Global’s Tech Acquisitions

Global announced yesterday the acquisition of Captivate a UK-based podcast hosting company. It’s their second recent purchase, after they snapped up Remixd in October.

As I talked about last month, tech acquisitions in the audio space somewhat outstrip those in the content field. The reason? Tech buy-outs help fill gaps for large companies who want to ‘own the whole stack’ of their tech infrastructure or do something that allows them to grow market share.

Captivate definitely fills a hole, as Global have lacked their own platform for managing the hosting of their podcasts. Up to now they mainly seem to have been using Spreaker, which was acquired by Voxnest, which was snaffled by iHeartMedia last year.

Global have been focused on growing out their digital audio advertising business – DAX, which like most ad-insertion companies can inter-op with different hosting companies. However, it always seemed strange that when a podcast was managed by the company, they were bounced into using Spreaker.

Bringing that technology in-house allows them to fully integrate DAX and tighten the relationship between ads and content. It also removes a point of failure out of the chain. It’s much easier to fix some internal technology than have to jump through hoops with a third party, particularly one whose parent company you’re probably a competitor of.

Captivate have done a pretty good job on their own up-to-now, with 14,000 shows hosted on the platform. Some recent data shows that they have a share of 2.4% of new podcast episodes published.

The challenge for stand-alone hosting companies is that as shows get bigger they’re likely to migrate to the platforms that sell their ads. Podnews tracks these movements where you can see that the move to free hosting provided by Spotify’s Anchor is strong, alongside the moves to Megaphone and Acast, which have monetisation built in.

For hosting companies that charge, like Captivate, the challenge remains to onboard new customers faster than you lose them, and to balance the bandwidth charges and product investment to keep making a profit.

With a move to Global, they need worry less about the cashflow, but also will now be in a position to offer advertising opportunities for their customers with DAX, providing some further stickiness for their product. It’s also good news for Global as they can expand their pool of inventory. It’s not dissimilar from Spotify using its Megaphone acquisition to rep third-party inventory alongside its originals.

Global also get to bend the Captivate product to meet the needs of both their in-house and repped customers.

DAX has been spending some time over the past couple of years owning the end to end technology around digital audio. It’s streaming ad platform was originally built on top of Adswizz’s server, that’s now been replaced by their own in-house tech and Captivate gives them another chunk of the tech stack.

Remixd, similar to the New York Times Audm acquisition, brings Global and DAX to another audio product – converting text articles to the spoken word. Click play on this Remixd delivered article on the TechRadar website to see how it sounds. It works by publishers pinging their article feeds to these services and back comes an MP3 to be added to a site’s play button (or podcast feed etc). Remixd is standard text to speech, whilst Audm has the articles read by a narrator.

Good text-to-speech is actually pretty easy to do nowadays, especially if you use a service like Amazon’s Polly. Polly charges around 3 cents per article for standard voice, and 10 cents for its more natural version.

Why Global’s interested in Remixd is that combining it alongside DAX allows publishers to monetise these feeds with DAX’s audio ads, so new money for them and a new potential inventory pool for Global.

I think the jury’s still out on whether consumers want to press play on articles, but as a publisher having your content in a different format can certainly increase the opportunities of what you can do with it.

Global’s two acquisitions again show the direction of travel for companies in the audio sector to consolidate technology and develop scale – putting them in a better place to compete.

AOB

There’s a new episode of the Media Podcast out. This time we’re talking about the likely future cuts coming to the BBC, what happened at the British Journalism Awards and the Guardian hitting 1m subs without a paywall. Excellent guests include The Times’ media correspondent Jake Kanter, journalist and comedian Suchandrika Chakribarti and The Week founder Jon Connell. Listen here.

Mine and David Madelin’s little side project Podfollow has hit 20million click thrus this month. Podfollow provides a free link for podcasters to put on social that opens up Apple Podcasts for iOS users, Google Podcasts/Spotify for Android and websites/landing pages for Desktop users. There’s stats built in, and it’s great to see so many people using it including NewsCorp, Bauer, Sky, The Athletic and more. Check it out at podfollow.com.

Why have Global grabbed Captivate and Remixd? (4min read)

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