The Future of Leisure: Podcasts and Audiobooks

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Have you ever wondered what your favourite pastime will be in your leisure time in future? Will you reach for a pair of headphones the next time you curl up with a good book? Publishers of audiobooks are hoping so, and the market’s expected rise supports their hopes.

The expected growth in audiobooks and podcasts is part of a more significant trend of audio growth. Recorded music revenues in the United States, for example, increased by 12% in 2018.

Even though global radio and concert ticket sales are not expanding simultaneously, they are growing faster than international television and (printed) book revenues, 10 to 20 percentage points faster than worldwide magazine and newspaper revenues. Meanwhile, headphone sales in the United States alone hit $20 billion in 2018, increasing 27% yearly.

Podcasts & Audiobook and their audience

It’s not just about the bucks in the audiobook business; it’s also about the listeners. According to a 2018 poll, 18% of American adults stated they have listened to an audiobook in the previous year, up to four percentage points from 2016.

These numbers suggest that over 73 million people in the United States listen to an audiobook at least once a year, assuming that the growth rate has remained constant. Similarly, according to data from China, 22.8 per cent of the population listened to at least one Audiobook in 2017.

Based on current trends, more than a quarter of the Chinese people now listens to audiobooks. The number of current audiobook listeners worldwide almost likely exceeds half a billion.

The consumption of audiobooks will most likely vary by location and demographics. For example, in the United States, 74 per cent of audiobook listeners did so in their cars in 2019. As a result, countries with longer commuting times may have better revenues, growth rates, and audiobook prospects than countries with shorter commutes.

Children’s audiobooks, which already account for a significant portion of total audiobook sales, may also be a growth hotspot: This category accounted for 40% of audiobook titles sold in China, 10% in the United States, and 25% in France in 2017.

Surprisingly, while audiobooks are rapidly increasing market share in the book and overall media markets, it is not from print books. For example, in the United States, revenues from consumer print book sales gained 2.5 per cent year over year in the first half of 2019, but income from downloaded audiobooks increased 34 per cent.

While die-hard print fans cling to the physical page—which still accounts for 78 per cent of all US trade book revenues—a digital battle rages between those who want to read with their eyes vs those who prefer to read with their ears.

Kanaka Yeldutti
Kanaka Yeldutti
Pursuing MA in mass communication at Pondicherry University. An avid writer, Blogger with a keen passion for Journalism. Areas of interest are sociocultural struggles, women-centric issues, economic inequality.

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