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Podcast Listeners Not Only Don't Mind Ads, They Prefer Those That Are Fun And Host-Read.


The results of the latest in an ongoing series of podcast listener studies, conducted by Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights along with MARU/Matchbox, show the continuation of a long-standing trend when it comes to level of ad tolerance. The average number of accepted ads per 30- or 60-minute podcast has actually ticked up over time – to 2.7 and 4.0, respectively – and more than half of listeners (56%) say they wouldn't mind a couple of additional ads if it means their favorite podcast can continue.


“There's a really high level of ad tolerance [which] has remained stable,” Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group VP of Advertiser Measurement Lauren Vetrano says in a video of the study's key findings. “Podcast listeners know what they're signing up for, they're gonna hear ads and they really don't have any issue with it. They find podcast ads engaging [and] relevant, so podcast advertisers know they're in a great positive environment.”


Westwood One's weekly blog's analysis of the October 2022 wave of Cumulus' study, which surveyed 600 weekly podcast listeners, also points out those listeners' overwhelming preference for ads read by hosts as opposed to pre-produced ads. Nearly half (48%) prefer these, compared to 19% who'd rather hear an ad that sounds like those on AM/FM radio, or 16% for an ad read by someone other than the host. “[Listeners] feel they have a connection with hosts, they're tuning in to hear them talk,” Vetrano says, “so when it comes to ads, they want that experience to continue, and they want to hear the host read them.”


Whether weekly or heavy podcast listeners, the majority like when podcast hosts have fun with ads they read, and most feel host-read ads are more engaging. Listeners also like when hosts recommend a product they use.


The sample's responses suggest an opportunity for podcast ads with greater engagement, as there's a significant preference for funny and entertaining ads, as opposed to those communicating dry features and benefits or products or services, which is the type most report actually hearing. “There's a bridge that needs to be gapped,” Vetrano says. “If you're a podcast advertiser, think about including funny or entertaining points in your copy, because that's really what listeners are looking for.”


The research shows another plus for podcast ads: 76% of weekly listeners, and 85% of heavies, say they have taken some sort of action after hearing one, most often seeking more information online, talking to friends or acquaintances about the product or service, or discovering a new product or service. “Appealing to listeners on an emotional basis is what podcast hosts do best, and they should extend that method to their ad reads,” Vetrano says. “Podcast hosts can make use of their time on air by thinking of ad reads as additional time to connect with listeners emotionally.”


Advertisers concerned about brand safety given graphic content or objectionable language in podcasts, especially those in the True Crime category, should note that the study finds nearly three-fourths (73%) of weekly listeners show no objections to content that might be unsuitable on TV or AM/FM radio, and that just 27% say they will turn it off if they find such content objectionable. For True Crime podcasts, the turn-off share drops to just 7%.


“By and large, podcast listeners do not have an issue with graphic content language that might be considered unsuitable on other media,” Vetrano says. “Podcasts are really unique in that way because listeners are coming to the content themselves. [So] brands really don't have to be too concerned about brand safety in this medium [as] the listeners really don't have any issue with what they're hearing.”

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