Moonbeam, the year-old technology company created by tech entrepreneur Paul English, has been acquired by Audacy. Terms of the deal have not yet been made public, but English says the two companies are already at work side by side. “Audacy is now working with the Moonbeam team on the next generation tools from Audacy,” he said in an announcement about the sale.
English launched Moonbeam in June 2021, saying he wanted to combine technology and human creation to improve content discovery by leveraging a combination of machine-learning technology and a team of human curators. Moonbeam debuted an app that serves curated moments from podcasts and plays them to users via the main feed known as "Beam.” If users don’t like the content, they can simply swipe up. If users do like it, they can listen to the episode all the way through, save it, share it with their friends, and subscribe. These actions feed Moonbeam’s algorithm, the company says, allowing it to serve highly curated and personalized content.
“The most significant technology we built in 2022 was an enhanced machine-learning system that was based on high quality transcriptions of tens of millions of podcast episodes,” said English. “We developed technology which could better predict your preference based on your listening history. For example, if we noticed you listened to a few different podcasts which mentioned dinosaurs, we might then recommend other similar shows.”
Last September, Moonbeam said users were spending an average of 23 minutes on the app per session.
English said the deeper he got into podcasting, the more he also became interested in the relationship between podcast hosts and their listeners, after friends who are podcasters complained they didn’t know enough about their listeners.
“We added an innovative ‘Tip’ feature that let you tip your favorite host in nearly one click,” explained English. “And we began work on letting listeners join an email list for their favorite show, and on designing threaded discussions.”
The addition of Moonbeam’s technology comes two weeks after Audacy rolled out the first in a series of updates to its digital platform with enhancements to its app and website. The inaugural update involves the merging of radio and podcast content together in the app, allowing listeners to consume the latest content from the shows they love along with the topics they’re interested in.
The deal is the latest for Audacy which struck a $22.5 million deal last year to buy Podcorn, which operates a marketplace that connects advertisers with podcasters to create native advertising and branded content. Audacy earlier struck two deals spending $48 million to buy podcast creators Cadence13 and Pineapple Street Studios in 2019.
It is unclear whether Moonbeam will continue as a standalone app. Interestingly, English says the name was inspired by his friend and mentor, Harvard Business School Professor Youngme Moon, who is also the host of the Harvard After Hours podcast.