Spotify snags BuzzFeed CRO to head global ad sales
Lee Brown, chief revenue officer at BuzzFeed, is leaving his post next month to join Spotify as its VP of global sales strategy, a position currently held by Brian Benedik. Brown will report to Barry McCarthy, chief financial officer at Spotify.
Ad Age previously reported that Benedik intended to leave Spotify this fall. A Spotify spokeswoman confirmed Brown’s hiring, adding that Benedik was involved in the process.
It’s unclear who will replace Brown at BuzzFeed. His departure comes roughly a week after Jonah Peretti, founder and CEO of BuzzFeed, announced an eight-step plan to save the internet from “the dumpster fire” that it is, according to Axios. In January, BuzzFeed laid off roughly 15 percent of its employees after falling short of revenue goals.
In an internal note to BuzzFeed employees on Tuesday morning, Peretti said Brown leaves the publication “in a position of strength.”
“We are poised to have the biggest fourth quarter in our history and profitability for the back half of 2019 and the entirety of 2020,” Peretti wrote. “We have new lines of business that didn’t exist two years ago and represent nine figures of revenue today.”
He added that there is a “clear interim plan” to unify the publication’s business operations.
Brown, who previously held stints at Tumblr, Groupon and Yahoo, played a significant role in diversifying BuzzFeed’s ad revenue in areas such as programmatic advertising, direct-to-consumer sales and sponsored content, which might bode well for Spotify, as it has a diverse set of ad products.
The digital audio streaming giant has invested heavily in podcasts, acquiring Gimlet Media, maker of shows such as “Reply All” and “Without Fail.” It also recently purchased Anchor, a platform that allows podcasters to create, publish and generate ad revenue from their shows. Beyond podcasting, Spotify couples data it has on its listeners with targeted ads in areas such audio, video, display, programmatic and sponsored playlists.
Spotify has historically done a good job of acquiring paid listeners, but must now lean on its ad-supported users to generate consistent year-over-year growth. In July, Spotify said it had nearly 130 million ad-supported monthly active users, up 27 percent year-over-year. For context, Pandora says it has more than 60 million active ad supported listeners; rival iHeart says it has roughly 67 million monthly active users.
Meanwhile, U.S. digital audio ad revenues grew to $2.3 billion in 2018, up 23 percent from 2017, according to the IAB, which adds that recent technological innovations, as well as a surge in podcast revenues, helped drive growth.