Date Posted: Friday 12th June 2020
DIARY directory recently caught up with Georgina Holt, the UK Managing Director of global podcast company Acast. Georgina joined the company in April, after spending the past 10 years working for print publishing houses including Hearst UK, and most recently The Stylist Group where she held the position of publishing director, followed by Executive Director of Stylist Studios.
Acast is the only company of its kind and provides podcast hosting, analytics, and ads - helping thousands of podcasters grow their audience.
Podcasting has grown significantly in the last few years, with DIARY directory adding a podcast subcategory to our media types in 2018. When Acast launched six years ago, its aim was to bring technology to, at the time, the old-fashioned world of podcast advertising. Acast delivers robust podcast distribution, analytics and ad services to the world's leading publishers, like the BBC and the Economist, while giving podcast networks and studios the tools to manage multiple podcasts, like team management and custom show access.
You moved from the world of print advertising to the digital sphere - talk us through this decision.
Alongside a personal obsession with podcasting, I’d been told on many occasions that Acast’s culture was one of the best you could hope to find anywhere, so it had become a company I’d aspired to join for quite some time. Culture is at the heart of the business, and that steers the way the business is run at all levels.
I love the diversity of voices within the podcasting landscape; it’s a very inclusive and representative platform. We are committed to continually supporting and amplifying the voices who have not been supported in the mainstream media, which is very important to me. Our mission is to seek out and support the storytellers, giving their stories the audience they deserve. Our promise is that through Acast more stories find more listeners, nurturing a fair, profitable and thriving podcast ecosystem.
Finally, Acast’s content catalogue is one of the world’s biggest and most impressive with over 10,000 podcasts with more than 225 million listens each month on every platform from Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts to Spotify. My role involves me cementing its position as the leading global podcast company and building on its 100% year-on-year revenue growth.
What are the biggest differences, if any, that you've noticed in moving from the world of print to online?
The business models are actually quite similar in the way you have content, commercial, marketing and PR but it’s the diversity of content and audiences that truly sets it apart from publishing. This was one of the most important aspects for me when moving from publishing to podcasting.
We also see ourselves as the UK’s biggest audio influencer and talent agency, which allows brands to connect with some of the most powerful and influential voices in the country right now, in a similar way to publishers.
The relationship that an audience has with their favourite podcaster is also very similar to the one it has with their favourite publisher, which can be intensely personal and genuine, with a huge amount of trust and loyalty built over time. Podcasters have become a source of inspiration, information and escapism for the millions who listen to them in the UK in much the same way publishers have too.
What's so nice too is that Acast is the global home for publishers in podcasting, working with some of the biggest and most important names, from the world’s most trusted news organisations to the most influential and iconic lifestyle brands, so publishers are still very much part of my world.
What podcasts does Acast host across the fashion, beauty & lifestyle sectors?
Lifestyle is one of our most listened to categories at Acast. Alongside having shows that specifically speak to an interest in beauty and fashion, like Fat Mascara and The Emma Guns Show, we also have talent and publishers that naturally draw in a lifestyle audience, such as Patricia Bright, Liv Little, Vogue and Vice.
What analytics does Acast provide if fashion, beauty or lifestyle brands decide to advertise through Acast across targeted podcasts?
All of our market-leading insight and data, including our ad tech tools, is powered by Acast Intelligence a unique service within the podcasting industry. Acast Intelligence gives advertisers a suite of services from ad campaign performance to audience and industry insights and trends.
The easiest way to think about podcast advertising is to compare it to TV. Let’s take Vauxhall who is now the sponsor of drama on Channel 4. Channel 4 holds the exclusive rights to broadcast a show like The Handmaid's Tale in the UK, however, that show will also be available to view across other platforms such as Sky, Virgin, Freeview, etc and so will the sponsor's messaging.
Podcasts work in much the same way. Let’s say Clinique approaches Acast to buy a millennial audience, we would discuss sponsoring a show such as Table Manners with Jessie Ware. Even though the show is being hosted by Acast, the sponsorship would be available to hear across your favourite podcast platform such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, our own Acast app, or wherever you get your podcasts. We would be able to give all the performance metrics against this advertising campaign that you would expect in any other established media channel. We are also the only podcast company certified against all four of the IAB’s compliance metrics, setting the bar for the industry.
