Meet the Team: Acast keeps up with the local podcast boom

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 31 March 2022

This article first appeared in the AdNews Jan/Feb magazine. Subscribe here to make sure you get your copy.

Throughout 2021, independent podcast company Acast expanded its team from 12 to 26 members. The growth reflects the rise of podcast consumption in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic which shifted consumer behaviour.

Henrik Isaksson, Acast AUNZ managing director, says the company is continuing to see strong demand for content even beyond the lockdown.

“The growing doesn’t really stop,” says Isaksson. “We have grown heaps in sales which has been our biggest focus, we’ve also hired an automation director as well because programmatic revenue is going through the roof.”

The team is still looking to grow in areas such as campaign management, content and PR, and marketing. Isaksson says expanding its presence across Australia has been a key objective for the company, with the hire of its first Victoria-based member, Bryce Crosswell, as group sales lead for the state, in November 2021.

“I don’t think at this point we will set up offices in other regions. With COVID-19 now there are so many risks involved so at the moment we are holding back on the geographical expansion a bit, but we can service Queensland, WA and SA really well from Melbourne and Sydney.

“Victoria makes up a huge part of our revenue and this had all been done through the team in Sydney. The feedback from the market was that it is nice to have someone on the ground which is why we hired Bryce and he’s a superstar. That’s gone down super well.”

Henrik Isaksson

In the third quarter of 2021, Acast reported net sales growth of 89% when compared to the year prior.

Across the sector, podcasting has been growing strong, with PwC’s 17th annual ‘Australian Entertainment & Media Outlook’ report forecasting commercial expenditure in Australian podcasting to hit $105 million in 2022, up from $5 million in 2017.
The space is also becoming increasingly competitive, with big international streaming platforms and local Australian publishers boosting their investment in content production during the past year.

To stay ahead of the competition, Isaksson says Acast is focused on attracting the right talent.

“I don’t think it is going to slow down in any way but in terms of how we stay ahead of it, I am very humble when I say this, but I do believe I have the best team in podcasting in Australia," he says. "I work with this lot of people who I learn from every single day.”

Working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge for the team which now has an optional return-to-office policy. Isaksson doesn’t expect the company to return to five days in the office, with productivity levels remaining the same during work from home.

“We have a good balance at the moment where you can do the two or three days in the office and you might do Monday and Friday from home and that seems to be working really well,” he says.

“It is not like we have seen productivity go down. I think people enjoy the balance of working from home and from the office, and most people are coming back in just to hang out and have a chat.”


For Isaksson, the new year is focused on continuing to strengthen the team’s culture, with the company only managing its sales independently since 2020 after ending its three-year relationship with Nova Entertainment.

“I think personally for me and Acast, making sure that my team is well and healthy and thriving is definitely number one,” he says.

“And then build on the culture that we have. We have quite a new team, and we are only really a year and a half into being independent in Australia. Looking after my team is probably my biggest thing because it has been a tough couple of years so making sure everyone is well, both mentally and physically.”

To help do this during the pandemic, Acast introduced a range policies, such as health allowances which allowed employees to spend on health-related items including exercise equipment, gym subscriptions and new shoes.

“The other thing is, as a company globally we have been a bit more lenient when it comes to working hours because people have worked more throughout COVID-19, with longer hours and more time sitting in front of the screen,” says Isaksson.
“We have tried to do half days on Fridays, if possible obviously, workload permitting.

“We have also cut down on the length of our meetings. Rather than doing half-an-hour meetings, we are trying to do 10 or 15 minute meetings because if you can’t cover things in 15 minutes you probably need to prepare for the meetings slightly differently or have a strategic approach to it. So less meetings, more exercise and less time in front of your screen.”

Isaksson says this new, flexible approach to working in a post-COVID-19 world only works if there’s trust throughout the team.
“You have to have trust,” he says. “I couldn’t see it being done in any other way because if you have the same approach to working hours as you did pre-COVID-19, then I don’t think people would be happy.

“I wouldn’t be happy if my boss checked in on me all the time. So I think it is a benefit to everyone. And I am a believer in quality work rather than quantity, and that really reflects on the staff.

“The feedback from all the new people who joined the business last year has been that it has been better treatment than most, as opposed to being constantly asked what they are doing and where they are, or how many meetings they have. It is not about that anymore, I think the landscape has changed and I don’t think it is going to go back.”


