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Ad Skipping Is Real, But Survey Finds It’s Less Common In Podcasting Than Some Listeners Say.

Advertising creative is one of the key factors in whether consumers skip podcast ads, not ad avoidance. That is among the findings of a new study about podcast advertising from Sounds Profitable. The findings – based on data from more than a thousand weekly podcast listeners – show that just one percent of listeners consider advertising intolerable, and 46% of listeners say they “always” or “often” skip ads on podcasts, versus a quarter who “rarely” or “never” skip. But when asked about the last specific episode they consumed, that percentage dropped substantially. The survey shows 68% of listeners heard all or some of the episode’s commercials, and 17% skipped them all.

“When you ground them in a familiar instance, with a podcast that they liked or just listened to, what you'll see is that most people pay attention to most of the ads,” Sounds Profitable’s Tom Webster said. On a webinar detailing the findings Wednesday, he said most consumers tend to overstate how much they skip ads. “They'll answer it the way they would like to answer in a kind of performative way, they will tell you why I always skip ads – but as a researcher, I know that’s simply not the case.”

One of the survey’s surprising findings is that ad skipping does not seem to be impacted by whether the show being listened to is a favorite of the consumer. The data shows 46% say they will skip ads “always” or “often” among their favorite shows. That may be because nearly six in ten (59%) do not believe their ad skipping behavior has any impact on their support for their favorite show.

“It seems to speak to a lack of connection between skipping the ad and harming the creator. To the audience, it may not seem like a big deal,” Webster said. “If we made stronger linkages, I think that might help.”

What’s The Right Number Of Ads?

The study also examined just how many ads a show should have. Webster said it comes down to listener expectations. “It’s not that any one number is too much or too little. But if a number is higher or lower than what people are used to, that feeds that perception,” he said.

The data shows that people recall hearing about three ads per episode. Two or three ads are also the number of ads that 73% of people say they consider the right number for an episode. And most prefer one or two ad breaks.

“It is not a rule — but there’s a general sense that two or three ads in a typical episode is just right,” said Webster. The stakes for getting the advertising right is more than monetary. The study finds that nearly a third (30%) say they have stopped listening to a podcast because it had too many commercials.

One caveat is episode length. He said that if an episode runs longer than usual, the data shows listeners will not punish a show if they run more ads. Six in ten say it would not impact their listening.

More Attentive Audience

The biggest reason listeners say they skip podcast ads is a lack of interest or relevance to the ad (37%), while others say they are already familiar with the product (28%) and about a quarter (26%) prefer to listen without interruptions. “The podcast audience is more attentive,” Webster said. “And there’s a lot more that we can do to make ad skipping even less of an issue.”

Webster recommends that podcasters take more steps to address frequency issues and ad repetition to keep from turning off their audiences. He thinks repurposed radio ads can even add to the perception of repetition. “Our audience is different. They're paying closer attention. They’re going to notice things a lot more,” he explains. The data shows that tolerance of advertising rises when the commercials are entertaining, funny, or informative to the listener. “Podcast listeners don't skip ads. They skip crap. So let’s all do better. So let’s work to up the game on podcast creative,” Webster said. “We have a great gift from the podcast listener, they're not afraid of ads, they don't reject them, and they'll pay more attention to them if we apply the same filter and standards to the ads as much as we do the content.”

The Ad Nauseam study was conducted by Signal Hill Insights and comprised an online study of 1,011 U.S. weekly podcast listeners, aged 18 and older. It was sponsored by Wondery, BetterHelp, ESPN Podcasts, Libsyn Ads, SiriusXM Podcast Network, NPR, and Paramount, in partnership with Sounds Profitable.

Download the complete Ad Nauseam study HERE.

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