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Old-fashioned podcast ads (baked-in host reads) have had better CPMs, stronger response rates, and higher audience trust than almost any other form of advertising for over a decade. And large podcast companies threw that world away for… a worse outcome.
Podcasters are letting software pick their ads — it’s already going awry
Podcast ads start to act more like the web
114 replies and sub-replies as of Jan 12 2022

Big platforms and ad-tech companies ALWAYS sell us all on a dream. You’ll make more money! It’ll be easier! It’ll be more accessible to small producers! And it almost never pans out that way. The middlemen siphon off most of the money, and the platforms become monopolies.
Meanwhile, small creators still don’t make meaningful money, big producers become beholden to the controlling platforms, and the audience’s experience and privacy get destroyed. Podcasting is the ONLY major digital medium left where this doesn’t happen. Don’t let it.
And yet all but the top .5-001% of podcasts can't even have conversations with potential sponsors b/c they can't hit the 10k downloads/episode *floor* for host-read ads. There's more nuance to this than "host read ads are better." Of course they are. But there's more to discuss.
I contributed to a web culture & have had my work featured in publications, but haven't generated enough direct patron support or consistently approached that 10k/episode threshold. I joined with other podcasters to get access to these tools, because they help diversify revenue.
You’ve got my vote. How do I, as a podcast listener, help? I like hearing my host read the ad, the inserted ads… 😒
Don’t use Spotify or Stitcher for listening to podcasts (boycott players that are angling to wrest away and monopolize the listener/producer relationship). If a podcast you enjoy offers paid memberships or even donations/tips, use them (reduce dependence on ad $)
Curious as to how Stitcher is the bad guy here. If it's an issue of exclusives, then Apple has those too. If it's proprietary tags, then Apple has those too. Supporting the Bitcoin/Lightning payment mechanism would be the most helpful way to fund podcasting into the future.
Podcasters having control over the relationship between themselves and their customers (whether listeners or advertisers) is important. Getting paid in fiat does even register on the top one thousand things that have ever mattered to podcasting.
Don't let it. Support open standards and direct contributions to podacasters and developers - #podcasting2.0 @PodcastindexOrg @adamcurry
Indeed. And were Overcast to support that, it would be a good move.
Can we please get an episode of @atpfm with @benthompson on to talk about this? Good podcasts have good disagreements between thoughtful people. 🤓
You are 100% right! The Germans (I know) have a system in development that’s already working: Non-tracking platform neutral ad insertion with total control for the podcaster. I’m using it on my Podcasts already and so should others.
Do share details. Seems they're right on point.
I can’t just yet (internal beta) but I am using it on 3 podcasts right now, it’s working great.
Would love to cover this on @Podnews . A non-tracking platform for podcast ad delivery isn't possible, I don't think, but would love to be proved wrong.
It is possible, of course, because the ad insertion is not about random targeted ads. think host reads that are not hard baked in but being sold for example 10k times. The ad server is inserting my own host read in position A for 10K x, then stops.
So it tracks that it's had 10,000 downloads. Good, glad we've cleared that up. "Random targeted ads" - either you mean random, or you mean targeted. Targeting can be poorly programmed, of course.
TRUE! To clear that up: They are NOT targeted at the specific user, hence no tracking. They are placed precisely by count, position, download scheme etc. within the podcast though as described. Which gives the Podcaster much more flexibility compared to based in host reads.
So, your system would advertise Edeka or MediaMarkt to me in Australia? That's good for who, precisely? Edeka don't want wasted ads. I don't want to hear about German supermarkets. The podcaster doesn't want to fill their show with irrelevant and annoying ads. All targeting bad?
Knowing that an IP address is in a particular state or country isn't "tracking" as far as I can see - there's no databasing and matching users with specific interests, or any personal information being used at all. So is it bad?
It’s not as bad as individual tracking to most nerds like us, but region-targeting by IP geolocation is absolutely considered creepy and unacceptable tracking by many listeners. (Trust me. They email me, thinking it’s my app putting regional car-dealer ads into their podcasts.)
I hear that about region-based targeting. But country? Or state? I'm just curious here. I find ads for US companies irritating and annoying since I'm in a different country, and I fail to see who wins from bad ads.
Totally not an expert on that. The podcast scene in Germany is completely different. I’m not listening to any podcasts with these kinds of ads. I would also find it super annoying.
