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What is Pandora? A narrow majority call it radio

What is Radio? bannerA new RAIN poll finds Internet radio fans divided on whether Pandora counts as radio. 52 percent of respondents to the Radio and Internet Newsletter survey answered “yes” to the following statement/question: “Pandora is the leading ‘Internet radio’ service. Is Pandora radio?”

Thirty percent said “no.” Eighteen percent said “yes and no.” Many respondents added their own observations:

“The radio industry needs to get over this question. We should only care about this question if the customer cares, and I think they don’t.”

“It is missing news or talk content for it to be ‘radio.'”

“Pandora is Internet audio not radio! Radio is AM or FM.”

“Who cares? If Pandora wants to call it ‘radio,’ then that gives broadcast radio a chance to re-define what it does.”

“It’s not radio but 80 % of the revenue model is based on audio ads. So we have to consider Pandora as a competitor in the radio industry.”

I’ve come around to the perspective that Pandora is radio under certain circumstances. The problem with calling it generically so is that AM/FM stations broadcast to audiences: people listening to the same music and talk at the same time. Most Pandora channels don’t serve listeners in that manner, instead they stream millions of separate genome driven playlists to millions of individual people. But when you share one of your Pandora channels with your social networking friends, I think that you arguably become a Pandora radio station, and your friends become your audience.

On the other hand, I resist commentaries (here and here) that, it seems to me, boil down to: ‘If it emits sounds and makes money, it is radio.’ I appreciate all efforts to get AM/FM folk to wake up to the realities of the Internet, but by that definition Nielsen should be tracking noises made by barnyard animals.

RAIN also gave readers the option of answering yes to the proposition “my brains hurt,” but did not reveal how many people checked off on this response.

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5 Responses to What is Pandora? A narrow majority call it radio

  1. James Cridland February 18, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Pandora is radio – that is, listeners seem to think that it is. I think we all agree. It’s a pointless discussion.

    As I argued in – they have no right to steal radio’s brand for their personalised jukebox. But it doesn’t matter. They’ve successfully redefined radio as something with no human connection, no soul, no story-telling; just a jumble of music tracks.

    The radio industry are fools for letting Pandora redefine radio in this way.

    • Paul Riismandel February 19, 2014 at 11:45 am #

      I might argue that commercial radio already sold its soul and compromised its brand. Pandora didn’t have to steal it. Pandora only had to pick it up from where radio dropped it.

      The biggest commercial radio owners squeezed the human connection out of stations in the name of cost cutting. Listeners caught on to the fact that the human they heard wasn’t in their town and wasn’t picking the records, and reacted appropriately.

      Clear channel pioneered “just a jumble of music tracks” before Pandora was ever on the scene. For many listeners Pandora just does it better.

      Sure, there’s some examples of some commercial radio shows and personalities who still cut through and show some “soul.” They’re just the exception that proves the rule.

      • Bitter Mets Fan February 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

        “I might argue that commercial radio already sold its soul and compromised its brand”

        And I might argue that Pandora is well on its way to being equally as annoying with ads as its terrestrial competitors.

        Predicting my political affiliation based on what music I listen to AND then using that info to throw ads my way? Yeah I’d sooner go non commercial radio or flat out mp3 players than go down that annoying ad filled road.

  2. Fred Jacobs February 18, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    Nice article and some great food for thought. This was a big topic on our blog a couple years ago, and more recently when James Cridland wrote his think piece. It all strikes me as academic, and a lot like trying to define comedy or pornography.

    Whether it is “radio: or not, it is a force to be reckoned with from both a programming & revenue standpoint. So calling it and labeling it is secondary to how consumers view it. They are in charge.

  3. Scott Atkinson February 20, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    I find the question of what is and isn’t radio endlessly fascinating – not quite sure why it annoys some people. I’m with Matthew on Pandora: I think it’s an edge case, where sometimes it’s radio and sometimes it’s not-quite-radio. To me, the genre stations are pretty clearly radio, because they’re “one to many,” and to the degree that algorithms help pick the music, well, that’s just a more finely tuned version of what radio stations already do. I prefer stations where people pick the music, but if you asked me blind whether a person or an algorithm was doing the selecting, I’m not sure I’d know.

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