Swedish podcast advertising and distribution platform Acast raised $35 million in a Series C funding round from a group of European investors. The latest round, announced Wednesday, brings the company’s total funding to $67 million.
Acast, which operates in eight countries, will use the funds to expand into new and non-English speaking markets and develop technology to help publishers monetize their content on smart speakers.
Fifty-eight percent of Americans own at least one smart speaker, according to a July report from Edison Research and NPR. Forty-five percent of smart speaker owners use the device primarily to listen to news, creating a ripe opportunity for news publishers.
In addition to distributing podcasts on smart speakers, many publishers are developing three- to five-minute news “flash briefings” comprised of the day’s top headlines. Acast wants to help its clients, including The Guardian, Financial Times and BBC, create and distribute ads that make sense within those experiences, said CEO Ross Adams.
“Shorter, snappier ads are needed, whether that’s a three-second pre-roll or a seven-second post-roll,” Adams said.
While smart speaker devices don’t offer native advertising inventory, many publishers bake sponsorships into their audio content, which Acast distributes to all devices and platforms on behalf of its publisher partners.
“If you listen to any shows we host on any platform, we’re the ones delivering, measuring and selling the ads,” Adams said. "
Acast will also extend its distribution of paywalled podcast content. The platform, which has 3,300 podcasts, has started working with some publishers on exclusive content to explore “new ways for content creators to make more money,” Adams said.
Acast was the first company to dynamically insert ads into podcasts, or stitch in messages based on listener data, which is now a capability used by major brands such as BMW and 21st Century Fox. Acast also operates a programmatic private marketplace with premium podcast publishers.
Last week, Acast announced a partnership with A Million Ads to enable dynamic creative in podcasts; the platform now creates 7,000 ad combinations every minute, Adams said.
“What brands want these days is scale and reach,” Adams said. “Scale has been an issue in the space, but we’ve overcome that problem now.”
Measurement, however, is still a challenge. With most listening concentrated on Apple’s podcast app, it’s impossible for advertisers to know who heard their spot past the point of download. Acast, which has its own player app and measures listening across the ecosystem, pulls in first-party and contextual data to help brands and publishers get a better sense of who is listening.
“The issue with podcasts is beyond the download, it’s very hard to tell on third-party apps what the consumer is doing,” Adams said. “The industry has accepted that’s how podcasting works.”