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Podcasts' ‘Superior Engagement’ Level Means All Ad Formats Perform Well With Listeners.

New research from podcast newsletter Sounds Profitable, in conjunction with Edison Research, shows that whether live reads, scripted pre-recorded talent-read ads or pre-produced announcer versions, all podcast ad formats perform well when it comes to overall appeal, fit with the show, interest, and listeners' likelihood to learn more.

“Performance scores for all three ads were significantly higher with existing listeners to the show, which reflects the power of the relationship and trust listeners have with the host,” Sounds Profitable’s report says.

Adds Cumulus Media Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard in Westwood One's current blog, which includes its analysis of this and other podcast ad research, “Talent-read ads do the best, justifying the premium nature of podcast host reads. The power of the talent voice is reflected in the strong 'likelihood to purchase' scores, which were identical for the both the live read and pre-recorded talent versions.”

What's behind these ad scores are high levels of podcast listener concentration compared with other media, based on a 2021 Cumulus Media study in partnership with Signal Hill Insights. “While there are differences in podcast ad format performance, it is important to put this in the context of the superior engagement of podcasts versus other media content,” Bouvard says. “All forms of podcast ads outperform other media due to intense levels of consumer engagement and concentration. Podcasts have the highest levels of consumer concentration [while] social media has one of the lowest levels.”

While these results suggest that podcast advertisers should be benefiting from this level of engagement, Westwood One's blog points to research from podcast attribution firm Podsights showing average podcast ad frequency down significantly in second-quarter 2022, at its lowest level since Q3 2021, while conversion rates ticked up slightly although still lagging well behind 2021 levels.

Bouvard's suggestion for improving conversions: prioritizing reach over frequency, by buying more shows and genres than just the “obvious fit” podcasts, purchasing genres and shows based on reach among category buyers as opposed to index, and spreading impressions further down the ranker and buying more than just the top shows. “Only placing ads in 'obvious fit' podcasts and podcast genres misses 80% to 90% of category buyers,” he says. “The same impressions spread over more shows grow reach and results.”

To this point, the blog cites Edison’s Podcast Metrics data which shows that two-thirds of podcast reach occurs outside the top 10. Likewise, according to Edison, the top 500 podcasts reach one out of five Americans weekly, twice the number reached by the top ten shows. “Taking the same impressions and buying deeper down the ranker grows reach impressively,” Bouvard says. “The top 100 titles have a 67% greater reach, [and] the top 500 122% more reach, than the top 10 podcasts.”

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