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Pandora ponders competing with AM/FM for local advertising

PandoraI’m eyeballing Pandora’s latest Security and Exchange Commission risk filing, which notes that the Internet streamer has yet to significantly penetrate local markets like conventional radio stations do. Seems like the  company is thinking about the challenge,  though.

“Radio advertising has traditionally attracted primarily local advertisers, and we are still at an early stage of building our sales capability to penetrate local advertising markets,” the Pandora document observes:

” . . . which we view as a key challenge in monetizing our listener hours, including listener hours on mobile and other connected devices. In addition, while a substantial amount of our revenue has traditionally been derived from display ads, some display ads may not be currently optimized for use on certain mobile or other connected devices. For example, standard display ads may not be well-suited for use on smartphones due to the size of the device screen and may not be appropriate for smartphones connected to or integrated in automobiles due to safety considerations. Further, some display ads may not be optimized to take advantage of the multimedia capabilities of connected devices. By contrast, audio ads are better-suited for delivery on smartphones connected to or installed in automobiles and across mobile and connected device platforms and video ads can be optimized for a variety of platforms. However, our audio and video advertising products are relatively new and have not been as widely accepted by advertisers as our traditional display ads.”

“In addition,” Pandora adds, “the introduction of audio advertising places us in more direct competition with terrestrial radio, as many advertisers that purchase audio ads focus their spending on terrestrial radio stations who traditionally have strong connections with local advertisers.”

All this is complicated by the challenge of getting advertisers to buy mobile ads at all. Pandora is clobbering the mobile radio listening market. Pandora listener hours on mobile devices has gone from five percent in 2009 to 77 percent (!!!) this year. But:

“Digital advertising on mobile devices is an emerging phenomenon, and the percentage of advertising spending allocated to digital advertising on mobile devices is lower than that allocated to traditional online advertising. According to IDC, the percentage of U.S. advertising spending allocated to advertising on mobile devices was less than 1% in 2010, compared to 13% for all online advertising. We must therefore convince advertisers of the capabilities of mobile digital advertising opportunities so that they migrate their advertising spend toward demographics and ad solutions that more effectively utilize mobile inventory. Our cost of content acquisition, or royalty fees for public performances, is currently calculated on the same basis whether a listening hour is consumed on a traditional computer or a mobile device.”

At this point, that section of the SEC filing concludes, “we have not been able to generate revenue from our advertising products delivered to mobile and other connected devices, such as automobiles and consumer electronics, as effectively as we have for our advertising products served on traditional computers.”

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