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Tuning Into This Year’s Podcast Investment

Morning Markets: Another week, another huge podcast round. Let’s recap some of the activity from the space to get our heads around it.

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The Internet enabled a host of video entertainment options that could have supplanted our interest in audio content. After all, after the rise of television, radio never had the same preeminence again. But in the era of esports and high-def streaming video, the time when everyone has a video-on-demand service, humble audio is having a moment.

Sure, your friends listen to podcasts. But even if you don’t partake in hipster radio, recent news has underscored the scale to which the podcast genre has moved from the fringes to the mainstream.

Listenership is up, and the stakes are rising, financially and otherwise. So it’s a good moment to remind ourselves what has happened recently in podcasting-land.

Recent Doings

Most recently, a company called Luminary “emerged from stealth mode” over the weekend according to the New York Times. They report Luminary has raised $100 million in capital and intends to rent access to its podcasts (helmed by big names like Hannibal Buress, Russell Brand, and others, according to its website) for $8 per month.

That’s a staggering amount of money for a company, which, according to Crunchbase data, was founded in 2018.

But it’s not the first podcasting company to raise $100 million this year. Amazingly, a company called Himalaya Media raised $100 million as well. That news broke in February. Himalaya’s lead investor is Ximalaya, a Chinese company that Variety describes as a “spoken word audio platform.”

But there aren’t only big rounds available for podcasting-focused companies. You can raise less, it turns out. (Check our mid-2018 look at the podcast industry here).

As reported by TechCrunch’s Kate Clark (co-host of Equity, a show that I take help out with), podcast production company called WaitWhat raised $4.3 million last month. The WaitWhat Series A is not the only smaller investment into podcasting-related companies. It turns out that SimpleCast, a tool that we use on Equity for analytics has raised $1.2 million towards the end of 2017, for example.

And, of course, no podcast summary is complete in 2019 without reminding ourselves that Spotify spent over $300 million buying Gimlet (lots of well-produced podcasts) and Anchor (online podcast distribution). Those exits tell investors that there’s M&A activity in the space, meaning that they may be able to exit podcast investments sans the need for an IPO.

I didn’t think that we’d have multiple nine-figure rounds into podcasting companies ever, let alone a few this year. And with Spotify dropping big dollars into the genre, other major music platforms could follow suit. Of course, going from renting or selling the work of others (iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify’s work with music) is different than creating your own work. But Apple is getting into original video content as we all know. And audio is cheaper to create.

At least I thought it was.

Top Image Credit: Li-Anne Dias.

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