Skip to main content
“My Audience Won’t Tolerate Advertising”

“My Audience Won’t Tolerate Advertising”

Listen to the podcast version

Written By

Tom Webster

Know the Author

June 5, 2024

Have you ever heard a podcaster say that? I sure have! There are three things I know to be true about this statement:

1. I am sure there are people in your audience for whom this is true. They are the ones who email you and ping you on social media.

2. I am sure there are people for whom this is NOT true. They do not email you to tell you they love ads. They just don’t email you.

3. If someone stops listening to your show because you run an ad, you never really had them in the first place. Your love will forever remain unrequited. Like the poet Gordon Sumner once wrote, if you love someone, set them free. Free, free, set them free.

Still, it’s a commonly-repeated sentiment, and I’ve been looking for a place to test whether or not this is really a concern. Fortunately, the right opportunity presented itself in our next study from Sounds Profitable, Ad Nauseam, which will premiere in a free webinar next Wednesday, June 12th, at 3PM Eastern. You can register here: Webinar Registration – Zoom

We have done a lot of research here at Sounds Profitable that shows the effectiveness of podcast advertising, and how it is one of the absolute safest and best places for brands to spend money in. But you can have too much of a good thing, even with ads 😉 Even the most tolerant of audiences can hear too many, or too many of the same ad, and that can lead to them tuning out of your podcast. With Ad Nauseam, we wanted to see what consumer expectations are for the amount of ads in a podcast, the variety of those ads, and even where they expect to hear them.

Among the topics Ad Nauseam will cover are the following:

– Intra-episode ad frequency: The webinar will explore consumer reactions to the number of ads within a single podcast episode, their opinions on the acceptable number of ads, and how the ad frequency impacts their listening experience.

– Listeners’ perceptions of hearing the same ad multiple times within a single podcast episode (and across multiple episodes) and how this repetition affects their engagement with the podcast and the advertised product/service.

– Insights into listeners’ ad-skipping habits, reasons for skipping ads, and how this behavior compares to other media platforms.

– Factors that make podcast ads memorable, the influence of ads on purchase decisions, and listeners’ experiences with purchasing products or services advertised on podcasts.

– Ad position – if they could design a podcast, ad breaks and all, where would listeners place commercial messages?

And more stats n’ jokes, as usual. But back to our original question: will your audience tolerate advertising? Well, we asked a sample of over 1,000 weekly podcast listeners to tell us the truth about this. And remember – people are often performative in surveys like this. They will usually overstate how much they skip ads, for example, or how much they don’t like them, because it’s how they want to respond. Yet even with that caveat, here is what we found in Ad Nauseam:

The percentage of weekly podcast listeners who said that ads were “intolerable” was one, as in a single percent. An additional 8% noted they were barely tolerable, with the remainder finding them increasingly tolerable and even enjoyable. In fact, 17x more podcast consumers say they generally enjoy them than found them intolerable.

We have uncovered some of the reasons for this in previous studies, like The Medium Moves the Message and The Ad Bargain. The podcast audience generally hears far fewer advertisements than other media consumers, because their media of choice is relatively light on ads, they are listening to less broadcast, ad-supported media than other Americans, and they are also the most likely media consumer segment to subscribe to multiple ad-free premium music and video services. They aren’t being clobbered with ads, so the ones they do get have a much lower barrier to attention AND are directly linked to creator support. What this new data shows us is a check on those previous findings – podcast listeners do indeed tolerate ads, and even listen to them. We know this (especially in performance marketing/direct response) because the ads are working.

So the next time you think to yourself that your audience would never tolerate advertising, think of this graph and challenge that assertion. The percentage who generally won’t tolerate ads are loud, but that doesn’t make them right. And if you still believe your audience is the exception to this (and maybe that’s true, however statistically unlikely) ask yourself this: why is that?

Of course, as with anything, you can have too many ads. How many is too many? Sign up for Ad Nauseam and join us next week to find out!

New Partners

Sounds Profitable exists thanks to the continued support of our amazing partners. Monthly consulting, free tickets to our quarterly events, partner-only webinars, and access to our 1,800+ person slack channel are all benefits of partnering Sounds Profitable.

  • Canadaland is a fiercely independent, people-powered podcast network with a focus on news, media, current affairs, politics, culture, and original investigations.
  • Impressions.FM is a hosting and monetization solution that helps podcasters attract more advertisers and sell more ads while offering creator friendly terms.

Want to learn more about partnership? Hit reply or send us an email!

About the author

Tom Webster is a Partner at Sounds Profitable, dedicated to setting the course for the future of the audio business. He is a 25-year veteran audio researcher and trusted advisor to the biggest companies in podcasting, and has dedicated his career to the advancement of podcasting for networks and individuals alike. He has been the co-author and driver behind some of audio’s most influential studies, from the Infinite Dial® series to Share of Ear® and the Podcast Consumer Tracker. Webster has led hundreds of audience research projects on six continents, for some of the most listened-to podcasts and syndicated radio shows in the world. He’s done a card trick for Paula Abdul, shared a martini with Tom Jones, and sold vinyl to Christopher Walken.

Now playing on Sounds Profitable Podcasts

Or listen on your preferred platform: