No, people aren’t skipping your podcast ads!

I read a story last week in which it was suggested that podcast advertising doesn’t work because a large majority of the listeners are skipping over the ads. But the truth is — that’s categorically false.

Podcasts have seen a massive resurgence in the past few years. Apple has served more than 50 Billion podcast downloads since they first launched podcasts on iTunes back in 2005, with more than 40 Billion of those downloads occurring since 2014. But the truth is while podcasting has seen explosive growth recently, there’s been very little data that allows creators to really dive in to what listeners are doing.

For a long time, podcasters had many questions about their data including: Are people just downloading the show and then not listening? Are people who start listening engaging with the content? How far through a show are people listening? And if the show includes ads, are people actually hearing them or are they skipping ahead?

Now many podcasting apps including Apple Podcasts allow a listener to skip ahead in the content 15 or 30 seconds. Pocket Casts even allow users to skip a certain number of seconds at the start of a particular show. But the real question is are people actually using those features?

Pocket Casts offers options to skip ahead in your podcast content.

The truth is — very few people actually skip ads, and we know this because of Apple.

In late 2017, Apple began rolling out their podcast analytics. The data they provided is not very comprehensive, and there are many limitations, however they do offer one very useful indicator — and that is completion rate.

As an example — at Lawson Media, most episodes of our Moonshot podcast achieve upwards of 85% completion rates, with many episodes being above 90%. Meaning the audience is listening to a majority of the content.

While previous surveys may have indicated that people skip ads — the truth is the data shows that very few people actually do. When we dive into the stats, Apple give us a graph showing points in the episode where people skip ahead based on actual listening data collected from Apple Podcasts.

Completion data for a recent Moonshot episode shows a relatively small dip during the ad breaks.

For Moonshot — most our ads run around 60 seconds and we can see a very small percentage of people actually skip the ads. Our show is very tech-savvy with Pocket Casts and Apple Podcasts being our two largest listening platforms — both which have ad skip functionality — so given our audience you’d anticipate that a lot of people might be likely to skip the ads. But the majority of people don’t skip, and will listen to the entire show including the ads.

What does this mean for brands?

Well, it means people are hearing your ads! And brands who advertise on podcasts are likely to receive good engagement from an audience. However that only holds true if the ad is relevant to the audience, is read by the hosts, and if the process to take up an offer isn’t too complex.

Direct response ads, while great for the advertiser in that you can track performance with a URL or promo code, are often not the best form of podcast ad unless the advertiser is buying spots in volume. The best podcast ads tend to be about product or brand awareness as they don’t require a listener remember a promo code or particular URL to actually engage with the product. That’s not to say direct response isn’t valuable, it is, but don’t expect every listener to take you up on your offer. And the more complex the process, the less people will engage with the content.

For Moonshot we’ve run listener surveys in the past and seen that podcast listeners have very high brand recollection, often remembering brands who advertised on the show months earlier. Did all of them take up the promo offers? No. But at least we know that the overwhelming majority heard the ad, which is better data than you get for TV or traditional radio which rely on survey data rather than actual completion stats.

So if you’re a brand and you’re trying to decide whether to spend the cash on a podcast ad, remember that listeners are actually hearing your content, so as long as you select the right show and buy enough inventory, there’s potentially a lot of untapped value in advertising on podcasts.