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The Creator Economy: Boom Not Bust

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The creator economy is a hot topic. Depending on who you talk to, it is either thriving or diving. While 2023 saw overall funding for startups in the space fall, Goldman Sachs forecasts the creator economy will reach $480 billion in value by 2027. And according to the Creator Economy Report by IAB and TalkShoppe, 44% of marketers plan to increase their creator investment, with an average spend increase of 25% in 2024.

So which way is up? At Acast, we effectively created the creator economy in podcasting globally back in 2014 when we launched dynamic ad insertion into the industry. Since then, we have paid more than $300 million directly into the pockets of creators worldwide and show no signs of slowing down. We believe that a world connected by great storytelling is a powerful one, and great human stories are the most effective and authentic way for advertisers to be a part of authentic conversations.

I’ve got some thoughts of my own on how, where and why the creator economy will continue to soar this year. Spoiler alert: it centers around podcasting.

The Long Game and Bigger Picture

Short-form content is everywhere. As Instagram, TikTok and YouTube (via Shorts) continue to duke it out for slivers of our attention, we’ll see a shift back towards the value of longer-form, “slow media” as embodied by podcasting. The content which can build its place in peoples’ lives as a ritual or a routine - vs an interruption - will only continue to thrive, as podcasting continues to carve out perhaps the  healthiest place in the attention economy. As a parent, when it comes to content consumption, I’d much prefer my kids to binge podcasts over any other form of media out there.

That said, I believe that this year we will truly see how important it is for creators to offer a wide variety of content to engage with new and existing audiences. At Acast, we call this strategy podcast-first, but not only.

For many creators, traditional social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok can play a vital role in creating promo that help attract new audiences and drive new listeners to their podcast feeds. So, while the in-platform returns are not as high as their podcast revenue, social media can be an important piece to building the full creator puzzle.

Keeping it Real 

Consumer attitudes have shifted quite noticeably in the past few years. Recent research from Edelman found 73% of Gen Z make purchases based on their values and beliefs. Conscious of conscience we’ll continue to seek out and engage with the creators who reflect our own worldviews - and block out those who don’t. Underpinning much of this is a need for authenticity in what we see, and consume. As the world stares down the oncoming wave of AI-related content creation, it’ll be those that employ it thoughtfully, to complement or enhance existing human creative endeavors - rather than replace them - who will win. The Hollywood Strikes and fear around deepfake misinformation has shown us all that.

At Acast, we will continue to bang the drum for authenticity - in both how our creators create, and how we match advertisers to that content through native, engaging formats like host-read sponsorships, or branded content. We’re focused on creating opportunities for (human) creators of all sizes and continuing to pay creators - big and small - fairly for their voices.

Creator Control

Just as consumers continue to demand more from their interactions with creators, those creators want (and need) to retain control over the content that fuels that relationship: how they make it, where they publish it, and how they monetize it. Podcasting offers creators that control at every step. At Acast, our tech allows podcasters to monetize their shows which best suit them (advertising, branded content, subscriptions, or a mix) while retaining full creative freedom. And with advertising, they’re free to pick the brands which match their own values. 

Furthermore, our advancements in contextual targeting and predictive demographics allow creators to have their content matched with more relevant advertising messages than ever before. This also enhances brand safety, protecting both creators and advertisers and ensuring their messages seamlessly align.

Time and time again this creator control has led to strong results for advertisers because they are allowing them to do the thing they are best at: creating compelling content their audiences love. According to the IAB creator ads have 1.4 times greater impact on brand building loyalty and 1.3 times greater impact on inspiring brand advocacy.

Cookie Bites

The death of the cookie means increased privacy for consumers and with that more relevant advertising. Yes, I do know the cookie crumble doesn’t not directly impact the podcast industry because cookies were never available through the medium. But it’s important to note because for the past decade our industry has had to think deeply about how advertisers target within the space when cookies are not available to them. The rest of digital media is now turning to targeting ways we at Acast invented and have mastered. This means podcasting is light years ahead of the rest of the digital media world.

At Acast, we’ve been developing our contextual targeting capabilities,not as a means to circumvent the loss of the cookie, but driven by a desire to make podcast advertising as relevant and effective as possible. Acast and Podchaser have both introduced new contextual and keyword targeting capabilities in recent years, enabling advertisers to target ads to podcasts based on keywords in show descriptions, episodes, transcripts, and spoken content. This allows for increased relevancy and granularity when dynamically inserting podcast ads and transacting programmatically. 

