The Ins and Outs of Podcast Advertising

The Ins and Outs of Podcast Advertising

Recent data from Nielsen suggest that there are now more than 700,000 active podcasts worldwide, covering everything from real estate to fishing.

What’s more, the number of hours that the average person spends listening to a podcast has doubled over the last ten years, with 33 percent of people in the US now reporting that they are “monthly listeners.”

Figures suggest that in 2020, businesses will spend more than $659 million on podcast advertising, up from just $119 million in 2016.

Podcasting, therefore, is an important advertising channel for businesses to communicate with their audiences. It’s a great way to reach niche audiences and get a message out there to the people who want to hear it.

There are, of course, some challenges for the creators of podcasts looking to take advantage of advertising dollars. If you have your own podcast—or plan on starting one—it will need to develop a listening experience that is not only compelling but also generates a positive ROI.

Advertising is one of many ways to monetize a podcast, but there are a lot of factors to consider. Creating an excellent podcast experience that attracts advertisers isn’t easy, but you can take solace in the fact that many corporations, small businesses, and individuals have managed it.

Here’s what you need to know about the podcast advertising opportunity ahead of us and how to tap into it.

Go Beyond Advertising


Why Is Podcasting
Becoming More Popular?

Midroll Media recently analyzed the growth in the penetration of podcasting across age groups.

In 2013, just 11 percent of people aged 12 to 24 listened to podcasts. By 2017, that had more than doubled to 27 percent.

There was a similar pattern among other age groups. In 2013, just 16 percent of those aged 25 to 54 listened to podcasts. By the end of 2017, that was up to 31 percent (and is even higher today). Penetration also grew by more than 80 percent in the 55 + age group over the same period.

So what the heck is going on?

Why is podcasting so incredibly popular, and what’s driving the extraordinary growth that we’ve seen over recent years? Can anything stop the rise of the medium?

Data suggest that consumers are zoning out traditional banner advertising. While it was highly effective in the past, many have grown so used to it that they automatically blot it out, even if it is relevant. And many users have ad blockers installed—some browsers even come with them pre-installed.

Users, however, have not developed the same attitudes when it comes to podcast advertising. Podcasts gain attention in a way that pay-per-click (PPC) digital ads just can’t.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Because podcasts are audio-based, users can’t avoid advertisements unless they choose to skip forward or turn the podcast off (which is unlikely if it is high-quality content).
  • People who listen to podcasts often deeply respect the hosts. This aspect of the experience makes them much more willing to listen to their messages, even if they know they’re ads.
  • Advertising can be worked fairly naturally into podcast content, which makes it less disruptive for listeners.

Creating a podcast advertising strategy that effectively promotes your brand can be a challenge, and there are numerous pitfalls that you’ll face along the way. If you want to have success in podcast advertising, you need to do the following:

  • Find podcasts that appeal to your target audience
  • Learn more about the type of people who listen to podcasts and what appeals to them
  • Create podcast ads that suit your brand, tell your story, and generate conversions

With research, targeting, and testing, you can use podcast advertising to your benefit.

Podcast Advertising Standards

While the podcasting industry is relatively new, it has developed a series of advertising standards intended to deliver the best experience for both the audiences as well as the businesses using them as marketing platforms.

The industry tends to prefer sponsorship ads of standard length, either 15 seconds pre-roll (before the episode) or 60 seconds mid-roll (during the episode).

Pre-roll usually appears after the intro jingle, but before the host gets into the “meat” of the podcast. The idea here is to put the ad in before starting the content to avoid disrupting the flow of the show.

Mid-roll ads appear in the middle of the show’s content, usually 40 to 70 percent of the way through. Unlike radio ads, the show host will often offer a preamble to the commercial message, helping to improve credibility and impact.

A few podcasts place ads and the end of episodes. The idea here is for the advertiser to have the last say so customers remember them. This type of ad timing, however, is less common than pre-roll and mid-roll because it’s easy for listeners to jump over the ad by skipping to the next episode.

Podcast Advertising Rates

The popularity of podcasts rises every year—that’s no secret. However, the ability for consumers to skip ads or bypass them entirely is also unprecedented with many podcast apps implementing 30-second skip buttons. Listeners will ignore and skip anything they don’t like, so podcast hosts and advertisers need to be very clever with how they deploy their podcasting ads.

While the price of podcast advertising varies from show to show—depending on audience size, demographics, and buying behavior—there is data on the average amount that businesses pay.

AdvertiseCast has calculated the following:

  • 15-second pre-roll ads cost $15 per 1,000 listens
  • 30-second mid-roll ads cost $18 per 1,000 listens
  • 60-second mid-roll ads cost $25 per 1,000 listens

As you can see, the cost for podcast advertising depends heavily on the number of listens. The more people an ad can reach, the more a podcast will charge for the placement.

You’ll also notice that there’s a price discrepancy between pre-roll and mid-roll ads. Pre-roll ads come in at $15 per 1,000 listens, while mid-rolls are more expensive and vary based on length. Users are less likely to skip and more likely to be engaged for a mid-roll ad than a pre-roll one, hence the variance in price.

