RadioPublic, the tech startup created by public radio’s PRX, is getting a new owner. The global podcast platform Acast has struck a deal to buy RadioPublic in a deal that will not only give the company new tools to connect shows with listeners, but also give it a larger footprint in the U.S.
Acast says what piqued its interest was the potential to acquire RadioPublic’s Listener Relationship Management platform, which allows podcasters to build deeper relationships with fans. That includes the ability to create podcast webpages, vanity podcast feed URLs, and tools to collect audience contact information and offer an email newsletter. Acast plans to integrate that technology into its platform, which is already used by about 20,000 podcasters worldwide.
“We’re impressed by what RadioPublic has achieved and we believe that now – as podcasting is gaining more momentum than ever before – is the ideal time to bring RadioPublic’s talented team and company missions into the Acast fold,” said Leandro Saucedo, Acast’s Chief Business and Strategy Officer.
Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed.
PRX spun-off RadioPublic as a freestanding unit in 2016 with the mission of distributing podcast content. The effort included financial backing from big-name media organizations such as Boston public broadcaster GBH, as well as the New York Times, Knight Foundation Enterprise Fund, American Public Media, Project 11, TechNexus, Automattic, Bose, and McClatchy. But a sale had seemed likely since last fall when co-founder Jake Shapiro joined Apple as Head of Creator Partnerships at Apple Podcasts.
As part of the acquisition, two other RadioPublic co-founders will join Acast including Chief Technology Officer Chris Quamme Rhoden and Chief Product Officer Matt MacDonald. They were part of PRX’s pioneering tech team, where they helped build the first generation of podcast listening apps for This American Life and WNYC New York. At RadioPublic, Rhoden and MacDonald led the development of the Listener Relationship Management platform products including Podsites, HearMarks, PodPass, and RadioPublic’s popular web embed player along with iOS, and Android apps.
MacDonald said he is excited to see what they built get scaled-up with a global platform like Acast. At the same time, he sees a “strong alignment” between the two companies’ philosophies in supporting an open podcast marketplace. Several elements of RadioPublic’s Listener Relationship Management platform will also bring Acast new insights and marketing tools, he said.
"One thing that’s really important to us is reducing the distance between creators and their audiences,” MacDonald explained. “Technology like the Listener Affinity Model that RadioPublic developed allows us to do that. It’s a powerful method to segment a podcaster’s audience so the creator can more easily engage with and communicate to their audience in a personalized, one-to-one way. Podcasters can use this to better understand their listeners, and tailor their content accordingly.”
Growing Focus On U.S. Market
The deal is the latest in a string of moves designed to expand the Stockholm-based Acast’s business in North America. Last month Acast hired Elli Dimitroulakos to lead the company’s rapidly growing programmatic advertising arm in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. In November it teamed up with Patreon to enable podcasters on the platform to distribute private, patron-only content to their listeners’ podcast app of choice. It also hired Heather Gordon as its new managing director for Canada, and it launched Acast in Mexico last February.
"There's a huge appetite for podcasts in the U.S. Not just in terms of the growing number of people listening to podcasts, but in terms of the number of podcasters who want to speak to a U.S. audience, and the number of advertisers that want to reach them,” said Saucedo. As data has shown that monthly podcast listeners in the U.S. now tops 100 million, he said Acast has seen its own download numbers grow too. Last year the company showed 66% growth in listens in the U.S. compared to 2019.
“Acast works with a growing number of U.S.-based podcasters, but also with creators all around the world who want to reach an audience of Americans,” said Saucedo. “Even for many of our shows based in other markets like the U.K. and Europe, U.S. citizens represent one of their main listener bases — which also presents a clear opportunity for advertisers whose products and services are available in the U.S.”
The expanding American focus is paying off. Acast reported revenue climbed 64% during 2020. Business at year-end was even stronger. Acast says fourth quarter revenue nearly doubled, as it saw “strong progress” in all parts of the world where it operates. And Acast reports it now averages more than 60 million monthly active users globally.