adStream: Squarespace, podcasts, and the dominant advertising model

adStream is an ongoing journal of news and observations in streaming audio advertising.

Just as you’ve probably seen a Home Depot commercial if you watch live TV, you’ve probably heard a Squarespace ad if you’re an avid podcast listener. The website-building service landed atop an informal listening study conducted by FiveThirtyEight Economics, which compiled this montage of Squarespace sponsorship podcast excerpts:

Squarespace perfectly matches what has become an archetypal profile of a podcast advertiser — a technology company targeting technology users with direct response ads tracked with a podcast-specific code, marketed with native sponsorship placements read and riffed by the podcast host. We’ve recently heard similar campaigns for MailChimp,, MeUndies, Caspar Mattresses, and others.

In a profile in Ad Exchanger, we learned that Squarespace started down this path about five years ago, before a podcasting resurgence put the audio category into industry news nearly every day. “Podcasting has been a base for us that we’ve scaled up over the years,” said Ryan Stansky, head of business development. Squarespace also advertises on traditional radio and streaming radio, in addition to on-demand audio.

In the FiveThirtyEight study, a staffer spent two days listening to podcasts in fast-forward mode (a feature offered in some podcast listening apps), entering sponsorship encounters into a database. “The typical podcast advertiser is the 2015 version of a mid-tier dot-com,” was one conclusion. Other such advertisers revealed by the listening study were Dollar Shave Club and ZipRecruiter.

The host-read model is absolutely dominant, according to FiveThirtyEight’s results, which found only one agency-produced spot with voice-over and music out of 186 ads tracked.


Brad Hill