (16–24), 13% (25–39), 7% (30–55), 6% (55+)
  • 9% male, 7% female

54% of the US population (aged 12+) has listened to an audiobook²⁴, and 56% of listeners are under the age of 45¹⁵

US publishers' audiobook revenue grew 12% in 2020 to $1.3 billion¹⁵

55% of US listeners say they listen most of home, while 30% typically listen in the car¹⁵

38% of US audiobook listeners are subscribed to at least one audiobook service¹⁵

Business professionals cite listening to storytelling (26%) and accessibility/time-saving (26%) as the top benefits of audiobooks¹⁶

Most business professionals listen to audiobooks while driving (31%), doing housework/DIY (25%), exercising (18%) or walking (10%)¹⁶

Radio statistics

89% of the UK population listens into radio every week, with listeners tuning in for an average of 20.2 hours¹⁷

Speech radio stations reach 33% of UK adults every week²³

88% of adults in the US listen to radio every week, with listeners tuning in for an average of 12.2 hours¹⁸

77% of people across eight international markets listened to radio in the past week²²

Digital audio listening experiences have a stronger impact on the brain than radio listening experiences — +25% emotional intensity, +28% detail memory, +25% global memory, and +23% engagement²¹

Have we missed anything? Email [email protected] to let us know.

Infographic

The State of Spoken-Word Audio 2021 - infographic by SpeechKit
The State of Spoken-Word Audio 2021 infographic

Sources

  1. The Infinite Dial 2021, Edison Research and Triton Digital, published March 2021
  2. eMarketer, published February 2021
  3. Edison Research, published June 2021
  4. The Spoken Word Audio Report 2021, NPR and Edison Research, published November 2021
  5. Reuters Institute, published November 2020
  6. CNN, published December 2020
  7. Internet Advertising Bureau, published May 2021
  8. Chartable, published February 2021
  9. Spotify, published July 2021
  10. Digital News Report 2021, Reuters Institute, published June 2021
  11. Nielsen Scarborough Podcast Listener Buying Power, published November 2020, Source
  12. Journalism.co.uk, published September 2020
  13. SpeechKit AI Audio Article Report 2021, published July 2021
  14. YouGov, published March 2020
  15. Audio Publishers Association [PDF], published June 2021
  16. Great Work Life, published April 2021
  17. RAJAR, published May 2020
  18. Nielsen Total Audience Report 2021, published March 2021
  19. Attest US Media consumption Report 2021, published September 2021
  20. Attest UK Media consumption Report 2021, published June 2021
  21. Neuro-Insight and Spotify, published September 2021
  22. BPR Audio in 2021, published September 2021
  23. UK Gov, Digital radio and audio review, published October 2021
  24. The Spoken Word Audio Report 2020, NPR and Edison Research, published October 2020
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