Are podcasts drawing American listeners away from music?

·2-min read
Podcasts and other spoken-word audio content has found its audience this year, due to the various periods of Covid-related lockdown.

It will have escaped no one's notice that we are spending more and more time with headphones in or on our ears. While this listening time was previously associated with music, the rise of podcasts and audiobooks is shaking up our audio consumption habits. So much so that Americans are starting to abandon music streaming, according to a new study.

Edison Research recently released the results of its annual survey of spoken-word audio content, conducted in partnership with the US public radio station NPR. It reveals that 127 million Americans listen to this type of audio content every day, up from 105 million in 2015. This trend is particularly marked among women (+71%) but also among listeners aged 13 to 34 (+116%).

Podcasts and other spoken audio content formats have been particularly popular this year, thanks to the various periods of covid-related lockdown. Before the pandemic, we used to listen to them "to pass the time" in the car or on public transport. Since then, they've made their way into our homes, and it's not uncommon to dip into one of these portable audio formats while cooking, gardening or even before going to sleep.

Many Americans are turning to spoken-word audio content to make chores, tasks and other moments of day-to-day life more interesting. This was the case for 71% of the 1,000 listeners surveyed by Edison Research. But these programs are not only used as a background for multitasking: 60% of respondents listen to them to "better themselves" or to discover "perspectives you don't hear in other media."

Music or podcasts? Or both?

If the rise of these new media is a big hit for some platforms, it raises questions within the music industry. And with good reason. Americans are increasingly abandoning music for podcasts and spoken-word content, according to the Edison Research report -- a phenomenon that has only increased over the past eight years.

Spotify has taken notice and is looking to carve out a place in the audio sector. The music streaming giant recently announced the acquisition of Findaway, a global leader in audiobook distribution. The deal accelerates its entry into the fast-growing audiobook sector, which is expected to reach $15 billion by 2027. It also confirms the Swedish company's desire "to become the destination for everything audio-related for both listeners and creators," as Gustav Söderström, Spotify's director of research and development, said in a statement.

For its part, Amazon Music is beefing up its podcast catalog by offering subscribers exclusive content -- a strategy replicated across all territories where it offers podcasts, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

Caroline Drzewinski

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting