The fastest-growing segments of the audio industry are unrelated to music or young people. In Edison Research’s The Infinite Dial 2023 research, podcasts and audiobooks stand out when online listening growth slows and smartphone ownership is almost universal.

According to the research, weekly podcast listening increased from 33% in 2022 to 40% for adults aged 12 to 34 and 39% for people aged 35 to 54. The audience aged 55 and older has stayed at 14% after dropping from 17% in 2021. Nine podcasts are listened to weekly on average by Americans who are podcast listeners, with 19% listening to 11 or more.

These growth rates contrast with slowdowns in smartphone adoption (91% of Americans now own smartphones), social media usage (82% of people have access to it), and monthly online audio listening (75% this year, up marginally from 73% in 2022).

Podcasts, however, seem to have more possibility for expansion. 42% of people reported listening to a podcast in the previous month, which is 28 percentage points fewer than the audience for online audio. 64% of Americans aged 12 and over, or around 183 million people, have ever listened to a podcast. This is an increase from 27% a decade ago and 44% of the population five years prior.

Audiobooks are expanding as well. The number of Americans who listened to an audiobook in the past year increased to 35% of the country’s population, or roughly 100 million people, from 28% the year before. Nonetheless, there is still a lot of room for expansion, and businesses will probably take use of that proportion to reach out to new listeners.

Podcasts and audiobooks are tangentially related to music in the streaming age. Digital platforms increasingly combine music and non-music content to keep listeners engaged and make the apps more attractive to subscribers. To improve both its product and margins, Spotify has invested handsomely in podcasts — from DIY tools like Anchor and Megaphone to content creators Gimlet, Parcast and The Ringer — as well as audiobooks, through the acquisition of audiobook distribution platform Findaway.