Edison 220

While podcasting’s biggest listeners generally avoid advertising, they pay more attention to ads on podcasts and say podcast ads are an effective way to reach them. In fact, 70% of what Edison Research and PodcastOne call “super listeners” have considered a new product or service based on a podcast ad. But as more ad dollars funnel into podcasting, there are “early warning” signs about spot loads that the industry should take heed of.

For what’s hailed as the first-ever study of podcast super listeners, Edison conducted 1,032 online interviews with weekly podcast listeners who consume more than five hours of podcasts per week. Keep in mind that they represent a sliver of the U.S. population. Roughly one in five (22%) of Americans 12+ are weekly podcast listeners and these super listeners account for 28% of the weekly podcast audience.

More than half (57%) of super listeners consume more than eight hours per week of podcast content, which means their potential exposure to podcast advertising is high relative to the rest of the podcast audience. And significantly, half of super listeners say it’s important to limit their exposure to advertising. On a weekly basis, an overwhelming majority (79%) use streaming video services, 63% listen to internet-only music streaming services and 58% watch cable or satellite TV. Commercial radio stations (50%) and public radio (44%) are further down their media list. Podcasting’s heaviest users are also more likely to pay for content – 49% use a paid internet-only music streaming service and 27% have a paid subscription to SiriusXM.

Among podcast super listeners that have at least one paid audio subscription, 22% said the main reason they subscribe is to hear fewer ads. “This is a group that is hypersensitive to advertising,” Edison Senior VP Tom Webster said during an online presentation of the findings Tuesday afternoon. “Nearly one in five are ad avoiders and are increasingly hard to reach with traditional ads.”

While they’re difficult to reach with traditional advertising, podcasting’s heaviest listeners have emerged as valuable targets for advertisers and trusted allies for podcast sponsors. Almost half (44%) agree they pay more attention to advertising on podcasts than on other forms of media and 37% say advertising on a podcast is the best way for a brand to reach them.

The study, conducted from February-March 2019, suggest that podcast advertisers are doing a good job at targeting and execution of ads in podcasts. Some 41% of super listeners agree that the products and services they learn about on podcasts are generally relevant to their interests. Podcasts scored higher in this ad relevancy metric than social media (40%), websites (37%), streaming radio (33%) and all the other media channels asked about in the survey.

Six in 10 of these super listeners appreciate podcast advertisers for supporting their favorite podcasts. PodcastOne CEO Peter Morris, who participated in the webinar, said this stat shows podcasting “might be that one form of media where that loyalty and connection authentically transfers to advertisers.” In fact, 44% say their opinion of a company is more positive when they hear it mentioned in a podcast they regularly listen to. And 43% agree that when price and quality are equal, they prefer to buy products from companies that advertise on podcasts they regularly listen to.

It’s generally accepted that podcast ads are extremely effective when voiced by hosts and the super listeners study reinforces that. An overwhelming majority have a favorable opinion of personalized discussions about products by the host. “There’s very little rejection here and a very positive opinion toward the host themselves,” Webster explained. In addition, 46% of super listeners say advertising on podcasts makes them more likely to purchase a product, compared to 5% who say less likely and 49% who say it doesn't have any effect.

Suggesting that podcasts haven’t yet turned off consumers with too many ads, only 24% say there are “way too many ads” on podcasts, putting it in last place among eight media channels asked about in the survey. Said Webster, “Despite the fact that people are very cognizant of hearing ads on podcasts, the perception that there are too many ads on podcast is actually fairly low compared to other media.”

Canaries In The Podcast Coal Mine

But in what Webster called an “early warning” for advertising in podcasts, 35% of super listeners believe ad breaks on the podcasts they listen to regularly have gotten longer while 59% say they’re about the same and 6% say they are shorter. Perhaps more telling, nearly half (49%) say the total number of ads in the podcasts they listen to have increased during the past year. “The good news is that super listeners are very receptive to podcast advertising,” Webster concluded. “They hear the ads, they notice the ads, and they consider the products and services. But there is a perception that the number of ads in podcasts is increasing. To date we have not yet ruined podcasting with advertising, but this group of super listeners is certainly going to be the canaries in a coal mine for if, and when, that ever happens.”

The topline findings from the study were debuted last week at the IAB Podcast Upfront in New York, and complete findings were presented in a live, online presentation Tuesday. Download the study HERE.