Most recently, Acast announced a global partnership with Proximic by Comscore to enable cookie-free targeting across our more than 100,000 podcasts. Now, podcasters can be more sure than ever that their listeners receive the most relevant advertising out there based on privacy-safe consumer behavior signals like TV viewership, gaming habits, and retail purchases. 

From Side-Hustle to…Hustle

The creator economy will continue maturing into a stable, viable career choice. In fact, according to research by Morning Consult, 57% of Gen Zers say they see becoming an influencer as an emerging career path – compared to 41% of adults who said the same. 

And at Acast, while we agree with them on the stability of the influencer economy, we also know that podcasting is the key channel to their success. According to our research, one million listens on a podcast garners the highest financial returns of any tested platform including YouTube and Spotify. More specifically, in a recent analysis of creator-driven platforms, we found that podcasting delivers 49% more to creators than streaming music per one million listens and 6X more than YouTube per one million views.

What makes podcasting so lucrative for creators is the low barrier to entry and accessibility to a wide variety of creators. For comparison, in a recent Acast poll where US consumers were asked about their preference, nearly 50% said they believed they would be best at creating podcasts – whereas just 9% said they felt they would excel at making music on platforms like Spotify.

That creators are increasingly full-time business folks is not new news. More and more are professionalising, and turning their craft into a part or full time job. With that, creators need tools to remove the admin burden of running these businesses and focus on the content itself. 

At Acast, we’re working with our podcasters and advertisers every week to develop those tools - from our AdCollab platform, which allows podcasters and advertisers to create host-read sponsorships in real time, to a host of features and integrations that allow creators to automate the promotion of their podcast.

Towards a Borderless Creator Economy 

Where are we talking about when we talk about the creator economy? It’s tempting to focus solely on the US, but it is thriving almost everywhere. At Acast, we've made big inroads in the Netherlands, Singapore, Hong Kong, Italy and Japan recently, driven by creator need and listener appetite for podcasting. As I write this, we currently have podcasts in 210 different languages worldwide. And next, we’re looking into how AI translation could help creators easily globalise their content and reach wider audiences - but whilst safeguarding that authenticity which makes podcasting, podcasting.

The creator economy is a hot topic. Depending on who you talk to, it is either thriving or diving. While 2023 saw overall funding for startups in the space fall, Goldman Sachs forecasts the creator economy will reach $480 billion in value by 2027. And according to the Creator Economy Report by IAB and TalkShoppe, 44% of marketers plan to increase their creator investment, with an average spend increase of 25% in 2024.

So which way is up? At Acast, we effectively created the creator economy in podcasting globally back in 2014 when we launched dynamic ad insertion into the industry. Since then, we have paid more than $300 million directly into the pockets of creators worldwide and show no signs of slowing down. We believe that a world connected by great storytelling is a powerful one, and great human stories are the most effective and authentic way for advertisers to be a part of authentic conversations.

I’ve got some thoughts of my own on how, where and why the creator economy will continue to soar this year. Spoiler alert: it centers around podcasting.

The Long Game and Bigger Picture

Short-form content is everywhere. As Instagram, TikTok and YouTube (via Shorts) continue to duke it out for slivers of our attention, we’ll see a shift back towards the value of longer-form, “slow media” as embodied by podcasting. The content which can build its place in peoples’ lives as a ritual or a routine - vs an interruption - will only continue to thrive, as podcasting continues to carve out perhaps the  healthiest place in the attention economy. As a parent, when it comes to content consumption, I’d much prefer my kids to binge podcasts over any other form of media out there.

That said, I believe that this year we will truly see how important it is for creators to offer a wide variety of content to engage with new and existing audiences. At Acast, we call this strategy podcast-first, but not only.

For many creators, traditional social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok can play a vital role in creating promo that help attract new audiences and drive new listeners to their podcast feeds. So, while the in-platform returns are not as high as their podcast revenue, social media can be an important piece to building the full creator puzzle.

Keeping it Real 

Consumer attitudes have shifted quite noticeably in the past few years. Recent research from Edelman found 73% of Gen Z make purchases based on their values and beliefs. Conscious of conscience we’ll continue to seek out and engage with the creators who reflect our own worldviews - and block out those who don’t. Underpinning much of this is a need for authenticity in what we see, and consume. As the world stares down the oncoming wave of AI-related content creation, it’ll be those that employ it thoughtfully, to complement or enhance existing human creative endeavors - rather than replace them - who will win. The Hollywood Strikes and fear around deepfake misinformation has shown us all that.

