The content creator’s guide to podcast ads

Estimated read time: 8 minutes



Podcast ads are a potential way for content creators to monetize their shows and for brands to reach different audiences.

Often, podcast ads are read by the host and are quick and to the point within the show, but several types of podcast ads exist and there are options on when and how to run them.

In this article, I discuss the different options and things to consider when it comes to podcast advertising, including:

The different types of podcast ads
Sponsored guests as a revenue driver
How podcast ads are inserted
Ads in the podcast show notes
When to run podcast ads
How to maximize podcast ads
The overall experience

The different types of podcast ads

The pre-roll podcast ad

This ad runs at the beginning of a podcast episode. It comes before all the content, and listeners who want to listen to your show will have to listen or skip through it.



The advantage is that anyone who listens to the episode will hear this podcast ad. Or if they know there are ads for 2 minutes will skip ahead.

Read next: What’s the difference between a podcast listen and download?

The mid-roll podcast ad

This podcast ad runs in the middle of the content.

The advantage of this ad is that people are already listening to the show and may be less likely to skip through it. They may just be running the podcast audio and won’t take the time to click skip ahead 15 seconds.

Who reads podcast ads?

There are two types of podcast ads:

  • The host-read ads where it’s the host’s voice reading the commercial content.
  • A produced ad – like think on radio or TV – that runs very similarly to a commercial break on the radio.

Podcast ads in the written description

I saw this on a Washington Commanders-related podcast. John Keim had the sponsors and their podcast ads listed in the written description:

This is a great idea and makes it easy to highlight the sponsor or a business message to the potential listeners in the written description.

Be careful with only sharing sponsor messages there, especially early on in a podcast launch. It could negatively impact audience growth if people can’t figure out what the new show is about.

It’s hard to tell how many people look at this, but if there’s a trackable link with a call to action, that’s one way results can be tracked.

Read next: Examples of media kits: Do I need one for my podcast or livestream?

Another type of podcast-revenue stream is an entire episode sponsored by the company appearing on that episode. I have had several of these, and even though it’s a sponsored show, the episode still should be interesting and similar to the style of the overall podcast.

At the show’s beginning, say, “Thanks to xyz for sponsoring today’s episode.”

Become a sponsored guest on my podcast

How podcast ads are inserted

Regarding podcast ads, there are two ways they are inserted.

Dynamic podcast ad insertion

Think of Google ads on a website. You place the ad code on the site, and then Google serves whatever ads are currently running campaigns there. Same thing here, you please a podcast ad marker into episodes, and whatever ads are currently running will run there. If no ads are running, no ads will run. In Anchor, the dynamic insertion looks like this below.

podcast ad ahead of content

Permanent podcast ad insertion

These are ads that the host will read on-air while livestreaming or recording the episode. So if they say, “We are presented to you by Company xyz who does abc…” that stays with that episode.

Both types certainly have advantages and disadvantages, and it’s good to be aware of the difference. For example, permanent insertion might be easier and more profitable for newer shows with smaller audiences. But what if somebody paid you $50 for a permanent ad spot, and now that episode takes off? That’s where dynamic insertion can be more profitable. Or you can raise the price for permanent insertion.

And it’s hard to predict sometimes which shows will takeoff. For example, many months ago, I recorded an episode on LinkedIn newsletters, and it just recently drove record numbers.

Podcast ads within article show notes

I turn many podcasts into written articles, like this show on branded face masks.

The podcast ad message can also be listed in this article. My podcast articles often get twice as many reads as the podcast gets listens, so it’s another way to make the podcast ads partnership more valuable to your sponsor. Of course, I usually also embed my podcast episode within the article, so people might also hear it there.

When should you run podcast ads?

There are two types of content in podcast ads to consider:

  • When an external company buys space on your podcast
  • When you promote internal services or products

Example 1 includes somebody who wants to reach your audience. For example, podcast advertising expert Heather Osgood said on an episode of my podcast that you’ll have to have 5,000 or more listens to each episode to make this work.

Example 2 includes promoting your company’s services. That could include:

  • Professional services
  • Products
  • A book
  • A conference

How to maximize podcast ads

I like to think of podcast ads as calls to action that are part of an integrated strategy. So, especially as podcasts are starting to grow, think about how to maximize ads – internal and external – across all channels where it makes sense.

Of course, it’s only possible when you take a Create Once, Publish Everywhere approach with the content. That’s why I livestream my podcasts.

If you have a ton of listeners for your podcast, the podcast-only advertising model may be tempting. But if it’s taking off there, why not maximize results by using the content on all the channels?

Remember that some listeners skip ahead.

For hands-on users, it’s easy to fast forward. Skipping commercials is easy.

Here’s a screenshot from Apple Podcasts:

You can easily move forward in an episode. Scrub along (highlight in image). Of course, it’s hard to tell where you will end up and if you missed something you wanted to hear. The 15-second skip function is another way listeners skip ahead.

On video platforms – like YouTube and Netflix- at least you have a visual indicator of what you are fast-forwarding through.

Some video platforms now also restrict fast-forwarding when there’s a commercial on. That will likely come to podcasts at some point.

But there’s a way for listeners to skip commercials and chit-chatter they don’t like. So keep that in mind and try to integrate all parts of the show so that people want to listen.

Some podcasters encourage skipping, too, when they publish time codes:

At 2:32, we talk about what to say at the beginning of a podcast. Maybe consider putting ads in front of those sections and then have the time code go to the ad first.

I only mention this because all these things impact user experience, and the better the user experience, the more likely listeners will listen to the episode and hear the ads.

Transitions to podcast ads

Some podcast ads start at certain times. I’ve even heard big shows where whoever spoke was cut off midsentence. That’s not the best experience, but I can see how it happens. Consider having a short sound or an interlude when transitioning from editorial content to an ad. In Anchor, those are readily available in the library.

Should podcast ads be announced?

For the produced ads, I’ve seen two ways to handle them on episodes:

  • They just run at some pre-determined point. Sometimes they even cut off the person speaking a bit.
  • The host says, “We’ll be right back.”

While the first way can at times be disruptive, it might very well be the better way to get people to listen to the ad. I know that when people say, “we’ll be back right after the commercial break,” I automatically skip ahead.

How many podcast ads should I run back-to-back?

I’ve never run more than one ad in a sequence, but I’ve heard experts say that back-to-back ads are OK if they’re not too long. However, don’t do three or more in a row, as that slows down the entire show.

Also considered to get to the point at the beginning of the show. I’ve seen shows where the first 3 to 5 minutes are just ads and promotional stuff. That takes a lot of trust in the audience to keep listening. Of course, when I know this, I can skip ahead, but it’s not a good experience either way.

Read next: Doing live audio monitoring correctly during a podcast or livestream

The podcast ad experience

Driving ad revenue is not the primary goal of my podcast but it certainly helps and can cover some costs when there is some ad revenue coming in.

However, I am conscious of the experience for the listener. So keep that in mind as you decide how to use advertising on your podcast or if you use it. As always, it always depends on the goal of the show.



Listen to my podcast