The comfort of stories – why consumers’ desire for captivating spoken word is only set to grow

Audio is thriving post-pandemic because, while we were all locked away, we craved human connection – and disconnection from screens, writes Leanne Cartwright-Bradford, head of Asia Pacific at Audible.

‘Languishing’ seemed to be the word to sum up how we all felt at the end of 2021.

There was a sense of joylessness, emptiness and stagnation.

With lockdowns well and truly behind us and as we continue to navigate life beyond being confined to our homes, we’ve barrelled our way through 2022 at breakneck speed.

As the year draws to a close, I have to say, I’m feeling spent!

Many of us are feeling depleted from adjusting to a return to the office or hybrid work.

We are fried from the joyous scramble of packing countless missed social events into this holiday season.

In addition, we are deeply concerned for the way global events are unfolding.

As I reflect on what I need at the end of this year, it’s not just a rest, but it’s the comfort of stories. I’m seeking to escape and be entertained; to be inspired, imagine and learn – all while we emerge from our homes and off our screens back into the real world. The pandemic hyper-accelerated growth for all media industries, but audio has seen sustained growth that began well before the pandemic.

In 2022, Australian podcast penetration (40%) became the highest in the world according to the Infinite Dial Australia 2022. And we’re listening a lot. The average amount of time spent listening is over 13 and a half hours a week, up from just over 12 hours a year ago during the lockdowns; and we know that Audible customers listen on average to 22 books per year.

Audio is thriving post-pandemic because, while we were all locked away, we craved human connection – and disconnection from screens.

Audio is a mass medium that still feels intimate and personal – it’s as though we have a one-on-one relationship with the narrator as they talk to us.

We all recognise the experience of feeling like we ‘know’ radio hosts personally.

When we listen to the life stories of famous celebrities like Michelle Obama or Matthew McConaughey, narrated in their own voice, it gives us a sense that we are listening to a friend over the kitchen table, or in a bar, whatever the case may be.

Storytelling is a human universal that offers a unique connection between both storyteller and listener, bringing unparalleled benefits to both.

Using the power of voice and human emotion, the storyteller is able to awaken senses and captivate their audiences, openly sharing their story in a unique way not possible through other mediums.

The need for comfort and stories is what draws customers to audio and what keeps them listening.

However, the reason why audio endured the pandemic and continues to grow is because it aligns with what we now want from life.

Audio allows us to go out into the world and also be entertained, educated or inspired while we are doing other things.

These are often the very things that also improve our lives; whether it’s out running, at the gym, gardening or walking the dog.

This Christmas I know we will be listening to Roald Dahl in the car with the kids as we drive to see family in Melbourne.

Audio is the comforting entertainment option that we can take with us as we are out living; and it’s just what we need right now as the year draws to an end.

Leanne Cartwright-Bradford, head of Asia Pacific – Audible


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