Recently there’s also been a rise in non-standard “native ads” that don’t follow the traditional advertising format. Some podcasters are choosing to include more organic-sounding ads and promotions in the middle of their content. The idea here is to bypass the knee-jerk reaction of many listeners to skip ads. While native advertising is in its infancy,, it could become the method of choice for podcasters. Hosts want to monetize with advertisements and earn revenue, but in doing so, they also want to provide their audience with a great experience. Native advertising appears to offer them the best of both worlds, matching the ads to the content in a way that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the podcast. It blurs the line between advertising and sponsorship as the podcast monetization method.

There’s also a rise in “outro” podcast advertising, inserting ads at the end of the podcast episode so it’s the last thing the listener hears. Most podcasters include a call to action at this point because their audience may be ready to take action after or between episodes.

There’s also a rise in “outro” podcast advertising, inserting ads at the end of the podcast episode so it’s the last thing the listener hears. Most podcasters include a call to action at this point because their audience may be ready to take action after or between episodes.

Top Podcast Advertisers

Every year, thousands of brands use podcast advertising to get their messages out to audiences. They aim to grab the attention of people most likely to buy their products. But who are the top podcast advertisers? And why?

Every year, rating agency Magellan releases statistics on which companies invest the most money in podcast advertising. The agency scans the 2,000 most popular podcasts on the Apple store and then analyzes them for which brands are taking up the most advertising slots.

According to the latest data, the top podcast advertisers, in order, are:

  • ZipRecruiter
  • Robinhood
  • Squarespace
  • Indeed
  • Quip
  • Geico
  • SimpliSafe
  • BetterHelp
  • HelloFresh
  • Audible
  • ThirdLove
  • Care/of
  • Article
  • Hulu

It’s easy to see why a company like ZipRecruiter, an employment marketplace, would benefit from advertising online. Given that skilled professionals are the most prolific consumers of podcasts, it makes sense for ZipRecruiter to take advantage of this with podcast advertising.

The same applies to Squarespace. The content management system (CMS) and website hosting company knows that business professionals and executives—their ideal audience members—listen to a lot of podcasts.

What about Hulu? Why might a subscription video-on-demand company want to advertise to podcast listeners? Research shows that there’s a large overlap between people who listen to podcasts and people who use streaming services. And for Hulu, the main motivation is the ability to target specific audiences within that overlap. A lot of entertainment podcasters like to review the movies, music, and TV series they consume and then disseminate it to the world. Hulu is merely taking advantage of this niche, plugging its entertainment service as a platform where people can get all of the entertainment they want for a low monthly fee.

Top Money-making Podcast Categories

Research agency Voxnest Audience Network (VAN) sampled top podcasts from across the US and Europe and looked for the categories that made the most revenue from advertising. The following categories came out on top.


Coming in at fifth place are podcasts that focus on comedy, attracting some 4.3 percent of all of the revenue advertisers in the US spent on podcasts in 2019. Interestingly, comedy is the largest podcast category when measured by the number of listeners, but it doesn’t appeal to advertisers as strongly as listeners. People, it seems, want comedy entertainment in podcast form, but advertisers are skeptical.


Political podcasts garnered more than 7.5 percent of total podcast ad revenue in 2019. While politics podcasts might seem like a controversial place to advertise, sponsors know that these podcasts have high engagement rates and audiences who trust their hosts. Most people, for instance, trust podcast hosts with the same political persuasions as them.

Political podcast advertising is also highly seasonal—it tends to be quiet outside of election season and then get more popular when the race starts. Seasonality could account for the high market share in 2019 with the US election ramp up. How they fare during political crises remains to be seen.


There’s a vast podcasting advertising market among shows that cover historical subject matter. Listeners use podcasts for learning, so naturally, they’re attracted to educational content. Podcasts that fall in the history category (for example, shows about archaeology) account for 8.8 percent of all of the advertising dollars spent on podcast ads in the US in 2020.


Culture is an annoyingly broad podcast category—kind of a catch-all for miscellaneous human topics—and it includes everything from current trends in fashion to true crime dramas. In 2019, 17.1 percent of all podcast ad spend was on shows in this category.


The sports category tops the list for the top money-making shows, collecting 28.8 percent of all advertising revenue. The reasons for this are actually quite complicated. Sports fans are a lucrative audience. And while sports are not the most listened-to podcast category, advertising in sports podcasts is much less expensive than advertising in other sports-related content. For instance, if companies want to buy ad slots during Sunday Night Football, it can cost them upwards of $700,000 a pop. Smart companies, therefore, are looking for alternative options to get their messages in front of sports fans. Podcasts appear to offer an option to make that happen.

Podcast Advertisers By Category

We’ve looked at some of the top advertisers in the US market, and we’ve looked at the top podcast advertising categories. Now let’s look at who is targeting which category.

In the US sports category, the top advertiser was, an insurance company that provides coverage for more than 18 million people. Next on the list was Uber, the rideshare company. After that came Beach Boardwalk, Geico, and Circle K.

