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Alexa, Read Me a Story: How Smart Speakers Helped the Audio Storytelling Industry

OK, we need to talk about podcasts. Podcasts have drastically increased in popularity in recent years, and many avid podcast listeners can tell you why. They are a platform for storytelling. As our brains think in the form of stories, not logically, these short forms of storytelling are great sources for information and entertainment. Additionally, podcasts have the benefit of mobility. You can listen to podcasts anywhere! With more than 500,000 different podcasts available, ranging from comedy to motivational to story-oriented, the possibilities are expansive. With the podcast boom, it’s no surprise that audiobooks aren’t too far behind in becoming a huge part of our everyday media consumption.


Do you know someone who always has podcast recommendations? Or an Audible account? Well, they’re not alone. NPD Group reports that audiobook sales grew 22.7% in 2017, and podcasts now total more than 500,000, up from 150,000 last year. eMarketer states that 73 million people in the US tune in at least monthly, and 52% listen to four or more podcasts a week.


The popularity of podcasting is actually a major factor in the surge in popularity of audiobooks. Publishers believe that podcasts almost ‘prime’ a listener for audiobooks. They make listening to long-form storytelling easier! Transitioning from podcasts to audiobooks is welcome and now more expected, with Audible being one of the top advertisers on podcasts. This is where smart speakers begin to factor in.


Smart Speakers have been rising in popularity, too. According to research from NPR and Edison Research, one in six (or 39 million) Americans now own a smart speaker. The convenience of devices such as Alexa and Google Home are big factors of why so many people find these gadgets appealing. Adobe Analytics studied what people are asking Alexa to do and the results are good for audiobook publishers: two of the top three daily smart speaker requests from nine p.m. to midnight are for short stories or audiobooks.


While the mobility of audiobooks and podcasts contribute to their appeal, 49% of podcasts are listened to at home. Additionally, 74% of the smart speaker owners who listen to podcasts do so directly from their speakers, not through their smartphone apps. Audiobook publishers have even become aware of the smart speaker trend and the advantages it has for audiobooks. In fact, Google Home now has its own audiobook service, which involved free credits for smart speaker owners for a limited time. Additionally, Amazon is making Audible more accessible from Alexa every day.


Podcasts and audiobooks are a big trend right now, and it seems like they’re here to stay.


Julia Hansen is a senior at Simmons studying PR/Marketing Communications and English with minors in cinema, media arts, and graphic design. When not writing for Her Campus, she can be found reading every book she can find, retweeting photos of dogs and binge-watching Parks and Recreation on Netflix. Find her on IG @juliarosehansen
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