A look at the US digital audio market in 2022: How big, who’s listening, and what are they listening to

More people in the US are listening to digital audio, and those who already do are spending more time listening.

In 2022, 74.0% of US internet users, or 222.7 million people, listened to digital audio. That’s two-thirds of the US population, and as such there is not much room left for substantial penetration growth.

Growth in the coming years will be slow. By 2026, the share of the US population listening to digital audio will rise by just 1.6 percentage points, for a total of 234.2 million.

For comparison, 18.9 million more people watched OTT video in 2022 on a monthly basis. In 2026, 21.0 million more people will be watching OTT video than listening to digital audio.

But time spent is increasing rapidly among existing listeners. In H1 2022, US internet users spent an average of 1 hour, 56 minutes per day streaming music, up 12 minutes from the previous year, according to data from GWI. US internet users also spent an average of 58 minutes listening to podcasts. Combined, the resulting 2 hours, 54 minutes is nearly even with the average amount of time spent watching broadcast TV daily, which still accounts for the largest share of US internet users’ time spent with media.

US internet users spend more time listening to digital audio than they do streaming video, using social media, or playing video games. Their ability to listen to music while doing something else plays a significant role. Music complements and accompanies people’s activities more than many other types of media.

Who is listening? 

Different generations engage with digital audio in divergent and notable ways, according to data from GWI. 

  • Adoption is most prevalent in younger generations. Among 16- to 24-year-olds, 91.1% listened to digital audio in H1 2022. That represents a hefty jump from 2021, when 84.1% listened, suggesting that digital audio is an essential thread in the cultural fabric of younger internet users.

How are they listening? 

Smartphones have become a dominant way to listen to digital audio, but the use of other devices for that purpose will continue to change, per our latest forecast. 

  • More than half the US population listened to audio on a smartphone in 2022, marking the first time a majority of the population listened on one of these devices. A decade prior, the figure was just 17.1%. By 2026, 193.3 million people, or 55.8% of the US population, will listen to audio on a smartphone every month.

What are they listening to?

Streaming audio companies had an early focus on subscriptions. Now, a majority of US digital audio listeners have been subscribed to a service since 2020. 

  • More than 60% of digital audio listeners in the US paid for a streaming audio subscription in 2022.That’s up from 36.9%, or 74.1 million people, in 2018, the first year we tracked paid digital audio subscribers in the US.

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