Two Ways In Which Pandora Is More Radio Than Radio

Written Apr. 8, 2011 by Sean Ross in Content + Internet Radio + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments

The release of Tuesday's Infinite Dial report from Edison Research and Arbitron showing that 10% of respondents nationally had listened to Pandora in the previous week, may prompt some extra cognative dissonance for those who feel that time spent with Pandora is coming from the iPod or its predecessors, not from traditional listening to music radio.

I've written recently that trying to separate the time that listeners give to their own music vs. somebody else's is increasingly a fool's errand. If radio TSL is down, it is cold comfort that an iPod might conceivably have lost even more listening. But a few things have convinced me recently that Pandora, for whom Edison does several research projects, belongs in the radio stack, not the "successor to 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and iPod" pile.

1) In recent years, those discovering and using Pandora have very much had a shared experience of the sort that radio used to specialize in providing. This was driven home at a recent Country Radio Seminar panel -- a live focus group of "real" radio listeners. It wasn't a very talkative bunch. But when moderator Charlie Cook asked the Pandora listener on the panel to describe it, she snapped to attention, describing it in detail, and in pretty much identical words to anybody else you've ever heard describe the service. With the increased amount of national radio programming, I've been waiting for radio to ramp up its shared experience quotient, creating an Infinite Dial of Musicradio 89 WLS and 77 WABCs for our age. But, clearly, that isn't the only sort of shared experience radio can offer.

2) It's been the case for a while that if your Pandora listening starts with a mainstream music choice, it will continue among those lines and may even be a little more conservative and gold-based than what you would hear on a comparable terrestrial radio station. While Pandora's personalization and the ability to skip songs leads some people to think of it as "the other," it's actually the culmination of what many radio programmers have been trying to do for the last 35 years, since listener music research took hold on a large scale: progressively eliminate more and more of the "bad songs." It's just that Pandora users have the advantage of deciding for themselves what the "bad songs" are, even if their own tastes aren't all that different from what 100 respondents typically decide.

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