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2021 Podcast Acquisitions and Funding – A Recap

2021 Podcast Acquisitions and Funding – A Recap

By Tom Webster

December 21, 2021

Last year was a busy year for acquisitions and funding in the podcasting space, and there’s a good chance some of it passed you by. So today, I’m running down the acqusitions that mattered, with some color commentary on what these moves might mean for the future of podcasting. And as a special bonus, I teamed up with Evo Terra to bring you an audio version of this as well. We’re using it as a pilot for something new which we’re calling The Download. If you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance you work in the business of podcasting, and that’s the audience for this new show. The pilot episode of the Sounds Profitable podcast feed today, and I’ll have more information for you as we solidify a few things in the coming days. For now, let’s get into it.

2021 Acquisitions – A Recap

Libsyn, the public podcast hosting platform founded in 2004 had an incredibly active year. They started by raising 25 million dollars and they definitely put it to work, buying podcast creation platform Auxbussubscription and membership platform Glow for 1.2 million dollarshost and announcer read self-serve advertising marketplace Advertisecast for 30 million dollars, and longtail podcast advertising marketplace PODGO. With the leadership team from Advertisecast taking a more active role, and former board chairman and investor Brad Tirpak coming on as CEO, Libsyn has a chance to really upgrade their image if they can match the momentum of their competitors and integrate a non-trivial amount of companies into one of the oldest podcast platforms still active.

Audacy, started the year as Entercom, and after 53 years, rebranded. Kicking it of by acquiring longtail self-serve ad marketplace Podcorn for $22.5m. Podcorn gives Audacy micro-influencer reach contrasting with their higher-profile owned and repped shows. For $40m, they also bought “an exclusive, perpetual license of WideOrbit’s digital audio streaming and podcasting technology and related assets and operations. Audacy will continue to operate WO Streaming under the name AmperWave.” Today, Audacy builds and hosts their radio broadcast to podcasts solution with Triton Digital’s Omny Studio, owned by close competitor iHeartMedia, while hosting their Cadence13 and Pineapple Street Media shows on Spotify’s Megaphone. For a company reporting around $16m in revenue per quarter from podcasting alone, expect to see them fully migrate to AmperWave and bulk up the public offering for the platform.

While Global, the UK-based media & entertainment group and parent company of DAX Digital Ad Exchange does offer podcast hosting capabilities, their main appeal for publishers has been monetization opportunities. So acquiring podcast hosting, analytics, and monetization platform Captivate, which is IAB certifiedand has strong brand appeal for indie podcasts, shows Global’s drive to be more accessible. Ad exchanges thrive on inventory, so the purchase ofRemixd, which “automatically converts text articles into audio files” provides Global a quick path to more ad supply. With Captivate off the table, hosting platform Buzzsprout, that serves over 100k podcasts, becomes even more appealing for a longtail inventory play.

Earlier in the year, iHeartMedia acquired audio ad technology company Triton Digital for 230 million dollars from E.W. Scripps, which purchased Triton Digital for 150 million dollars in 2018 and Omny Studio, part of Triton Digital, in 2019. Like Audacy, iHeart currently uses Spotify’s Megaphone to host their podcasts. Getting all their assets to their own platform is clearly on the horizon for iHeart, especially with Triton Digital offering radio broadcast-to-podcast capabilities. Coupled with iHeart’s acquisition of Voxnest/Spreaker in 2020 and the announcement of their ad marketplace in both 2020 and 2021, the only offering iHeart currently lacks to compete with their direct competitors, is an attribution product. Will they build it internally like Adswizz or will they acquire a solution?

With over 70% of podcasts on Spotify serving from their hosting platform Anchor, Spotify continues their plans of going wide on audio by buying audiobook distributor Findaway and podcast hosting platform Whooshkaa, which specializes in creating podcasts from radio broadcasts. Whooshkaa will be integrated into hosting platform Megaphone, which Spotify purchased last November for 235 million dollars. While Spotify is unlikely to retain Audacy and iHeartMedia as clients, as both purchased their own radio broadcast-to-podcast technology this year, Spotify will continue to attract publishers looking for those features as part of a complete offering. With Whooshkaa acquired, RedCircle is the last independent hosting platform with dynamic ad insertion and programmatic offerings. And SGRecast from StreamGuys is the only independent company offering a broadcast-to-podcast technology. How long either will remain independent is a very good question.

Acast started the year by acquiring US podcast technology startup RadioPublic. Keeping inline with their creator-focused image, the main appeal was “RadioPublic’s Listener Relationship Management platform, which allows podcasters to foster even deeper relationships with fans”, which played nice with the beta launch of Acast+, their subscription offering. Over the summer, Acast went public, which is it’s own kind of acquisition.

And though it falls slightly outside of 2021, when Podnews editor James Cridland announced Amazon’s late December 2020 acquisition of Wondery for around 300 million dollars, he made the prediction that ART19 would be the logical next acquisition. After all, former CEO of Wondery, Hernan Lopez was an investor in the platform and all Wondery shows were hosted on ART19. In June of this year, the deal for Amazon to acquire ART19 was officially announced. Nice crystal ball, James.

Honorable Mentions

In the podcast player space, the Breaker podcast app team joined Twitter while Maple Media acquired the app itselfDaily Mail and General Trust or DMGT acquired discovery focused podcast app Entale, and Automattic, owner of Tumblr and WordPress.com acquired the podcast app Pocket Casts. In the hosting platform space Castos acquires another hosting platform, Podiant and Sounder acquired audio discovery and analytics company Podnods. In the technology space attribution company Podsights acquired linksharing company pod.link and podcast database Podchaser acquired chart and ranking tool Podcharts and listener review tool Podrover. And in the content production space Amaze Media Labs acquired podcast production company Jam Street Media.

Industry Funding

And it was a banner year for money flowing into podcasting. Here’s what you may have missed.

Production

Creator Tools

Hosting & Monetization

Rel’s Recs

This week, Arielle Nissenblatt of Earbuds Podcast Collective recommends Hooked from Apple TV+ and Campside Media, hosted on ART19.

This podcast reinforced for me that there’s no such thing as a “typical” drug addict. Hooked follows the journey of Tony Hathaway as he robs banks in the Seattle area in order to feed a heroin addiction. Eventually, he gets clean. Journalist Josh Dean has been in touch with the extended Hathaway family for years and the podcast touches on how addiction impacts them all.

Market Insights – with ThoughtLeaders

Noam Yadin, Content and Social Media Manager at ThoughtLeaders joins me this week to share insight into current trends:

Looks like 2021 is a big year for Christmas! Not only was the festive holiday talked about much earlier this year, but it was also mentioned much more. There were also much more brands mentioned alongside content related to Christmas (starting all the way back in April!)

About the author

Tom Webster is a Partner at Sounds Profitable, dedicated to setting the course for the future of the audio business. He is a 25-year veteran audio researcher and trusted advisor to the biggest companies in podcasting, and has dedicated his career to the advancement of podcasting for networks and individuals alike. He has been the co-author and driver behind some of audio’s most influential studies, from the Infinite Dial® series to Share of Ear® and the Podcast Consumer Tracker. Webster has led hundreds of audience research projects on six continents, for some of the most listened-to podcasts and syndicated radio shows in the world. He’s done a card trick for Paula Abdul, shared a martini with Tom Jones, and sold vinyl to Christopher Walken.