That’s a Mark Zuckerberg— and different — discussion. We value personal information really high. 🙂
I'm really curious about this, and would love a straight answer. You know my IP address upon download, so you already have basic information which country I'm in. But there's no personal information there without further work of databasing my details and combining other signals.
... so you have a choice. Do you apply rudimentary targeting based on IP address (to a country or länder level), or do you deliberately choose to ignore that signal, to offer a worse experience to listener, advertiser and podcaster?
And to be extremely clear about this - targeting in the way I have written above is not against any part of GDPR - since, as it says clearly, IP addresses are personal data when combined with other information.
Nothing gets logged. No one is using IP address information. Business model: money is coming from the Podcasters. Nothing else gets collected. GDPR is a last line of defense, not a blueprint of how much data you should maximally extract.
Delivering a German supermarket ad ONLY to people in Germany requires no logging nor any collection of data, though. My website uses country IP information from Amazon. No logging; no data collection.
Fun fact: German podcasts are in German. It’s quite unlikely you would ever hear German ads if you don’t speak German. ;) Advertisers in Germany/Switzerland/Austria are aware of who will be listening.
OK, you're just trolling. Not taking this discussion seriously. I'm sorry I tried to engage.
Excuse me? I’m not.
On top of that the system allows cross promo between podcasts basically for free: if I have free capacity within the podcast I can make agreements with other podcasts on the platform and implement ads for friends/colleagues until this ad space is sold to a sponsor again etc.
On top of that Ad agencies can book ads across several podcasts. If my podcast has 3000 downloads only, but The system has several others and somebody wants to book 50 K downloads… They can.
To clarify, I don’t have many issues with DAI when the ads are spliced in batches (X total downloads, date ranges, etc.) — only when they’re algorithmically targeted to tracked attributes of individual listeners. (But “good” DAI still breaks/prevents timestamp-based features.)
You can of course do much more complicated things with this: Delivering ads in position A with 50/50 weight on ad 1 or ad 2. Or limit delivery to a certain month or a certain episode. Or you can sell adds to the current _and all old episodes_, no matter what is being downloaded
So you could place your ad for the whole month of January across all my podcasts in position “midroll B”, And my audience is gonna hear it, even if they download an episode from last year. For none of this do I need any tracking whatsoever.
I’m doing my part as a listener to always fast forward these awful ads. And I will drop a podcast if they make it hard to do that. I hate these podcast ads so much! It is bad enough to have moving images,naked people,those pants I just bought on webpages, now they steal my time!
Blindboy has spoken eloquently about this situation on his own podcast.
I skip far more ads in shows that have dynamically inserted or worse, these automated ads, than I do host reads. Host reads are far and away more effective!
It's similar story with other content creators (newsletters etc). Big advertisers flock to where they can have biggest reach for smallest price but often they get ripped. Niche creators deserve a different approach, bespoke monetization agents/agencies.
kort draadje 👆
I think what I've notice is the challenge is for small creators is — Most of them don't know how to go get ads / sponsors themselves And if they haven't attracted a talent-agent — and are too small to hire someone to get sponsorship deals — Then these platforms look attractive
I think some of these platforms also seem like an attractive way of building up an audience too — for small creators.
Although people were talking about this more than a decade ago — The recent popularity of receiving funding from your audience is interesting. But there are still middlemen in those. And those payment middlemen be just as dangerous the small creators.
I think these payment middlemen exist as a result of visa + mastercard together having a near monopoly on online payments And there are lots and lots of layers to these middlemen Even when you get into the banking industry part of it, there are still lots of layers of middlemen
As an ATP unedited live stream listener. I really miss the live reads, maybe you could add them at the end? Knowing that you had to read them gives me confidence that it’s actually a quality product.
The ease of ad placement for the agencies placing the ads hurt periodicals and cable tv too. Did NOT help advertisers, nor target audience, while changing the face of the media carrying the ads. TechTV became G4, Village Voice a cookie cutter chain of ad weeklies.
Don’t forget the part where the ads become scams and the clicks become scams and the entire industry becomes an ouroboros of fraud.
You can cut out the big platforms and ads by going the self-sufficient route. Lightning podcasts⚡️
Do they even siphon it off or is it just worse so it’s less valuable and the market agrees? I rarely skip organic reads and always skip ads clearly inserted by an algorithm. I mean really. I’ll stop washing dishes and dry my hands just to skip them.
