During lockdown, people started listening to podcasts more frequently and for longer. With the world becoming increasingly virtual and screen-based, it’s only natural that people would turn to audio.

Earlier this month, AdsWizz CEO Alexis van de Wyer presented at the 2020 IAB Podcast Upfronts, sharing insights on podcast advertising and listening trends, including growth, shifts in when and how people listened, and which advertising categories dominated.

Here are our top takeaways from that presentation.


Podcast advertising continues to grow despite COVID-19 hiccup.

Podcast advertising increased by 44% from January to June 2020. But shortly after shelter in place orders went into effect, we saw an understandable dip in April. Buying picked up in May and reached new heights in June, although we saw a shift in which advertising categories dominated (see more on that below).

Listening patterns dramatically shifted February through May, bouncing back to “normal” in June.

January saw the historical “normal” listening pattern with steady weekdays, followed by the typical weekend dip. February listening increased overall with Tuesday oddly taking the lead as the peak listening day of the week. ​March listening continued to climb with a significant increase post shelter in place orders. Additionally, March’s peak listening days fluctuated and seemed to correlate with global events. April and May continued to increase, mirroring March’s fluctuations. *

By June, the “normal” listening pattern returned. When comparing June to January, June’s peak listening day was 21% higher than January’s peak day.

*Monthly charts can be seen in the full presentation, link at the end of this article. 


Mobile still dominates, but smart speakers are on the rise.

71% of podcast ads were delivered to mobile phones and tablets from January to July 2020. Although the share of smart speakers still comes in below mobile/tablets and desktop/laptops, it has seen significant growth with a 78% increase in advertising from January to June 2020.


Huge shifts in types of advertisers pre-COVID to “new normal”.

From January to March 2020, the top three IAB advertising categories showed a typical variety. In April, we saw new entrants take the lead. One could assume advertisers were speaking to the changes listeners wanted to make in their lives – like quitting smoking or going back to school.

May reflected the new reality we live in with the top three categories all falling into technology categories. June then completely shifted to shopping categories, varying from department stores, grocery stores and couponing.


Our predictions for podcast advertising.

  1. Programmatic is coming to podcasts. In just the first six months of 2020 we’ve seen a 37% increase in podcast ads delivered programmatically within our platform. Programmatic advertising fulfills the industry need for precision targeting at scale, and will continue grow in 2021.


  1. Brand safety will continue to be important for podcast ad buying, especially amidst upcoming elections and ongoing pandemic news. Advertisers need assurance that their messages will be placed in brand-safe content and contextual targeting technology can do that. Through sophisticated content analysis, buyers can rest assured they know exactly what content their ad is being placed against.


  1. Technology will scale the standard with programmatic host-read ads. About half of podcasts had the majority of their ads read by the host in 2019. Host-read ads are highly effective for advertisers because listeners see them as a personality-endorsement; host-read ads increase listener interest in the advertisement by 44%. But with over 800,0000 podcasts and 30 million episodes available today, scaling host-read ads is virtually impossible. We are already piloting the automation of host-read ads, where one script can be read by the host for hundreds of shows and reach millions of listeners.


You can view our complete IAB Podcast Upfront presentation with more podcast advertising trends HERE.

We will release our full Podcast Trends Report later this year. The report will include additional quantitative data along with qualitative survey data from podcasters, publishers, and advertisers.