Acast, the Stockholm-based podcast hosting and analytics company, is casting a wide net as it launches Acast Open, a new hosting service that will take aim at not only the large podcast companies but also the newcomer to the industry. The lure is that podcasters of any size will have access to various metrics and exclusive functionality, such as automated episode transcription and the Snipper audiogram tool. Podcasters will be able to choose from Acast Open’s three service tiers, including a free “starter” tier. And for those podcasts that are determined to have a large and sponsor-able listener base, they may be invited to be monetized alongside Acast’s most successful shows from publishers like the BBC, The Guardian, The Economist, Vice and Vogue. Acast Open is available initially in English and French, with more languages to follow.
At a time when a lot of big media companies are discovering podcasting, it may seem unlikely for Acast to go after small producers. But Johan Billgren, Acast co-founder and Chief Product and Technology Officer, says it is part of the core strategy for the company. “Nurturing the best podcasting talent has always been our core business, and that isn’t changing,” he said. “It’s why we’ve been able to build a network of creators that includes global smash hits like My Dad Wrote a Porno, David Tennant Does A Podcast With and the Earios Network.”
Acast acquired Pippa last April, allowing it to expand its reach into podcasters of any size. Prior to that deal, Acast’s tools had been available only to podcasts with an established number of listeners. Pippa gave the company a way to reach deeper into the marketplace for smaller, independent shows. Those so-called “bedroom heroes,” as Billgren refers to them, will now be able to get their hands on the same tools his company build for the world’s biggest and best podcasts and publishers.
“We acquired Pippa so we could bring the power of the world’s most sophisticated podcasting engine to every show, big or small – and Acast Open is our new product pulling all of that together,” said Billgren. And he says the acquisition of Pippa hasn’t changed his outlook on what role Acast plays in podcasting. “We seek out and support creators of all sizes, making it possible for anyone – whoever or wherever they are – to tell their story. With a great idea and the talent to match, there's nothing stopping the next My Dad Wrote A Porno or Serial from hitting our podcast feeds, and we want to make sure we're there to help make that happen,” said Billgren.
The company says with the introduction of Acast Open, the Pippa name will be retired.
Three months ago Acast raised $27.8 million (€25 million) in new financing in a “quasi-equity” deal with the European Investment Bank. It said it would use the funding to expand research and development of its audio content and advertising distribution platform. In the month since, it has introduced several new initiatives, including launching a live event business and creating a studio to produce original content.
“We’re always expanding and thinking about how we can move forward. As the industry continues to grow, more opportunities are being created for podcasters, advertisers and publishers alike – and Acast is at the forefront of it all,” said Billgren. “We are the infrastructure for global podcasting, supporting all creators, listeners and advertisers with whatever they need and powering a more sustainable, open ecosystem for all. We want to keep that up.”
Founded in 2015 by Karl Rosander, Mans Ulvestam and Billgren, Acast hosts more than 7,000 shows. Its revenue doubled in 2018, ending the year with more than $20 million in total sales, mainly driven by the U.S. and U.K. markets. Most recently it has entered Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and France.
Apart from the purchase of Pippa, Acast’s growth has so far been without deal-making, but with millions in capital now within reach, it could allow the company to make acquisitions to grow even quicker. Billgren isn’t ruling it out. “We’re always looking for new ways to expand and move the podcasting industry forward,” he said, adding, “Watch this space.”