The ads on your podcasts are 100x better than the random crap I get served on others and platforms like Twitter and YouTube.
Have to be better for the advertisers too. I don’t think I’ve bought nearly as many services from any other ads than podcast ads - and I don’t know that seeing ads for the same companies (due to their niche) would have ever gotten me on board on social media for example.
Except for @BOMBAS (whose socks have the worst price/quality ratio of any that I’ve ever purchased), I tend to agree.
You hate to say you told them so...
I’m assuming to sell more ads/increase revenue? The glory of podcasting is the audiences are so specific since most podcasts are.
Ad companies spend millions of dollars to track me around the web and build a comprehensive profile of my interests for better targeting, and then just serve me the stupidest ads
My son received a Chinese coin in change the other day and we googled it. Now Facebook and Instagram are 24x7 coin scam ads. (ie. Get 50 1 oz gold coins for $999!)
Switch to DuckDuckGo !!!
I love it when a podcast has the same ad multiple times in a row. It shows they care.
I also love when a podcast has the same sponsor weeks and months and the ad read gradually becomes this completely new work of art.
I love it when a podcast has the same ad multiple times in a row. It shows they care.
I love it when a podcast has the same ad multiple times in a row. It shows they care.
hey Adam, did the_other_jon block you too? :) I thought we meant it ironically, and wanted to join the joke. Seems he gets annoyed by repetitive statements :) Didn't want to offend him actually. Oh well.
Yeah, he did. I was just joining the joke too, making fun of the ads, definitely not him.
I’ve always wondered why the streamer tv channels do this too. Do they not have more ads in the pool to serve? And do they realize how much it makes viewers hate them?
Once a podcast starts having ads injected instead of host-read, I unsubscribe from it and realize I’m better off without that content.
You took the words right out of my mouth. If a podcast gets ruined I simply depart. I will completely depart the entire concept of podcasts if they all get tuned into crappy cable TV for your ears
Podcasts like the Verge and Marques Brownlee’s Waveform at least put a bit of music and moment of silence bracketing the ads so you can skip them if you want to. Those I haven’t unsubscribed from, but I don’t listen to them as often. Membership-supported is good but can’t $$ all.
Yep. Me too. Also, if they start cross promoting other podcast episodes in their feed, or constantly repeat old episodes, I’m out.
All they’ll do is insert more overtime so yeah I do the same. They’re jarring and often completely irrelevant to me.
You know your “22 year old engineer” thing? I think there is a similar thing with “any-years-old MBA”
Seems likely the TAM will be larger, there will be more creators but the vast vast majority of creators will be worse off.
I’ll say this as someone who for years was one of top spenders in audio, who diligently controlled where client’s spots ran & has busted many programmatic algorithms, Spotify et al who were built on content theft, intentionally allow this to bring in $ & fulfill impressions
I wonder if this parallels the way radio ads were originally read by the hosts/cast of the shows but shifted to being programmed by the networks.
Interestingly, the radio station I listen to (out of Montgomery AL) the ad reads/commercials are usually one of the network hosts or the business owner. The big generic ads are in the minority. It’s way less grating and I’ve actually checked out a shop or restaurant from them.
A few podcast that I listen to have nearly a dozen (not an exaggeration) ads per EPISODE. Most of the time the same ones run for weeks. I instantly skip them. Some of these podcasts have very large audiences and I’m sure don’t NEED 50% of the ads. It’s a pure money grab.
The more ads there are, the more certain we will skip them. What’s wrong with letting the podcaster read the ad live and add commentary? Those are the only ones I listen to. Mostly to see if the host will do something really creative/go off the rails.
If host-read ads work better, what are the incentives driving dynamic ad replacement?
Consolidation I think. The big networks are gobbling up all the podcasts. They have too giant a scale to hand-select ads. The big companies want to sell a billion dollars at a time, not for one or two podcasts. The Verge did talk a bit about that several times.
Well, for host-read ads, the companies pay the actual runners of the podcast. For dynamic ads the companies pay the platform and the platform *really* wants to scrape some off the top.
FWIW, we do dynamic insertion of host-read ads. Gives us more flexibility, especially with our back catalog.
Does dynamic insertion allow you to monetize back catalog material in a way fixed ads don’t? I guess I don’t understand the actual economics.
It does. Our back catalog generates significant downloads, so by making it dynamic we can refresh the ads and offer more inventory.