Daisy Smith, AUNZ head of automation
What attracted you to Acast?
Besides the obvious attraction to podcasting — both as a platform for storytelling and as a unique opportunity for advertisers — Acast has been pioneering programmatic for the podcast industry since 2017, so I really wanted to be part of that drive forward as we continue to develop the automation of podcast ad buying for clients.

What goals do you have for the next 12 months?
My role is all about helping our buyers understand how effective programmatic advertising can be within podcasting, and creating a more meaningful dialogue between the buyer and Acast, to build a more efficient and sophisticated offering. Our goal for 2022 is to educate the market on the intricacies of the podcast ecosystem and to build trust in the programmatic ad buying process through maximising delivery and execution.

What do you think will be the most challenging part of your role?
The biggest challenge for our industry is trying to solve measurement as the basis of media buying, especially in programmatic. While the open podcast ecosystem in which we distribute our content provides a level of scale unrivalled by other listening platforms, it also presents challenges around measurement and fragmentation. We know how important attribution is to our clients and we have established partnerships with key vendors to continue to work towards better measurement and transparency.


Tom Roach, AUNZ strategy and creative lead
What’s your favourite part of your role?
My favourite part of my role has to be collaboration. I get to work with some amazing people — both at Acast and externally — whether that be with our podcasters or advertiser partners. From team brainstorms, workshops and presentations, to producing effective campaigns, creative integrations and branded podcasts — all that work involves many individuals coming together to make the magic happen.

What does a typical day look like to you?
I love starting the day by getting a coffee with my wife at our local cafe (shout-out to Wolf in Paddington). If I’m working from home, I’m relegated to the spare room for the day or it’s an easy light-rail trip into Acast HQ during the non-COVID months. Then I throw myself into everything creative, campaign or strategy related, with my teammate Kat — and at knock-off, it’s a couple of Carlton Draughts at the world-famous Madison Hotel.

What goals do you have for the next 12 months?
2021 was an incredible year for the Acast Creative team. We launched Australia’s largest independent podcast report, Acast Sounds Smart, introduced the market to Sponsored Stories, produced some amazing and effective creative campaigns, and released one of our largest branded podcasts ever with Samsung. In 2022, we’re planning to keep that momentum going with some new hires and even bigger campaigns — all further establishing Acast as the leading podcast creative partner for advertisers.


Diana Lee, account manager
What’s the hardest part of your role?
There are so many players within Australia’s audio market and that can make it quite a cluttered space to get share of voice, so we’re constantly having to work to elevate the Acast brand and that of our podcast partners. In addition to that, one of the tricky parts of the job is simply keeping up to date with the huge breadth of podcast content. I try to squeeze as much podcast listening into my days as possible — it’s a pretty extensive playlist.

What do you wish people better understood about Acast?
The one thing we always get questions on is how Acast actually works, in terms of our content and the way it’s distributed. We don’t own any podcasts — instead, we champion our creators’ independence, and their choices to manage and monetise their shows in the ways that are right for them. For distribution, we’re platform agnostic — meaning we host the podcasts and distribute them to all podcast players such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you might listen to your podcasts.

What are you looking forward to in the new year?
I’m loving the move towards audio storytelling, not just with the podcast content itself but also the ads within them — and our Sponsored Stories ad format is something that is helping bring that to the fore. In 2022, I’m looking forward to seeing brands get creative — and especially seeing visual brands telling their stories through the spoken word. I want to see them push the envelope and really use audio as a blank canvas.


Guy Scott-Wilson, AUNZ content director
What’s the most exciting part of your role?
Podcasting is a rapid-growth medium, and it’s not often in your career that you get a chance to contribute to an industry being built from the ground up. At the 2021 Australian Podcast Awards, you could really see how much the industry has developed in just the past four years since Acast launched in this market — and there are continual periods of innovation and consolidation that keep us on our toes as this podcasting thing scales.

What goals do you have for the next 12 months?
Next year is going to be about creating additional revenue streams for creators, who are already doing really well through the advertising model. We’ll be getting even more of our creators using Acast+, a paid subscription model that gives them the opportunity to offer their listeners additional experiences such as bonus content and early episode releases. Giving audiences greater choice, while diversifying revenues, is a really attractive proposition for podcast creators.

What do you wish people better understood about Acast?
We’re a partnerships business. Every dollar that comes in the door gets split with a creator, so we’re as invested in the success of our content partners as they are. We care deeply about audience growth and ensuring our podcasters can reach as many listeners as possible, in the most immersive environment in the world

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