The Power of the Live Read in Podcasting

By Thomas Mancusi Vice President, Sales and Development at audioBoom

Podcasting has an ad-skipping problem. Or at least, that’s what the Wall Street Journal recently declared, citing the fact that 15-second skip buttons allow listeners to bypass commercials.

But the reality is that the problem is not actually new or unfamiliar — and it might not be that big of a problem, either.

Many listeners multitask as they listen to podcasts — wash the dishes, drive, go for a jog, garden, or work — and don’t bother to fast forward. Beyond that, though, advertisers are getting better at creating and placing ad content that’s interesting and effective.

Take the “live read,” or “host read,” for instance. It’s an advertisement delivered natively within the content and fabric of a podcast, communicated conversationally by the host or hosts.

A good read is natural and genuine. At audioBoom, we discourage script-writing. Instead, podcast hosts or co-hosts are provided with a list of talking points to incorporate and riff from, for upwards of 60 seconds and many times well over that length. This “live read” from Meditation Minis is a great example of an ad that feels more like part of the show than like an ad.

Done well, a live read won’t get skipped.

A good live read gets these things right:

  • The content is embedded seamlessly within the show.
  • The hosts are authentic and real; the ad is never scripted and always done live, not pre-recorded.
  • The vanity URL or promo code is mentioned multiple times so the audience can remember it.
  • The host doesn’t constrain herself to a broadcast clock of just 60 seconds; it’s okay to go longer.
  • The host is transparent with listeners that ads are what keeps the content free to them.
  • The read is accompanied by social sharing, and a mention in the show’s description. (Sharing on social media also creates an opportunity for listeners to engage with hosts online.)

Here’s what I tell clients about why it works:

  1. Advertisers receive a remarkably high share of voice.

A typical hour-long podcast likely only features three to four ads, max. So when an advertiser buys a live read, which is 60 seconds but typically goes longer, they’re getting a great percentage of the share of voice of the show. Podcasts are still a relatively new medium that aren’t inundated with commercials, so your ad won’t get lost in the noise.

2. Ads are delivered in an intimate, relationship-driven exchange to an engaged audience.

Podcasts have passionate fanbases who feel highly connected to the show and hosts. They’re listening to content via headphones, in a way that feels like the show is speaking to them directly. When brands advertise on podcasts, they get access to this relationship in a direct, powerful way. It’s one of the only forms of advertising that results in a true, genuine endorsement of the product.

3. Hosts and listeners benefit.

Hosts don’t need to endorse a product they don’t want to. If they don’t connect with the product or don’t think it’s a good fit for their audience, they have the first right of refusal to a live read opportunity. But if they do think it’s a good fit, they can do the live read in a way that’s authentic to them. Many times the brands will set up free product for the host to use/tryout before the live reads are done, making them true endorsers. When a live read results in sales, the host will benefit, receiving a repeat business for months to come that leads to revenue for the show itself.

Listeners get candid ad content that isn’t pre-canned, lengthy, or boring. They’re getting information from a source they respect, and it’s likely that the ad is relevant to them — and they’ll actually be interested in the promotion or deal. Plus, it’s understood that ad content is what makes their favorite show free, and if the ads need to be there, these are the most relevant and interesting.

If you’d like to learn more about how your brand can benefit from podcast advertising or if you are a podcaster hoping to learn more about advertising on your show contact me at