Why Podcast Advertising Is Effective—and How to Start

Jul 3, 2024

When an eight-year-old girl mispronounced Mailchimp on an until-then-unknown true-crime podcast, it proved why podcast advertising is effective and changed the face of podcasting forever.

The podcast was Serial, and it inspired the growth of the true crime podcast industry. It also took podcast advertising to the extreme. The budget for the Serial podcast campaign isn’t public, but based on industry numbers at the time, the ad placement cost is in the high four- or low five-figure range.

Serial went on to be the first podcast to reach five million downloads back in 2014 and has since been downloaded hundreds of millions of times. The New York Times eventually purchased the show as part of the newspaper’s aggressive growth strategy for its audio storytelling.

Mailchimp got in on the ground floor. And Mailchimp isn’t the only example of a brand proving why podcast advertising is effective. Tommy John, Squarespace, Indocino, Casper, Blue Apron, and Stamps.com all made a name for themselves using podcast advertising as a primary driver for their startup go-to-market strategy.

Most of these brands built strong branded partnerships with specific podcasters who have growing audiences. Those partnerships allow the podcast and the brand to grow together. 

Four seasons after the eight-year-old voiceover actor read Mailchimp as Mailkimp, Serial still has a rabid fanbase, many of whom are familiar with, if not users of, Mailchimp.

Podcast Listening Is Growing

Serial was neither the beginning nor the end of podcast popularity, but it was the moment advertisers noticed the power a podcast host has over their audience. 

Now, many podcast networks, and even some individual shows, reach tens of millions of monthly listeners.

The morning after a game or new TV show episode, podcasts are the place people go for analysis and perspective from their favorite personalities. With more than two million active podcasts, nearly every hit TV show has multiple accompanying recap podcasts, and every sports team has a devoted podcast or two—many of which are on the SiriusXM Sports Network.

Edison’s 2024 Infinite Dial study reported that 192 million people have listened to a podcast at least once. The same survey showed 135 million listen every month. The majority of those listeners, about 65 million, listen weekly. Overall, listeners average eight episodes per week.  

Podcasts are even serving as a refuge for young people overwhelmed by social media. Gen Z and millennials are seeking out podcasts over social media in larger numbers because of the stress associated with platforms like X and Instagram. Podcasts, on the other hand, can be a place for personal growth, entertainment, and relaxation. 

Our Gen Z listener report found that more than 80% of Gen Z listeners turn to the medium to relax and two-thirds in order to escape.

Podcasts Offer an Intimate, Authentic Ad Environment

Podcasts have become built-in communities that self-select based on the hosts' and listeners' shared values and interests. Just by listening, podcast listeners signal their interests, which not only gives you better psychographic data but also allows you to connect with the audience that your brand can best serve.

Almost two-thirds of listeners say podcasts are a companion to their daily activities. Having a podcast companion for everyday tasks ultimately means most podcast listeners feel an everyday level of camaraderie with the hosts of their podcasts. Nearly half of podcast listeners say hosts are more authentic than other public figures, but that number goes up to more than 60% when segmenting for 18-34-year-olds. And 65% of listeners reported feeling a personal connection to their favorite hosts.

The closeness felt by listeners results in a more engaged audience. Podcast listeners are more likely to actively pay attention to ads than other forms of media, including 3.5 times more likely than radio ads, three times more likely than TV and print ads, 2.4 times more likely than online and streaming ads, and 2.1 times more likely than social media ads.

Across ad types and all placement types, more than 90% of podcast listeners are receptive to any type of ad and more than 59% have said they’re likely to listen actively. Podcast listeners also report listening while doing other things. Nearly three-quarters of listeners report listening while driving and doing chores. And two-thirds report listening while walking. Listeners who are interested in a host, seeking long-form content, and in the middle of chores are less likely to skip ads the way they would with recorded TV or other similar digital content.

Authenticity Drives Action

Serving an ad to the right audience is well and good, but you can’t pay bills with impressions. The reason why podcast advertising is effective is that podcast listeners are much more likely to take action after hearing an ad on one of their favorite shows.

A listener study from last year reveals that 90% of podcast listeners have taken any action after hearing a podcast ad. Those actions are meaningful, with 78% of respondents reporting they researched a product they heard advertised on one of their favorite shows, and 57% of listeners reported making a purchase.

Because podcasts create more intimate listener communities and often have a two-way communication component between the listeners and host, listeners feel connected. So when they find out their favorite host likes a specific mattress, or when their most trusted political analyst reports that an underwear brand is soft and durable, listeners take note. After all, who isn’t at least a little curious about what kind of mattress their favorite comedian bought for her guest room?

Podcasts Offer a Variety of Ad Formats

Podcast don’t restrict advertisers to one format or even one show. Because there are so many options, podcast advertising is one of the most fertile media with the ability to customize down to the listener level.

Podcasts offer more than one ad format. For instance, some brands prefer to produce their own ads while others opt to have podcast hosts read, or even review, the products in place of a standard 30-second ad spot. They can also be pre-produced, announcer-read, or read by the host.

Leverage the Host-Listener Connection with Host-Read Ads

With host-read ads, your target audience’s favorite and most trusted personalities can deliver a conversational message about your brand directly to the listener’s ear. More than 85% of listeners enjoy hearing ads read by the host of the podcast, and listeners showed a 10-point higher unaided recall, on average, when listening to hose-read ads than pre-produced creative.

Scale Campaigns with Announcer-Read Ads

When we hear “announcer-read,” most of us think back to the days of boisterous AM/FM morning zoo or drive-time radio spots. But that’s not the reality of podcasting and digital audio. In fact, announcer-read ads scored six points higher in unaided recall compared to pre-produced creative.  

While host-read ads are highly targeted and authentic, announcer-read ads allow you to take a similarly authentic voice and message and place it across shows. With the help of our robust data and in-house audio creative agency (Studio Resonate), you can deliver the right message through the right voice to your best audience.

Ready to See How Effective Podcast Advertising Is for Your Brand?

You can align your brand with any one of our more than 2,500 shows, including chart-topping podcast networks like Team Coco, audiochuck, Stitcher Studios, Earwolf, NBCUniversal, Crooked Media, and OWN. Let's talk.


  • 1.

    Edison Research, The Infinite Dial 2024

  • 2.

    Podcast Insights / Podcast Statistics, February 2021

  • 3.

    Podsurvey Podcast User Study, Q2 2023

  • 4.

    SiriusXM Media, Edison Research, Custom Audio Study, Q1 2023.

  • 5.

    Signal Hill Insights Study Oct. 2021

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