Q&A: Acast Country Manager Nordics Fredrik Hermansson

“Programmatic podcast ad buying is expected to grow quickly, and Acast is well placed to take advantage of this.”

“Programmatic podcast ad buying is expected to grow quickly, and Acast is well placed to take advantage of this.”

Podcasting is one of the most vibrant, fast growing and exciting areas of digital media right now.

And one of the most innovative businesses in the sector is Swedish company Acast, the world’s largest podcast marketplace. We spoke to Acast’s Country Manager Nordics Fredrik Hermansson, for his thoughts on the present and future state of audio, and especially what’s happening with programmatic podcast ad buying right now:

For those who don’t already know, can you give us a summary of Acast, and what you do in the audio space?

Acast offers creators the infrastructure needed to manage and distribute audio content agnostically. This means that listeners can access their favourite shows anywhere, whilst creators can monetise their content through ad revenue or paid subscriptions. Acast also offers a one-stop-shop for advertisers, creators and listeners - everything under one roof.

Clearly, podcasting has been on a high for a while now - what kind of numbers are we talking about in terms of listenership?

In Sweden right now, there are around three million people listening to podcasts at least once a month – almost a third of the population. And in February 2019 alone, we saw more than 22 million podcast episodes listened to across the Nordics on our platform. 70% of that group is between 20-44 years old and living in big cities. There is also an even split between women and men listening. Podcast listening is growing every day, and is already classified as a reach medium.

How does personalisation and customised creative work in audio right now?

We work extremely closely with our creators to produce as personal an experience as possible in the podcasts, all to create the best experience for both listeners and advertisers.

At Acast, we have also recently implemented a new advertising technology called A Million Ads, where we have the opportunity to adapt ad messaging based on geography, target group, what you listen to etc. This enables advertisers to tailor and customize their message depending on what, when and where you listen. With the help of this new technology, one can simply create customized ad experiences for your target group and reach them in a relevant way.

What is the current state of advertising in the podcast world?

At Acast, our focus is on creating the best advertising environment for our listeners, advertisers and creators alike. Therefore, it is important for us to educate our advertisers and creators about the benefits of dynamic advertising. Today, we see that several advertisers are still spending money on pre-recorded, non-dynamic ad messages within podcasts, and we see no upside to this approach at all. It limits measurement capability and also reduces the flexibility of the messages you want to include, as old episodes will of course end up containing outdated, possibly irrelevant ads. So, the first step as we see it is that dynamic advertising should become the standard for the entire industry.

What part does programmatic play in the podcasting world?

At this stage, programmatic still plays a very small part in the overall podcast advertising mix, due to the historical nature of the medium being more geared towards ‘host reads.’ Plus the fact that it’s more difficult to use traditional programmatic techniques (i.e. leveraging data) on podcast inventory. Buyers are not yet used to buying audio ads within podcasting programmatically, and there is much education still needed on the buy side to turn this around.

On the plus side, we believe we are leading the industry here by making our Acast Marketplace inventory accessible programmatically through several DSP buying platforms, via one-to-one private marketplaces. While admittedly starting from a low base, programmatic podcast ad buying is expected to grow quickly, and Acast is well placed to take advantage of this.

And what about the most exciting new innovations?

What is especially interesting for us is looking to the future is around new, ever easier and more immersive ways of listening – uninterrupted between different platforms. Let’s imagine, for example, with the touch of a button – or even just a simple voice command – being able to listen to a podcast seamlessly, as you transition between environments: from home speaker, to headphones connected to your phone, to car, to the laptop for example. Our own recently launched voice app for Google Assistant is another step towards that future.

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Daniel Ahlbert