The big issue on the lips of most podcasters is ‘show me the money.’
One successful Scandinavian company, Acast, says their platform can help podcast makers monetise their work.
Speaking to radioinfo’s Steve Ahern this week, three of the company’s top executives shared their thoughts on what makes a successful podcast and why they are partnering with Nova to move into Australia.
How does anyone make money from podcasting?
“Working with networks and providers like Acast is a good way to start. Also make sure you create a compelling enough story that people want to listen to. Start with the audiences and then the money should come,” said Acast Australian Country Manager Henrik Isaksson.
iTunes is the world’s biggest podcast platform, but Apple was slow to fully exploit the potential of podcasting, leaving the way open for other players like Acast, PodcastOne, Whooshka to get into the podcasting space and develop better ways of finding content, easier methods for producers to upload, better analytics and methods of monetizing the new platform.
Acast’s platform aims to do all that for the content makers and the company’s first expansionary step, after receiving a recent funding injection, is into Australia, because its analytics show that Australians are big consumers of podcasts.
“If you strip it back, we’re a tech company in the data business, and that data showed us that consumption was happening in Australia disproportionately faster than anywhere else,” said Swedish based Chief Content Officer Adam Martin. The company’s podcasts have an average of 3.6 million listeners per month in Australia.
“There is a radio market in Australia that is stronger than ever and podcasting is ancillary to that… you don’t need to educate people about the power of audio, that has already been done, people are hungry for more additional content from people whose opinion they value and podcasting is satisfying that need,” said Martin.
Acast is not worried that the Australian market may already be saturated. “It is like what music streaming was a few years ago, at this stage it is good for everyone. The more noise we can make as an industry the more money we can all make which we can put into expanding the industry,” said Henrik.
The company’s most successful podcast to date is My Dad Wrote a Porno, with British humour that translates well to Australia. The company is also beginning to notice successful Australian podcasts gaining traction on its platform, including Nova’s drive team Kate, Tim and Marty, and one called Confessions of a Twenty Something Trainwreck, about Phoebe, who is a successful professional in her working life but a ‘train wreck’ in her personal life.
Confessions of a Twenty Something Trainwreck went from zero to 40,000 listens per month in just a few months after launch.
The Acast team have identified that “female led content” such as wellness, mindfulness and lifestyle are topics that perform well for both listeners and advertisers. “Every advertising agency and brand is considering advertising in suitably targeted podcasts,” says Adam.
“We want to find the next hit from Australia that will be a global smash hit.” The company currently has 60 million listeners per month world wide.
Australia “has a rich heritage of storytelling” according to Australian Content Director Guy Scott-Wilson. He is hoping to uncover more of those stories and storytellers. “People in the rest of the world are interested in what is happening here and I think we will unearth some really talented Australian podcasters and help them build a global profile.”
Audio is a truly intimate atmosphere. “Once we put those headphones on we are truly engaged in the storytelling,” said Adam. Passion and authenticity are most important to podcast producers so that they can connect in that intimate atmosphere.
The Acast company seeks to fill a gap between passionate content makers and the technical side of the business. “There was a disconnect between the passionate storytellers and the knowledge of how to get that story out there.” Acast provides a “single point of distribution” for podcast makers to easily solve the technology issues of uploading and distributing their content.
Discovery is still a problem for podcasters, with the Acast team trying to solve that problem by pushing out the podcast on various social media channels. Data is another problem for podcasters, Acast presents its own data to its podcasters, but there is still a problem accessing data from the iTunes platform, however this is could be partly solved soon when iTunes makes more of its data available to podcast platforms.
Data analysis can reveal podcast listening habits. Henrik gave the example of a specific Nova niche podcast series about IVF, where almost 100% of people who began, listened right through. My Dad Wrote a Porno also has about 100% listening completion, “because listeners are so engaged with the comedy,” he said.
On the other hand listeners do not often listen through to a whole news program. “Episodic content” is also a useful way of bringing listeners back regularly for the next update.
89% of podcast consumption in Australia is happening on smart phones. 76% of consumption is currently via iTunes and most of that happens on iPhones.
Giving examples of successful shows that are getting good consumption, Henrik discussed Nova’s Kate, Tim and Marty. “They make a 55 minute cut down version of the show five times a week… The majority of listening to that cutdown version happens between 5am and 7am the next day as people timeshift what they missed the previous day to a time when they are more able to listen.”
Another trend observed is that, at night, people come home and they want to listen to something they are passionate about, so they choose niche shows to podcast in the evening instead of watching tv.
On the advertising front, Acast has taken a different approach from some other podcasters who embed live reads in to their shows. Those live reads might be out of date after a while, so Acast prefers to use a dynamic inventory database to deliver pre-rolls, mid-rolls and post-rolls that are relevant to the time and place the show is played to the listener. But it is not a ‘race to the bottom’ programmatic approach, Acast is working with Nova’s radio sales teams to sell the podcasts at a sustainable rate level.
In Australia there are about 50 advertisers taking advantage of Acast’s offering, with potential for sales growth via online purchasing, from advertisers such as McDonalds to Universities. “Audio is a premium product and programmatic doesn’t mean that we have to commoditise and lower the rate,” says Henrik.
Acast does not encourage music in podcasts due to rights issues. Producers have to make sure their music is cleared, or they should not use it, according to Acast.
Watch the full interview with the three podcast experts below.