Top daily news podcasts: Ad loads, durations, and more

by Brad Hill


Today Reuters published its Digital News Report 2019, in which daily news podcasts are revealed as a fast-growing media category. In this inaugural Podspec, we look at the top daily news shows to survey their attributes including length, use of music, use of pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads, and their ad loads.

The 16 shows we examine here are taken from the top podcasts listed in the News category for Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher on Monday, November 24. (We used Chartable for easy access to those lists.) Four shows were on all three lists (The Daily – Up First – Today, Explained – What A Day) and two others were on two lists (The Ben Shapiro Show – The NPR Politics Podcast). We eliminated news shows that don’t produce daily, and at least one program (BBC Minute) which publishes multiple times each day. We also removed top-ranked catch-up podcasts that come directly from radio or TV, such as Mark Levin Audio Rewind and The Rachel Maddow Show.

NPR, Slate, and the Washington Post each had two shows in this list.

We examined one episode of each show, on either November 26 or 27. The following table displays show length, intro time, and use of music.


Ad Loads

Advertising in top daily news podcasts shows a range in ad load from zero ads to seven. The ad load as a percentage of the show length ranged from 0% to 12.7%. Ten of the 16 podcasts used pre-rolls. Of the 13 shows which placed commercial breaks, six utilized live host reads and seven dropped in pre-recorded spots, most of those recorded by a host. Three shows were without ads on the sample dates.


Length of Ads

Unsurprisingly but revealingly, host-read ads tend to be longer than pre-recorded sponsorships, as seen below. The four shows with the longest average ad length are relatively informal and personality-driven programs, and the hosts drill their sponsor messages deep into their shows. The four shows with shortest average ad lengths use pre-recording.


The average ad load (percentage of episode time) is 6.1%. Five of the 16 shows loaded 10% or more of their episode length with sponsor messages:

  • The Gist (12.7%)
  • The Dan Bongino Show (12.5%)
  • The Ben Shapiro Show (12.3%)
  • The Daily (11.4%)
  • The NPR Politics Podcast (10%)

A few additional points

The average ad length in a top daily news podcast is 2:06.

The average podcast length during this test was 29 minutes — about the length of a typical car commute.

Longest ad? The first mid-roll in The Dan Bongino Show, 2:24. The program had the most absolute time spent on ads — 7 minutes and 54 seconds, with the three of the four longest mid-rolls and the longest pre-roll.