From a talent perspective, how do you work with podcasters and what do they gain when being a part of your network? Talk us through how you host podcasts
Acast host, distribute, promote, market and monetise independent creators and publishers podcast. Our content is at the heart of everything we do and we have a portfolio of unique services that put our podcasters first. Whether that’s joining Acast Open, our platform for emerging podcasts of any size; to the use of our world-class tools on the Acast Creator Network to supersize both listenership and revenue; or AClass, our educational arm, which includes masterclasses and practical advice for underrepresented voices in podcasting. Our unparalleled services put our talent front and centre. Through this, we are able to bring the most innovative influencer opportunities to creators across a multitude of platforms.
Our services are the most sophisticated available and are constantly being updated with innovative new tools and functionality. It was only last week when we launched Open with Ads meaning that emerging podcasts can immediately be connected to our advertisers so that they can start monetising their content and advertisers can support new voices.
How are you wanting to grow these sectors?
Our incredible content team are always working to sign new and established talent to the Acast network. As well as working hard to develop and grow the audiences of our existing podcasters, both from a content and PR and Marketing perspective. Our number 1 priority is that through Acast more stories find more listeners.
With everyone at home we've seen a rise on social media platforms such as TikTok, and notice more podcasts are emerging - what changes have you noticed since lockdown?
Podcasts now reach 18% of the UK population. According to MIDAS’ Spring 2020 report delivered last month, 11.3m people in the UK now listen to podcasts each and every week. We often refer to the podcast market as the fastest growing medium in the UK and to put this latest figure into context, that is no less than a 29% increase in unique listeners year on year.
We also know that not only are more people listening than ever but they are also listening for longer than ever before, with the average person consuming 7 hours of podcast content each week. A significant consumer-led commitment to any medium.
What’s interesting is that, so far, we’re seeing total listenership consistently rising since lockdown. On the Acast network in the UK the average of the last 4 weeks (27th Apr - 24th May) compared to the average of the first 4 weeks of lockdown (23rd Mar - 19th Apr) shows listens are up by 5%.
When people listen to podcasts also appears to be changing. We’re seeing more level listening throughout the day and during weekdays rather than spikes during commuting hours. And we’re seeing a big shift and increase in listens on weekends specifically, with the past weekends being the biggest we’ve ever registered.
What's next for Acast & the podcasting sector?
On the content side, podcasting has truly gone mainstream in the UK. New formats have also been thriving, such as daily podcasts or fictional dramas, and with new and high-profile talent entering the medium — and with proper production values — no doubt we’ll see people being evermore creative with podcasts. You can already see this happening, and that’s why the likes of Sony and Spotify have been investing in the market.
At the same time, niche content will continue to diversify — so we’re likely to see a development similar to the music industry, where some publishers will focus on the mainstream while indie creators and studios will continue to experiment and innovate in their fields.
We will see more and more advertisers understand that podcasts are a platform for influencer marketing budgets. Our talent provides something for every listener and every brand and working with us offers a unique opportunity to integrate a brand's marketing messaging into this trusted and genuine influencer space.
If we look at sponsorships - this is the OG of podcast advertising, typically around one minute long - these sponsorships are powerful talent and influencer endorsements, created by the hosts for your brand and delivered in their own unique style. Research shows that 76% of podcast listeners take action as a result of host reads. Sponsorship can be turned around very quickly, and unlike the rest of the influencer marketing remains very much unimpeded by the current situation we find ourselves in. High-quality advertiser host reads are being produced daily by our podcasters.
Branded content in podcasting has also seen huge growth, branded content collaborations enable advertisers to co-create longer-form content with our podcasters, allowing them to tap into the shows established audiences. From branded segments, episodes, virtual and live activations, and social media amplification, these 360 approaches offer a unique opportunity for advertisers to benefit from even deeper talent endorsements with a multi-channel approach.
The final level, so to speak, on the branded content journey within the podcast space is for brands to become a creator in their own right. As we’ve seen across many other mediums, more and more brands, including those within beauty, are wanting to become content creators themselves and are now seeing podcasts as a great way to achieve this. At Acast we are able to make a completely bespoke podcast series for brands. This is highly effective when brands have an amazing story to tell and a large amount of content to get across.
We have more and more innovations in our advertising technology and the tools we’re providing our podcasters. We invented dynamically inserted ads, and that’s allowed us to deliver flexible, targeted and contextual ads across our network, as well as the insertion of native ads to monetize podcasts’ entire back catalogue. Keyword targeting is also on the horizon.
Georgina Holt in 'Media Contacts'
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