Podcast Ad Spend Up 20% In 2021, But Media & Entertainment Down

The top 500 podcasts across three dominant genres saw a 20% year-over-year increase in advertising revenue in 2021, according to a new MediaRadar analysis. 

The number of companies buying podcast ads rose 14% YoY, and 42% of those who advertised on the platform in 2020 returned in 2021. 

While media and entertainment continued to be among the top- product/service categories across the true crime, news and comedy genres, its spending levels decreased from the pandemic-driven stay-at-home promotional surge levels of 2020. 

The category’s spending dropped 18% in true crime and slightly in news, and spend in comedy was flat (chart top of page). 

Tech advertising also continued to be a top-spending category across the genres, and saw robust 50% YoY growth overall. The growth was driven by cellular providers, who increased their ad buys by nearly eight times compared to 2020. 

Comedy’s tech drivers included wearable tech, web design and development software and audio equipment, which was up 37% YoY. Home security systems accounted for 35% of tech ad buys on true crime channels and 9% of tech ad buys on comedy channels.


The true crime genre as a whole saw 15% growth in ad revenue, drawn from more than 1,000 product lines. Psychology and counseling services were the top advertising categories, up 57% versus 2020. One service, BetterHelp, upped its spend by 41%. Home security companies were also major spenders this podcast genre. 

Overall ad revenue in the news genre rose 20%, driven by a 36%  increase in the number of brands advertising, to 1,400. Financial advertising spend rose 45%, including a combined 212% increase in credit-card advertising by Bank of America, Capital One and American Express. Spend by banks and investment firms rose 18% and 17%, respectively. 

Total spend in the comedy genre increased 20%, reflecting a 26% increase in the number of companies advertising. 

Dominant product/services categories, representing 19% of spend in the comedy genre, were psychology counseling services, food subscription boxes, web design and development software, insurance companies, dietary supplements and CBD brands. CBD spend leapt by 111%. 

Format-wise, host-read ads saw a decline in use. They represented just 35% of ads in the news genre, and their share of total ads declined from 82% to 66% YoY in the comedy genre, and from 73% to 59% in the true crime genre. 

In terms of positioning, mid-roll has the dominant share across the genres, with true crime at 58%, news 56% and comedy 52%. 

News podcasts have by far the shortest ads: 47% are 30-second formats. In contrast, 60-second-plus ads account for 57% of ads in both the true crime and comedy genres.

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