The Spoken Word Audio Report | TALKERS magazine : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

The Spoken Word Audio Report

| October 14, 2020

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Like telling the punchline at the beginning of the joke, I’ll bottom-line it for you. Ready?

Talk, on the phone. Digest what follows, and you will understand why to take those four words literally.

Worth your time.

This 2nd annual study from NPR and Edison Research mashes-up a 4000+ Edison Share of Ear survey sample, and another thousand interviews with 18+ monthly spoken-word audio consumers, and video from Zoom-focus-group type interviews.

I summarize work like this for TALKERS because I figure you’re usually too busy to watch a 40-minute video. But if you JUST happen to have time these days, hit and scroll down to “Watch the 2020 webinar.” Here’s my short version.

“Spoken Word Audio…”

…as opposed to music:


Why Time Spent Listening is shifting? Music has been commoditized. From interview videos:

  • A woman, 33, shrugged “As I got older, I stopped finding new music I loved.” Her comment really resonated with me after Friday night, when I attended the wedding of the youngest daughter of my youngest sister. All the songs the (masked) band played were 60s/70s, and EVERYONE knew the words.
  • And a 20-something guy was among those tuned-out by playlist repetition: “I’ve been listening to the same thing again and again.”

Other comments:

  • “Makes me feel smarter than just listening to music.”
  • “For stimulus, to engage my mind more.”
  • “Trying to broaden my horizons.”
  • “Escape from reality.”

Like e-commerce and telecommuting, this is one of those trends-already-in-motion that accelerated during the pandemic shutdown. Many feel lonely during quarantine, and this content is companionship:

  • “I can’t go hang out with friends.”
  • “It’s like there’s a person with you.”
  • “I’m in the house, I have nothing to do.”

Like the way they prefer video on-demand, consumers also want audio convenient:

  • “You can be doing anything in the world and be listening.”
  • “Occupy my mind while I’m cooking, working out, cleaning, and ‘reading a book’ at the same time.”
  • “You want to read all these books and never have time to.”
  • “Around my schedule.”

And there’s a burnout factor to same-old-same-old radio programming:

  • “Trying to broaden my horizons.”
  • “Listening to a podcast from my profession is a way to keep learning.”

As I said: “Talk, on the phone.”

This content is escaping from radio:


For the first time, AM/FM receivers now provide less than 50% of spoken word listening by device. And it didn’t happen overnight:


And that thing-in-the-pocket we used to call “a phone” is the field of play:


What’s clicking?


Not billboards, not bumper stickers, not TV, not direct mail.

That’s the appetizer.

Devour the entrée at

Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the E-book “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books (click the banner on this page).  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Analysis