The Proof Is in the Pod

Podcast ads

Do podcast advertisements actually work?

Let’s start this conversation off with a small confession: I’m a bit of a podcast junkie. My taste? Funny you should ask. I like some daily news, a little politics talk, a heavy rotation of true crime, some outdoorsy banter, general arts and culture, and, just for the laughs, a little bit of comedy. I maintain a fairly solid podcast rotation and that means I hear a lot of the same advertisers and products. So, off the cuff, I’m going to see how many podcast advertisers I can name… and ready… set… go: ZipRecruiter, Squarespace, Peloton, Blue Apron, ModCloth, Bob’s Red Mill, MailChimp, Audible, Honey, Swell, Shari’s Berries… and so on. Plus, I’ve even used or at least looked into some of them (the magic of advertising, folks!).

As far as advertising platforms go, podcasts are still new(ish), but it’s time to consider the platform to be a viable medium for brand promotion. Of course, advertising platforms that provide the target audience with an easy option to skip the advertisements outright might raise a red flag for anyone looking to make an ad buy. That said, studies show they work and the platform, one that’s already half-a-million podcasts in size, continues to grow… so let’s check out the advantages of podcast advertising:

That human connection

It should come as a surprise to no one that listeners form a connection with the hosts of their favorite podcasts. They even tend to view ad reads as personal recommendations and a lot of times they are… because the hosts actually use the product. Also, the connection between the hosts, the audience and the advertisers on podcasts is stronger because of a host’s ability (or even instructions) to freestyle when reading the ad copy, whether it means sharing a personal experience or just speaking without the structure of script. Beyond that, the symbiotic nature of the relationship (between advertiser and platform) doesn’t differ much from the more traditional mediums. It’s the perceived connection between host and audience that makes podcast advertisements so effective.

Listeners actually buy the products

This is the point, right? Advertisements work if they inspire some sort of action, usually the purchase of a good or service. I assume I’m not blowing any minds with that little scoop. However, with podcasts specifically, 63 percent of listeners say they made a purchase after hearing a podcast ad. And while it’s easy to point to the size of the average podcast’s audience to see how it correlates to the percent of users who make purchases, studies show that the number of podcasts listeners is growing steadily. If more than half of the audience acts after hearing an ad on a platform that’s only increasing its reach (and variety of offerings), it’s fair to think that the effectiveness will continue to grow in the right direction for advertisers.


When I hear someone talking about podcasts, I just assume they listen on their phones. I know that 90 percent of the time when I’m plugged into a podcast, it’s through my phone. That means I’m taking advertisements with me. Hiking in the woods far removed from civilization and modernity? The ads are still there. In the gym where cell service is spotty? Yep — podcast ads. Vacuuming the whole house? They’re still with me! Driving? You see my point. Okay, admittedly, that sounds a little like a post-apocalyptic nightmare, but remember that the ads are just brief segments in the middle of some binge-worthy true crime podcast (or whatever ear candy you prefer).

How does this all work?

So, if you’re one of the 150+ million Americans who have listened to a podcast, you can probably guess that most advertisements range between 30 seconds and two minutes, depending on the placement. The ads, usually read by the hosts, appear as pre-roll (before the podcast starts), mid-roll (right in the middle of the content) or post-roll (at the end, duh). Pre- and post-roll ads are usually shorter, lasting 15 to 30 seconds, while mid-roll ads tend to be a bit longer, running up to 90 seconds.

Ah, yes, and what many people — the bean counters among us — are wondering about? Cost. The pricing on podcast ads is based on cost per thousand (CPM) and the prices usually range from $18 to $50 CPM, which means $18 to $50 per one thousand downloads. More downloads means a bigger audience… and a bigger price tag. Thusly, the more popular the podcast, the higher the cost. With podcast ad buys, you are, after all, paying for both the reach and the host — the latter being one of the distinguishing benefits of podcast advertisements.

So, yes, podcast advertisements work… quite well, actually
Let’s put it like this: 1. Podcast ads see engagement from nearly two-thirds of their audience; 2. The platform is only projected to grow due to the popularity of the medium and that means: 3. the audience, the one that gives podcast advertising an overwhelming 78 percent approval rating, is only going to grow. Let me break that down further: Active, growing audience + popular platform = good opportunity.

Class dismissed…

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