Ad Tech & Programmatic

What’s the perfect number of ads in a podcast episode?

We asked 14 marketers to weigh in.
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· 5 min read

How many ads does it take to get to the end of a podcast? Unlike Tootsie Pop’s Mr. Owl, we weren’t satisfied with, “The world may never know.”

The podcast ad business now rakes in more than $1 billion in revenue per year. As it grows, podcast experts are still toying with how to best weave ads into episodes, weighing factors like the length and placement of ads.

Recently, we asked 14 pros in the space to share their thoughts over email on the ad load for podcasts. We break down how they approach ad loads—and what they think works best to keep podcasters, advertisers, and listeners happy.


Podcasts that run for around 30 minutes tend to have anywhere from three to six ads spread out across one to four ad slots—either pre-rolls, mid-rolls, or post-rolls, sources said.

  • Independent audio production agency Pod People runs four to six ads per 30-minute episode, said founder and CEO Rachael King: a 15-second pre-roll with the host shouting out sponsor names; two three-minute mid-roll slots with no more than two ads apiece; and a two-minute cross-promotion for another podcast at the end of the episode.
  • Sports podcast network Blue Wire runs four ads—one pre-roll, two mid-rolls, and one post-roll—in its 30-minute episodes, according to founder and CEO Kevin Jones. Those ads are each between 30 and 60 seconds on average, Jones said, and include both host-read and pre-recorded spots.
  • Marty Michael, co-founder and CEO of host-read ad marketplace Gumball, recommended that general layout—one pre-roll, two mid-rolls, and a post-roll—but added that “there is no perfect answer.”
  • “Shows know what their audiences like to hear and how often they want to hear it,” Michael said.

At Crooked Media, shorter shows—like daily news pod What A Day, which runs for about 15–20 minutes—include only a minute and a half worth of ads total, VP of sales Giancarlo Bizzarro told Marketing Brew. That minute and a half consists of three, 30-second ads in one mid-roll slot. Crooked Media only runs host-read ads.

That should be the maximum number of ads for a mid-roll slot, ideally read by the host, according to James Ingrassia, EVP of client service at audio ad agency Oxford Road.

“Quality always beats quantity here,” Ingrassia explained. He said three minute-long, host-read ads go over well with listeners, whereas three minutes worth of prerecorded ads “would turn listeners off, as the audio is not connected to the show they are listening to.”

Less is more

Some in the industry think podcasts should have even fewer ads. Mikey Fowler, VP and GM of podcast network and production company Audiorama, who’s previously worked in audio for iHeartMedia and Barstool Sports, said just two ads per 30 minutes “is the perfect system for meaningful, impactful ad reads. Any more is, in my opinion, too many.”

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Regardless, the average ad load in podcasting still remains less than that of CTV or linear TV, said Natrian Maxwell, GM of emerging channels at The Trade Desk. Thirty-minute TV episodes tend to have around 12–15 ads, he said, while podcasts of the same length have about four to nine ads.

As of the first quarter of 2022, about 5.5% of a podcast episode was made up of ads, according to podcast media planning platform Magellan AI’s quarterly benchmark report.

A 2021 study from Acast and Nielsen indicates that listeners aren’t entirely fed up with that ad load: Just 25% of the 2,000 US adults who listen to podcasts at least monthly said there are too many ads on podcasts, compared to 50% who said the same about cable TV.


Ad load doesn’t change dramatically for 60-minute podcasts. Four seems to be the minimum number of ad breaks that many networks will include, while the maximum stretches closer to eight.

In fact, Tenderfoot TV co-founder and president Donald Albright said the network’s 30- and 60-minute episodes each have the same number of ads, a maximum of eight across four ad breaks. One pre-roll slot can hold up to two ads at 15–30 seconds each, two mid-roll slots accommodate two ads at 30–60 seconds each, and one post-roll fits two 30- to 60-second ads.

It’s rare that all those slots are filled, since post-rolls are typically only used when Tenderfoot is promoting one of its own shows, and pre-rolls aren’t as in demand as mid-rolls, Albright told us. Tenderfoot uses a combination of host-read, producer-read, and pre-recorded ads.

Shira Atkins, co-founder and chief revenue officer at Wonder Media Network, said the network’s 40–60 minute interview-style pods have four to six ads: one pre-roll, two mid-rolls with two ads each, and one post-roll.

Typically, each pre-roll is 30 seconds, while mid- and post-roll ads last 60 seconds, “but things can be flexible depending on the show,” Atkins explained. All of WMN’s ads are host-read.

While many networks seem to follow a similar structure, some in the industry advise against simplifying the question of ad load to numbers at all.

Jessica Cordova Kramer, co-founder and CEO of Lemonada Media, said the most important factor is that the ads align with the content of the show, while Dan Franks, president of the podcasting community and conference Podcast Movement, said ad load “is more an art than a science.”

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