In the culture category, the top advertiser in the US was Save the Children. The charity—which focuses on reducing child poverty, improving rights, cutting hunger, and providing protection—comprised more than 11 percent of all ad spending in the culture segment. Progressive, Uber, Geico, and Circle K all advertised heavily in this subcategory too.

In Europe, it was a different story. Volkswagen spends the most money on podcast advertising of any company, dominating both the sports and the culture categories. The automotive brand vastly outspends everyone else, accounting for nearly 27 percent of all podcast spending in the sports category. Audi came in a distant second with just under 7 percent. Lidl, a German supermarket chain, also made substantial investments in podcast advertising.

Top Podcast Countries By Unique Downloads

Data from VoxNest show that in December 2019, 150 million people listened to podcasts—up from around 130 million in July 2019. Listenership for podcasts, however, is not geographically distributed in the way you might expect. In some countries, podcasting is a viral medium, while in others, it barely registers.

Of the 150 million unique listens in December 2019, for instance, 49.83 percent came from the United States. The United Kingdom racked up 10.52 percent, and Australia came in third with 4.51 percent.

Podcasts are a genuine phenomenon in the English-speaking world. For example, while Italy has a population three times as high as Australia, it was in fourth place globally for the number of unique podcast listens with 3.56 percent of the global total. India has a population of more than a billion people, and yet it accounts for just 1.73 percent of the podcast market.

Podcast advertising is growing at different rates in different countries. Right now, Chile is discovering the medium at the fastest rate of any country in the world, registering an impressive 160 percent month-over-month growth in its regular listenership.

Coming in second place for rate of growth is Italy, the only place outside of the English-speaking world with any significant podcast listenership at all. It is currently seeing a 28.82 percent per month growth in the number of unique podcast users.

Podcasts are also growing at a double-digit rate in Turkey, the Philippines, and India.

Devices Used to Consume Podcast Advertising

You can listen to podcasts on practically any electronic device, but it should come as no surprise that smartphones top the list. They’re followed by desktops, smartwatches, TVs, and smart speakers.

Here’s the breakdown of podcast listens by device:

  • 87.7 percent on a smartphone/tablet
  • 7.7 percent on a desktop
  • 3 percent on a smartwatch
  • 0.4 percent on a TV
  • 0.3 percent on a smart speaker

Smartphones and tablets completely dominate the market, underscoring the fact that people tend to consume podcasts while performing other tasks, like driving, working, or exercising.

Dynamically Inserted Ads Are Becoming More Popular

Podcast advertisements fall into two categories: “baked in” ads and dynamically inserted.

  • Baked in. Baked in ads are those that are built into the podcast during the editing process. The podcast hosts and producers control—and often record—the ad content.
  • Dynamic insertion. Dynamic ads when the host uploads their podcast to a platform, and then an ad server dynamically inserts ads suitable for the individual listener. In a sense, it works similarly to an ad network in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, serving relevant ads to each user.

The ratio between these two forms of advertising is changing. In 2015, 37 percent of podcast advertisements were dynamically inserted, while the other 63 were either baked in. The latest figures, however, suggest that there’s been a reversal in the past few years, with 56 percent of all ads now being dynamically inserted and just 44 percent baked in.

The performance figures, however, are still in flux. According to the latest “cost per acquisition” (CTA) data—aka how much it costs to get a subscriber—baked in ads are up to 3.5 times more cost efficient than their dynamically inserted counterparts. Time will tell if this trend continues or if dynamic ads improve performance as the industry learns more.

Host-Read Ads Are Holding Their Ground

You may have noticed that sometimes the host reads the advertisements aloud instead of cutting to a traditional commercial break that are reminiscent of radio advertising. The most recent data suggests that around 60 percent of all podcast advertising is host-read.

The reasons for this are clear: listeners have a higher level of trust for podcast hosts than they do practically any other figurehead in the entertainment industry. Podcast hosts often come across as peers or people who occupy the same social strata as their listeners. This accessibility might be why advertisers are so keen to have the hosts read their advertisements. People are much more likely to believe the message if it comes from someone who they consider to be like themselves.

Podcast Advertising Annual Growth

The podcast advertising annual growth rate has been nothing short of spectacular. Forbes reports that ad revenue was a little under 100 million in 2015. By 2021, the magazine expects that that number will balloon to more than $1 billion, even as the annual growth rate slows.

The driving force for this dramatic increase is the fact that podcasting has now now reached mainstream status, some twenty years after its introduction. Podcast listenership is approximately 73 million in the US, according to Edison Research. The growth of advertising revenue, however, is not keeping pace with the growth of listenership. Podcast hosts, therefore, will have to find non-advertising methods of monetizing their podcasts and increasing their income streams.

Podcast Advertising: The Bottom Line

While information about podcast advertising will help you formulate your strategy, there’s no substitute for making your podcast appealing to the listener. You have to create something that genuinely appeals to your audience if you want your podcast to grow and bring in revenue.

When it comes to monetizing your podcast, don’t feel limited just to advertising. Learn 12 more ways to monetize your podcast and generate revenue.

Go Beyond Podcast Advertising


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