Home Entertainment Podcasts grow on the back of monetisation

Swedish-based podcast platform Acast offers paywalled podcast content and dynamic ad space to monetise it. It has seen an explosive growth in podcasts, much of it due to its platform, in its three years.

Acast hosts more than 50% of the commercial podcasts in the UK and in February invested in Australia where it has quickly grown to Acast’s fourth largest market behind the US, Canada, and the UK.

Australians are embracing podcasts and a whole industry of creating and producing content is growing up around it, largely on the backs of companies like Acast that help to monetise the content.

iTWire caught up with Acast's chief strategy officer and co-founder, Karl Rosander, and US Director of Content, Caitlin Thompson, during a recent visit to Australia to find out more about podcasting and how this three-year-old start-up has shot to fame so quickly and attracted the attention of Kaj Hed, majority owner of Rovio Entertainment, creators of Angry Birds.

Tell me about Acast and its podcast platform?

Acast is the world’s leading end-to-end technology platform for publishing, monetising, and listening to audio on demand. Starting with podcasts, Acast is a free-to-use technology platform connecting listeners, podcast creators and advertisers in a fully integrated, one-stop shop.

Acast has more than 50 million monthly listens to more than 1000 shows around the world. Founded in 2014, the company is headquartered in Stockholm and has offices in London, New York City, and Los Angeles. The Acast app is available for download from the Microsoft Store, iTunes and Google Play.

Acast helps podcast providers monetise content and gives listeners an enjoyable place to discover it. What makes us different is that we’re an end-to-end platform: a content management system, analytics engine, distribution network, advanced advertising service, listening app, and sales assistance force. And we’re the world’s first fully social podcast platform with an embeddable player that supports Windows, iOS, and Android operating systems, on both mobile devices and computers.

You recently invested in the Australian market. What led you to make this step?

Acast launched in Australia in February 2017. Our main goal and the reason we are in Australia is to help take Australian content to the rest of the world and bring great global content to Australia. We want to continue to grow the already booming Australian podcast market.

Australia is the fourth largest market after the US, Canada, and the UK and there's so much good content that's going to start coming out of this market, especially as we begin to significantly invest in it and go find it. On our platform, before we even launched here, we had almost three million listens locally. We have a vision of being the go-to audio-on-demand platform and we can't do it without having a strong presence in a place like Australia.

What will this mean for local advertisers and content creators and what is your advice to them?

For Independent podcasters, Acast offers the best and most simple publishing service with an all-in-one tool to monetise and distribute their content wherever listening happens. There is a huge opportunity for Australian businesses and influencers to leverage the platform to reach a new and engaged audience and to position themselves as thought leaders.

For media outlets and companies, Acast offers a comprehensive platform to launch, grow, and measure the digital audio footprint for podcast and audio content for media companies. Locally, Aussie publishers are beginning to tap into the benefits of podcasting but the opportunity is huge and media houses will quickly jump on board to stay relevant.

For advertisers, Acast offers true targeting metrics, accurate and timely data, and innovative dynamic ad formats for brands. Acast will provide a greater level of transparency and data for advertisers such as geographic and demographic details of users and exact times listeners drop-off during podcasts.

For listeners: Acast offers an easier way to discover new podcasts as well as exciting ways to share those same podcasts with their friends.

What do you think the future of podcasting looks like?

Podcasting is on the cusp of taking off in Australia. While we’re seeing a drastic rise in podcast popularity locally, the medium is still new and unchartered. Given the recent growth in such a short period of time, we anticipate this growth trend will continue and the podcast space will go through a period of drastic change as those leveraging the platform come to grips with what it can provide and what content works best.

How best can Australian technology brands take advantage of this growing market?

There’s plenty of specialist programs with a high number of downloads which are gaining traction so Australian technology brands should think about how they can engage new audiences to share their knowledge and innovations. Whether targeting a consumer or business audience, in an educational or entertainment capacity, there is huge scope to what is possible and vendors should consider the opportunity this presents or risk being left behind.

What is Acast’s Recommendations function?

Searching for new podcasts is hard and often time-consuming. We want Acast's users to spend their time listening to great podcasts, rather than looking for them.

Recommendations is a function that utilises a machine learning algorithm to surface new, tailored content for users to listen to and follow, very much akin to Spotify’s Discover. Acast has introduced the new feature to help people discover their next favourite show and to expand their audio libraries with podcasts they were previously unaware on.

As well as users being offered content that is relevant to their listening history, each podcast page within Acast displays other thematically similar shows, based on the podcasts enjoyed by other users. As well as enhancing the user experience, Acast Recommendations allows advertisers to target specific demographics with greater precision, by providing them with deeper insights into listening trends.

During the feature’s beta phase, Acast extracted data over a period of two weeks which showed users were 52% more likely to follow a show if it was recommended to them by the algorithm, and 49% more likely to listen to multiple episodes of a show recommended by Acast.

How does Acast's use of artificial intelligence drive this?

We began testing Acast’s machine learning algorithm in October last year to power Recommendations. It analyses anonymised listening data and suggests new content that is relevant to each individual user based on their listening habits and passions. The algorithm learns over time, meaning that the more a user listens to audio, the better and more personalised the recommendations become; reflecting changing tastes and interests which can develop over time.

As results are generated through algorithmic analysis, the new feature generates organic results, recommending the podcasts most suitable for the listener: independent of external influences and highlighting new and exciting content, rather than simply recommending the most popular shows.




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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!


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