Study From Gumball, ART19 and Signal Hill Insights Highlight Effectiveness of ‘Talent Read’ Ads

New analysis from Gumball, ART19, and Signal Hill reveals host-read ads can share their effectiveness when they are targeted to other podcasts in an adjacent category or genre, outperforming a standard ‘Announcer Read’ on upper-funnel metrics (download study here)

These ads are defined as ‘Talent Reads’ – ads voiced by talent from an existing podcast who are not featured in the specific podcast where the ad is being inserted. The study indicates that ‘Talent Reads,’ with a 4-point absolute lift in purchase intent compared to the 1-point lift for “Announcer Reads’ are the most effective way to extend host influence and improve programmatic revenue in podcasting. Gumball will begin offering ‘Talent Reads’ in its ad platform in Q2 of 2024.

While programmatic revenue has grown considerably since 2021, it still only represents 11% of total revenue according to the IAB’s most recent revenue study, compared to nearly 90% in digital media more broadly. Gumball, the Headgum-founded ad marketplace specializing in host-read advertising, believes podcast publishers and marketers must develop new products to bridge this gap while aligning themselves closely with what makes podcasting so uniquely effective; creator-endorsed messaging.

“The impact of host-read ads remains central to our business,” said Mary Michael, CEO at Gumball. “It was natural for our team to investigate how to extend that influence at scale to benefit both creators and advertisers. Working with ART19 and Signal Hill Insights on this research allows Gumball to confidently standardize the ‘Talent Read’ ad product and leverage our talent’s influence to adjacent shows within our platform and beyond.”

This brand lift study, conducted by Signal Hill Insights, specifically tested a ‘Talent Read’ for voiced by Tom Bilyeu from the podcast Impact Theory, which was inserted into an adjacent show within the Business & Careers category, excluding those affiliated with Bilyeu. In addition to yielding higher levels of familiarity, affinity, and purchase intent, the ‘Talent Read’ also generated significant lifts in agreement for three brand statement extracted from the ad, whereas the ‘Announcer Read’ only generated significant lifts for two brand statements.

As podcast technology continues to advance and publishers optimize their inventory across direct sales, targeted ad marketplaces, and VAST-enabled Supply-Side Platforms, the ‘Talent Read’ can quickly become a premium offering positioned between host-read ads and ‘Announcer Reads.”

“To reach podcast audiences at scale, advertisers need to access the right technology which provides flexibility to run multiple creative types across their campaigns. Publishers need tools to maximize impression on delivery while leveraging the unique voices of their networks,” said Andy Slater, ART19’s Head of Partnerships and Strategy. “Through this study, ART19 is pleased that we can help both brands and podcasters achieve their goals through activating talent read ads, in addition to the already impactful announcer reads, in our Targeted Audience Solutions marketplace.”

This study not only underscores the importance of creator-endorsed messaging but also presents a significant opportunity for publishers and marketers to extend successful host-read campaigns across adjacent podcasts, thereby maximizing the reach and engagement.

“The results point the way to a three-tier strategy — combining host-reads, talent reads, and announcer reeds —that can help advertisers and agencies maximize the value of their podcast ad creatives,” said Paul Riismandel, Chief Insights Officer of Signal Hill Insights.

Signal Hill’s brand lift study surveyed 800 monthly podcast listeners aged 25-54. Lift results were based upon comparing brand metrics for listeners exposed to the podcast ads to a control group who did not hear the ads.

Podcast Veteran Paul Riismandel Joins Signal Hill Insights

Exclusive: Leading audio research firm Signal Hill Insights is excited to announce the addition of Paul Riismandel in the role of Chief Insights Officer and Partner as it expands its podcast measurement practice. He joins from SXM Media, the ad sales division of SirusXM/Pandora, where he led podcast advertising research.

At Signal Hill, Riismandel will help solidify the company as a critical independent third-party voice providing industry-wide and custom research solutions. He will focus on furthering innovation in podcast measurement, combining ad effectiveness, creative analysis, and audience insights, in order to help partners and the industry at large understand how best to serve both listeners and advertisers, together.

Jeff Vidler, President and founder of Signal Hill Insights, said, “I’m thrilled that Paul has agreed to join us as a senior partner. The podcast industry is hitting an inflection point as more major brands are coming into the medium looking to understand how to best harness the power of podcasting. No one has Paul’s passion for finding research insights to move podcast advertising forward and no one but Paul has the experience to make that happen.”

Riismandel brings a wealth of experience to Signal Hill Insights as one of the industry’s first researchers in podcast advertising. Since the beginning with Midroll Media (acquired by SiriusXM/Pandora) in 2014, Riismandel has overseen hundreds of ad effectiveness studies for nearly every major brand that advertisers in the space, across such verticals as direct-to-consumer, consumer packaged goods, automative and financial services. In that time, he established the playbook for educating advertisers about the unique value of podcasting, and built one of the industries largest opt-in research panels of podcast listeners.

“I’m excited to take podcast research to the next level,” Riismandel said. “I’ve worked with Signal Hill as a client, and I know first-hand the expertise and acumen they bring to the market. I’ve always thought of Signal Hill as the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of podcast measurement, because of their innovative thinking and can-do approach to solving even the toughest analytic questions.

“In particular, I’m looking forward to developing a predictive performance model with Signal Hill that would advise advertisers and publishers on how to optimize their podcast strategy, even before launch.”

Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights Report Reveals Latest Podcast Trends

Cumulus Media, in partnership with Signal Hill Insights, released Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights’ Podcast Download – Fall 2021 Report, a comprehensive evaluation incorporating several new studies that examine podcast audience and advertiser trends over the past five years.

The several edition of the study that examines weekly podcast listeners is part of Cumulus Media’s commitment to share insights and research findings with the podcast community. Topics covered in the Podcast Download Report include usage, content, social audio and advertising trends.

“Our new Podcast Download Report uncovers a major opportunity for brand marketers,” said Suzanne Grimes, EVP, Marketing for Cumulus Media and President, Westwood One. “With this new report, we can now prove podcast advertising reaches tens of millions of younger consumers who have abandoned linear television for advertising-free video streaming services.”

“Spotify has now become the number one listening source for podcasts in the U.S. The sands are shifting under our feet,” said Jeff Vidler, President and Founder of Signal Hill Insights. “The big three podcast listening oligarchy – YouTube, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify – now have a 63% listening share, up from 55% in 2019.”

The Fall edition reveals valuable insights for content creators and advertisers. Some highlights from the report:

Podcast listeners are heavy users of ad-free video streaming. As two out of five weekly podcast listeners are cord cutters and only watch ad-free video streaming.

Women ascend: Podcast newcomers who started listening last year are more likely to be women. 60% of those who began listening to podcasts in the last year are women. Women represent 43% of the audience who began listening to podcasts four or more years ago, the podcast pioneers.

Podcast content preferences differ significantly by gender and demographic. Of the top five most-listened-to podcast genres among men and women, there are just two types of podcasts (Comedy and News/Current Events) in common. Among men, the top five content genres also include Sports, Technology, and Business. Among women, their top podcast genres include Storytelling/Drama/True Crime, Entertainment/Pop Culture, and Education.

Social audio is no longer a one-brand category. Six social audio apps have similar usage and awareness. Facebook Live Audio Rooms, Twitter Spaces, Clubhouse, Discord Stage Channels, Reddit Talk, and Spotify Greenroom each have been listened to by 17% – 19% of the weekly podcast audience.

Podcast platform wars: Spotify is now the leading listening destination as the big three podcast tuning oligarchy (Apple Podcasts, YouTube, and Spotify) expand share. When asked which platform they listen to the most to access podcasts, 24% say Spotify, followed by Apple Podcasts (20%) and YouTube (19%). In two years, the combined share of the big three has grown from 55% to 63%.

Podcast advertising consideration, intention, and usage at all-time highs according to a November 2021 Advertiser Perceptions study of 300 media agencies and marketers. 45% of brands and agencies say they are currently advertising in podcasts, up from 34% in 2020.

The greater the podcast listenership, the more podcast ads generate consumer response and business outcomes. Host-read ads continue to be the most preferred, especially among women. As a result of hearing a podcast ad, heavy podcast listeners (those who listen 6+ hours per week) are more likely to have searched online for a product, made a purchase, used a promo code, or followed a brand on social media.

Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights’ Podcast Download – Fall 2021 Report is available in full for download at

New Report Finds Podcast Listening Bolstered by Pandemic

CUMULUS MEDIA, in partnership with Signal Hill Insights, released CUMULUS MEDIA and Signal Hill Insights’ Podcast Download – Spring 2021 Report, a comprehensive evaluation incorporating several studies that examine podcast audience and advertiser trends over the past five years.

The sixth installment of the study was released to coincide with the IAB Podcast Upfront as part of CUMULUS MEDIA’s commitment to share and research findings with the podcast community. Topics covered in the Podcast Download Report include usage trends, content trends, and advertising trends, all of which evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Spring 2021 edition reveals valuable insights for content creators and advertisers. Some highlights from the report:

  • The pandemic was a podcast listening accelerant: Among weekly podcast listeners, the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for increased podcast listening. In March 2021, 53% of weekly listeners reported spending more time with podcasts since the pandemic, up +29% from July 2020 (41%).
  • Genre exploration: Regular listenership is growing across most podcast genres, suggesting that weekly podcast listeners are venturing out and listening to new genres.
  • Eager audience with about 1 in 2 tuning in on episode drop day: Weekly podcast listeners are enthusiastic about their favorite podcasts. 46% reported listening to their favorite podcast within a day of its release.
  • Pitching ad-free podcast subscriptions won’t win over listeners: Content is the main attraction for weekly podcast listeners. When choosing podcast subscription features, weekly listeners will pick exclusive content over an ad-free experience.
  • Clubhouse is a natural brand extension for podcast shows and hosts: Awareness and usage of Clubhouse over-indexes among weekly podcast listeners versus the total U.S. general population. When asked, the majority of weekly listeners who are aware of Clubhouse agree that the app would be a good fit for their favorite podcast show or host.
  • Platforms have exploded while the big three still dominate: Weekly podcast listeners are accessing their podcasts on more platforms. Still, Apple, Spotify, and YouTube have a strong hold on being the most used podcast platforms and continue to grow at the expense of other competitors.
  • Unique need state fulfillment: Podcasts are unique, being one of the few mediums where listeners come for entertainment and learning, cultivating an engaged audience.
  • Listeners feel podcasts are under-commercialized: Weekly podcast listeners are comfortable hearing ads and the more time they spend with podcasts, the more ads they will accept.
  • High CPMs warranted: Podcasts have the greatest ad attentiveness compared to other media.