Interesting. Since you’re doing host-read ads, are you running the dynamic insertion system yourself? I presume such specificity wouldn’t be available through a large ad network.
I’ve wondered about this because I realized, when listening to podcast episodes several times(mostly sleep podcasts) that the ads occasionally change.
I like when I get on a podcast streak where there's no ads, because the new ones haven't uploaded yet. :) I always think I should quickly download them, but I don't have space on my old ipad to do that. I def prefer ad reads by the podcasters themselves. Breaks the flow less.
Is this possibly a good idea on older episodes? A podcast I listen to does reads and then those newer reads still come up in older episodes. But sometimes the ad doesn’t load and I don’t have to listen to it!
You can't deny the ten-minute ad "reads" on Back to Work are the most effective in the industry. Anything that moves away from that premise should be an indication that it's a step in the wrong direction. I've often wondered what an ad-free b2w would even sound like...jarring.
I just wish more of the baked-in host read ads were applicable to non-US audiences. Almost the only time I hear ads relevant to me are when it's been dynamically inserted. (Some of which _were_ host-read; e.g. the How Stuff Work team do localised dynamic ads)
On the plus side, this has made me more inclined to join membership programs so that I don't hear irrelevant ads. Which helps the podcasters as least as much as the ads would have.
Well….. Getting random ads from the country I am in when downloading the podcast, in a language I do not understand is /much/ more efficient in me tuning out the ads completely
To be fair, I hate host reads. I always try to skip all ads, but I make more of a point of skipping those.
(I *think* this may be a cultural thing. US TV has had host-read ads since the dawn of TV. In the UK at least, that’s never been a thing… even product placement is relatively new, and still considered a bit unseemly.)
I agree; it was really grating the first time I heard a host-read ad, and whilst I'm used to them now, I imagine part of the reason why they might perform better is because they're using your goodwill towards the host to influence you into believing what they're being paid to say
I pay for ad-free versions of podcasts when I can. I do prefer host-read ads to injected ones. Host-read ads are easier on the ears and when done well feel integrated instead of jarring.
I had no idea how hands-off DAI had become. I knew they were dynamically inserted but I had no idea literally nobody is QCing or approving them before they go in. No wonder they sound like such a mess.
I have had, on more than one occasion, pro-Tru*p ads served to me via dynamic ad insertion. Hate it.
You nailed it, it’s so much about trust. I’ve been burned by algorithmic ads, buying low quality products with terrible customer service. Not all, but lots. When a host reads an ad, I know their reputation could be impacted by terrible products.
as as podcast listener I am all for baked-in ads but I am afraid that's a losing battle. Perhaps I am wrong but how many podcast creators would be willing to do what you do and get direct sponsors all the time? seems like a lot of work.
also, how would this work with international podcasts? I am in Canada and one of my favorite podcasts is @EVNewsDaily which is UK based. It uses algorithmic ads. baked in UK ads would not be relevant for me which I would not mind but I expect the podcast host would.
Un sujet intéressant poke @podCloud
The lack of automated advertising is one of the reasons podcasting hasn't turned to shit like the rest of the web. Imagine google not Apple had been running the primary podcast directory/app for the last 15 years.
Super true. @doctorow had a recent piece that talks about how the Luddites are misunderstood. They were considering technology with the SAME criticality and clear-headedness you are.… cc @gruber via…
As Marco says, presenter reads do attract good CPMs: but they don't suit every kind of podcast content, and for many podcasters now the majority of plays come from archive, not new. That means the read-outs can become dated and go beyond the point they're relevant.
I’ve signed up for services advertised on podcasts when read by hosts Squarespace, Hover, etc but never from dynamically inserted ads. Must be something to your premise. 👍🏾
Anecdotally, I’m way more likely to actually look at a product I hear about from an ad read or sponsor spot than I am from basically any other form of advertising. I assume the big companies want to replace it because they don’t get a cut?
Why does ‘host read’ have to mean ‘baked in’? Surely dynamically inserted, host read ads offer the best of both solutions… it’s the approach I’ve taken with my podcast.
Unfortunately as the exact same playbook was used in basically all other type of media, I'm not optimistic for anything better. It very sad though that so many people seem to believe in targeted advertising (done by algorithms) even though it always resulted in something worse
As @marcoarment rightfully said, the only (long term) beneficiary is the ad provider, every time...