Acast launches Amplifier incubator to discover UK podcast talent

Podcasts are big business. Platforms are spending huge amounts of money on acquiring exclusive rights to podcast stars, while at the same time the sophistication of podcasting adtech is driving ever more marketing money to the medium.

Taking advantage of that rapid rise in revenue potential, however, requires significant investment – from creator and platform. While the barrier to entry for new podcasters is relatively low, creating professional-sounding podcasts still requires an initial outlay and training in editing and set-up. Without those, many new podcasts succumb to ‘podfade’ and end after an average of only seven episodes.

To counter that and to foster new talent, Acast is launching Acast Amplifier. The podcast incubator seeks to discover new talent who have not podcasted before, and will see three aspiring UK-based creators produce and launch new podcasts, as well as receiving benefits including a £2,500 grant. It is Acast’s first-ever incubator program in the UK, and is indicative of the priority it places upon discovering and nurturing the talent that is driving advertising revenue into the space.

Sam Shetabi, UK content director, Acast, said: “This really is the opportunity of a lifetime for three people with a story to tell. They’ll get unparalleled support and advice from industry big-hitters, including mentorship from some top podcasters who’ve been there and done it.

“We want to provide tomorrow’s podcast creators with everything they could possibly need to get their ideas out into the world, and I can’t wait to hear their applications. We’re about to uncover the next great British podcast.”

Acast Amplifier follows the launch of Aclass Essentials, a free online resource designed to equip anyone who wants to start their own podcast with knowledge of production and publishing.

The successful applicants will receive mentorship and advice from Acast, in addition to equipment from its production partners. In addition, the panel of judges for the incubator applicants includes a list of podcasting experts from the UK, including Adam Buxton, Chanté Joseph, Pete Donaldson, Dane Baptiste, Niellah Arboine, Tash Walker and Shivani Dave, Leanne Levers and Roshan Roberts, and Scroobius Pip.

Imriel Morgan, chief executive officer of Content is Queen, said: “I believe podcast incubators are the future of talent development in the podcasting industry. We need to create risk-free environments for creators from all backgrounds to innovate and pivot. It’s been core to my work for the last seven years so I’m very excited to join the Acast Amplifier judging panel and hear all of the niche and wonderful ideas that come from the applicants.”

Adam Buxton, host of The Adam Buxton Podcast, said: “Podcasting is a great way to make genuine connections with an audience, whether you’re recording a chat on your phone or creating intricate soundscapes, dealing with serious subjects or providing relief from everyday stress by being silly, and I’m very happy to encourage new voices and new ideas to emerge with the help of Acast’s Amplifier program. I’m excited to hear who’s out there.”

Fueling podcast growth

Podcast ad spend in the UK hit £33.56m last year. That’s small fry compared to other mediums, but with the sophistication of the adtech increasing and competition for talent among platforms heating up, it is set to grow significantly.

Acast saw a 51% increase in listeners across its network in 2020, in addition to a 250% increase in revenue from branded content in 2020. Its UK head of sales Josh Woodhouse believes that is due in large part to an influx of new genres into the podcasting space – which in turn is attracting radio producers to launch commercial podcasts.

“So although podcasts do offer a comprehensive coverage across all age brackets, we’ve definitely seen increases in listenership among younger audiences, and perhaps ... those spending less time with commercial radios,” he says.

“And one of the main reasons behind this, and definitely one of the reasons why I think we’ve seen a lot of radio channels move into the podcast space, is the scale of diversity and content being offered across the board.”

Efforts like the new incubator will in theory increase the diversity of voices and the proportion of the podcast market to which Acast has access. Given that the podcast industry is reaping the benefits of increased audiences and the revenue that comes with it, discovering and fostering the talent that underpins that growth is a smart move.