At Acast, we will continue to bang the drum for authenticity - in both how our creators create, and how we match advertisers to that content through native, engaging formats like host-read sponsorships, or branded content. We’re focused on creating opportunities for (human) creators of all sizes and continuing to pay creators - big and small - fairly for their voices.

Creator Control

Just as consumers continue to demand more from their interactions with creators, those creators want (and need) to retain control over the content that fuels that relationship: how they make it, where they publish it, and how they monetize it. Podcasting offers creators that control at every step. At Acast, our tech allows podcasters to monetize their shows which best suit them (advertising, branded content, subscriptions, or a mix) while retaining full creative freedom. And with advertising, they’re free to pick the brands which match their own values. 

Furthermore, our advancements in contextual targeting and predictive demographics allow creators to have their content matched with more relevant advertising messages than ever before. This also enhances brand safety, protecting both creators and advertisers and ensuring their messages seamlessly align.

Time and time again this creator control has led to strong results for advertisers because they are allowing them to do the thing they are best at: creating compelling content their audiences love. According to the IAB creator ads have 1.4 times greater impact on brand building loyalty and 1.3 times greater impact on inspiring brand advocacy.

Cookie Bites

The death of the cookie means increased privacy for consumers and with that more relevant advertising. Yes, I do know the cookie crumble doesn’t not directly impact the podcast industry because cookies were never available through the medium. But it’s important to note because for the past decade our industry has had to think deeply about how advertisers target within the space when cookies are not available to them. The rest of digital media is now turning to targeting ways we at Acast invented and have mastered. This means podcasting is light years ahead of the rest of the digital media world.

At Acast, we’ve been developing our contextual targeting capabilities,not as a means to circumvent the loss of the cookie, but driven by a desire to make podcast advertising as relevant and effective as possible. Acast and Podchaser have both introduced new contextual and keyword targeting capabilities in recent years, enabling advertisers to target ads to podcasts based on keywords in show descriptions, episodes, transcripts, and spoken content. This allows for increased relevancy and granularity when dynamically inserting podcast ads and transacting programmatically. 

Most recently, Acast announced a global partnership with Proximic by Comscore to enable cookie-free targeting across our more than 100,000 podcasts. Now, podcasters can be more sure than ever that their listeners receive the most relevant advertising out there based on privacy-safe consumer behavior signals like TV viewership, gaming habits, and retail purchases. 

From Side-Hustle to…Hustle

The creator economy will continue maturing into a stable, viable career choice. In fact, according to research by Morning Consult, 57% of Gen Zers say they see becoming an influencer as an emerging career path – compared to 41% of adults who said the same. 

And at Acast, while we agree with them on the stability of the influencer economy, we also know that podcasting is the key channel to their success. According to our research, one million listens on a podcast garners the highest financial returns of any tested platform including YouTube and Spotify. More specifically, in a recent analysis of creator-driven platforms, we found that podcasting delivers 49% more to creators than streaming music per one million listens and 6X more than YouTube per one million views.

What makes podcasting so lucrative for creators is the low barrier to entry and accessibility to a wide variety of creators. For comparison, in a recent Acast poll where US consumers were asked about their preference, nearly 50% said they believed they would be best at creating podcasts – whereas just 9% said they felt they would excel at making music on platforms like Spotify.

That creators are increasingly full-time business folks is not new news. More and more are professionalising, and turning their craft into a part or full time job. With that, creators need tools to remove the admin burden of running these businesses and focus on the content itself. 

At Acast, we’re working with our podcasters and advertisers every week to develop those tools - from our AdCollab platform, which allows podcasters and advertisers to create host-read sponsorships in real time, to a host of features and integrations that allow creators to automate the promotion of their podcast.

Towards a Borderless Creator Economy 

Where are we talking about when we talk about the creator economy? It’s tempting to focus solely on the US, but it is thriving almost everywhere. At Acast, we've made big inroads in the Netherlands, Singapore, Hong Kong, Italy and Japan recently, driven by creator need and listener appetite for podcasting. As I write this, we currently have podcasts in 210 different languages worldwide. And next, we’re looking into how AI translation could help creators easily globalise their content and reach wider audiences - but whilst safeguarding that authenticity which makes podcasting, podcasting.

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