Acast buys New York Times-backed podcast company RadioPublic

Saqib Shah
·Contributing Writer
·2-min read

The growth in podcast audiences has driven a frenzy of deal-making led by music streaming purveyors Spotify, Apple and Amazon. Now, industry giant Acast is looking to boost its reach through a major acquisition of its own. The company has purchased the New York Times-backed podcast technology start-up RadioPublic for an undisclosed price. 

As part of the deal, Acast will get get its hands on RadioPublic's listener discovery platform, designed to help podcasters identify and connect with new fans, and its experienced management team which has been instrumental in the rise of the medium. Co-founders Chris Quamme Rhoden (CTO) and Matt MacDonald (Chief Product Officer), who helped build the first generation of apps for This American Life and WNYC, are both making the transition to the Acast fold. Their fellow co-founder Jake Shapiro left to join Apple Podcasts as Head of Creator Partnerships in September.

RadioPublic started life in 2016 as a public benefit corporation from non-profit Public Radio Exchange. The move allowed the new venture to make money while balancing its public service mission. An eponymous app followed in 2017 along with the aforementioned audience-building tools. On top of the Times, the company's investors include some notable media and audio tech players in Graham Holdings, the Knight Foundation Enterprise Fund, NPR affiliate WGBH, and Bose's venture capital arm.

Acast now plans to scale up RadioPublic in a bid to grow its audience and revenue. The Sweden-based company already hosts 20,000 podcast feeds and recently partnered with creator membership platform Patreon to offer patron-only podcasts across major platforms. Acast said the acquisition would not affect RadioPublic's app or services.

The deal is the latest in a long line of acquisitions steered by music streamers looking to give users long-form episodic content as a means of keeping them glued to their services. Spotify has been leading the charge by snapping up popular media company, The Ringer, and locking in The Joe Rogan Experience as an exclusive. Earlier this month, it reported that its investment was paying off, with a quarter of its 345 million users now listening to podcasts. 

Meanwhile, Amazon (a late-entrant to the sector) played catch-up by acquiring podcast maker Wondery in December. And industry stalwart Apple is reportedly working on a podcast subscription plan as part of its focus on services.