Podcast advertising network PodcastOne has named Mr. Berk as its new CEO. He will report to longtime radio veteran, founder and outgoing CEO Norm Pattiz, who will retain his title of executive chairman.
Last year, Mr. Berk resigned after eight years at the helm of Participant Media.
PodcastOne sells advertising for more than 200 different podcasts, including shows from celebrities like Adam Carolla, Larry King, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Dan Patrick and media companies like Barstool Sports and theCHIVE. The company, which has about 40 employees, said it generated 1.5 billion podcast downloads last year and works with more than 100 brand advertisers.
“What attracted me about the podcasting area is that you’ve got traditional media in radio combining with new media in digital,” Mr. Berk said. “It is on the verge of breaking loose, and you want to be there when that wave breaks through.”
The two executives say they have known each other for around 25 years. About a year and a half ago, when Mr. Berk was still with Participant, he met with PodcastOne about his firm investing in or even buying the company, though the talks didn’t materialize, Mr. Pattiz said.
“Honestly, we were just taking a number at the deli counter,” Mr. Berk said of the talks. Ultimately, Minnesota-based radio company Hubbard Radio last summer acquired a 30% stake in PodcastOne for about $10 million to $15 million, according to a person familiar with the matter.
PodcastOne used the investment to expand its sales operation, Mr. Pattiz said.
Mr. Berk’s appointment comes during a growth period in the decade-old podcast industry, a movement aided by the success of hit podcast “Serial.” About 21% of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to a podcast in the last month, a jump from 17% in 2015, according to Edison Research.
But the industry has faced challenges, since many big brand advertisers still see it as largely untested or view podcast measurement as unsophisticated.
Mr. Pattiz said that when he founded the company in 2012, all of the advertising came from direct-response (DR) marketers, companies that use promotional codes to track the return on their media spending and are commonplace across the podcast industry. Now Mr. Pattiz says half of PodcastOne’s advertisers are big brand marketers.
“We saw the same thing in cable TV versus network TV,” said Mr. Berk. “The guys always up front are the DR folks. They ultimately get pushed out by the higher-rate branded stuff. You see the same stuff starting to happen here.”
“We invested a lot of money in data and research to present accurate and reliable information to advertisers,” Mr. Pattiz said.
Mr. Berk, who previously served as CEO of the Hard Rock Cafe chain, said he had “multiple choices” for his next move, but thought that the podcast industry has big potential for more growth.