Founder at True Native Media. Sold 60k+ podcast host-read endorsement ads for brands and agencies. Host of The Podcast Advertising Playbook.

From 1951 to 2008, Paul Harvey, an iconic AM radio host, delivered his signature line, “Hello, Americans, this is Paul Harvey! Stand by for news!”

When I was growing up, my dad and I sat at the kitchen table, ate our lunch and listened to Paul Harvey. In addition to Paul’s signature greeting, we heard him deliver host-read ads. This is where the host samples a product or service and then shares their personal experience with their audience in the form of an ad. Paul praised product after product, and as a child, I wondered when we would buy what he was selling. Just as Paul delivered host-read ads, so do the podcast hosts of today.

Host-read ads can be very effective, as they’re rooted in the influencer space. When someone you know, like and trust recommends a product or service, you listen. And when a podcast host, just like a personal friend, recommends a product, you pay close attention. Host-read ads don’t feel intrusive; in fact, they feel more like content than ads.

The podcast advertising space got its start in host-read ads. When advertisers entered the space, ads were almost entirely host-read. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s recently released Podcast Advertising Revenue Study, in 2021, 55% of podcast ads were host-read. The report also revealed that announcer-read/pre-produced ads rose, increasing from 35% in 2020 to 40% in 2021.

Announcer-read ads are very different from host-read ads, but both have their place in the industry. Announcer-read ads are produced and recorded by an announcer. Terrestrial radio has been using announcer-read ads successfully for many years, so it stands to reason they would be successful in the podcast space as well, and they have been.

So, which ad type is the best choice for advertisers? When considering a podcast ad campaign, one must evaluate its goals and areas of importance. Let’s first examine when a host-read ad is most valuable.

Host-read ads are best when an advertiser is looking to leverage the host’s connection with their audience. These ads are a form of influencer marketing—the advertiser is using the host’s familiarity with the audience to prompt a listener to purchase a product. When a product is about connection, lifestyle improvement and the like, audience members will be convinced to act when a host recommends a product. Direct-to-consumer brands, arts and entertainment, among other business types looking to leverage FOMO (fear of missing out) or the “everyone has this or is doing this” factor will benefit most from host-read ads.

When companies in the financial services or medical industries must convey a message explicitly to comply with government regulations, an announcer-read ad is a good option. Making sure podcast hosts read disclosure statements correctly can be trying and time-consuming. Knowing that an announcer will read a well-crafted script correctly can make the job efficient and reliable. Brand advertisers may also find that announcer-read ads are effective. When a company’s goal is to get its name out, and the advertiser is less concerned about a personalized call-to-action, announcer-read ads can do the trick.

Dynamic ad insertion is available for both host-read and announcer-read ads. Dynamic ad insertion uses software to insert ads into an entire catalog of episodes. Ads can be inserted based on date and time specifications and geographic targeting. Dynamic ad insertion gives the advertiser the confidence that a current ad is always in play. In addition, we’ve found that when ads are dynamically inserted, advertisers can create higher ad frequency, allowing advertisers to reach the same person multiple times with their message.

As the podcast industry continues to grow, I predict we will see an increasing number of announcer-read ads. Announcer-read ads may feel more secure to advertisers because they have a greater level of control. However, because host-read ads are a form of influencer marketing and influencer marketing is heavily invested in, host-read ads will remain strong. I foresee the cost of host-read ads increasing, while announcer-read ads will be inserted programmatically at a lower CPM (cost per thousand).

In the end, each option has its value. Advertisers must define their goals and follow the advertising path that best accomplishes them.


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