Issue 207,  published April 30, 2019

Acast Acquires Pippa

Acast, the Swedish podcast hosting and content company that recently raised $35 million in series C funding, has acquired Pippa, a smaller podcast hosting and analytics startup, for an undisclosed sum.

Pippa, which vaguely resembles Anchor as a DIY hosting solution, has four employees who will now join the Acast team as the two platforms’ technology merges over the next few months. This deal has a few obvious benefits for Acast, but none more than the fact that Pippa is popular in several markets in which Acast wants to expand. (Primarily France, where they just opened a new office.)

Pippa also gives Acast reach into consumer paid-for hosting they currently lack, and thereby opens up more new shows for potential monetisation. “[Acast] is a private marketplace, we have strict minimums that shows have to reach before they can join our platform,” Acast CEO Ross Adams told me when we spoke last week. “The part that was missing was a consumer-facing product. Part of the strategic mission of last autumn’s funding raise was to open up the platform and start looking at the long tail and monetisation options for it. So we set out to buy or build, and we decided to purchase Pippa.”

However, it doesn’t seem like Acast is planning to immediately inject ads into every Pippa-hosted show. “Ad safety remains, of course, the highest priority here — we want to make sure that ads are going around the right content,” said Adams, before maintaining that they’re working on technical solutions to assist with that. “Pippa have a fantastic tool that transcribes audio to text and through that keyword search we know exactly what a podcast about, and what content is safe for advertising.” This integration is under construction, Adams noted, before emphasizing that there will always be a “vetting process” around what podcasts will qualify for monetisation, presumably to avoid adverts appearing in any podcasts that the brands would rather not be associated with.

The idea is that, eventually, Pippa-hosted podcasts will be able to turn on Acast’s suite of commercial tools if and when they reach a level of listenership that’s attractive to sponsors. Those tools would give them access both to dynamic insertion tech and, if desired, Acast’s team of salespeople in their various locations. It certainly makes sense for the company’s expansion — in the mostly non-US markets they currently work in, there was always going to be ceiling for the closed marketplace approach — and a consumer-facing product of this sort is a logical next step.

With this acquisition, Acast has likely doubled podcast inventory that they can monetize. But the thing I’ll be wondering is just how much of that inventory will actually be sellable, and therefore how lucrative all of this will actually turn out to be for the company. After all, if there’s anything that’s only become more apparent over the past few years, it’s that cobbling a lot of DIY shows with small audiences together isn’t necessarily an reliable route to meaningful revenue.