A few weeks ago I was driving in my car listening to NPR during a pledge drive. As I listened to the announcer hawk mugs and even special solar/crank powered radios in exchange for signing up for a monthly “pledge” and heard him referring to donors as members, I realized that public radio is actually selling subscriptions, but calling it something else.
As we know, NPR is an audio service supported by its members (as well as some other revenue sources). In 2011, which was the most recent year I could find info for – NPR received an average weekly donation of just under ten bucks per listener per week. (That’s the total $ amount of pledges divided by listeners and weeks.)
While Pandora One and Spotify struggle to get users to pay less than $10 a month for their service, NPR manages just fine, netting 4 times that per listener.
Why is NPR is so successful at getting listeners to pay for programming? For one thing, they don’t call them subscription fees. Instead, they call them pledges – a far more honorable term, and they make every listener who donates a member, and send them a hat or a mug. It’s a clever marketing approach!
What else are they doing that online audio subscription services can do as well? Well, for one, they hold annoying on-air pledge drives, where they stop the programming, not for a few short commercials, but for highly intrusive on-air begging by personalities. It’s really obnoxious, and it works. Listeners respond.
Other tactics that NPR uses to extract donations – err, I mean pledges – from its listeners include bribery (as in the mug, hat, or solar powered radio mentioned above), flattery (our listeners like you are so smart), making listeners feel guilty, and – this is the best one – threatening to continue the on-air fundraising tirade unless everyone calls in with pledges right away.
So what can subscription services learn from NPR? I think the membership approach is a good one – remember the old American Express campaign “Membership has its privileges?” Creating a strong brand that people want to associate themselves with, and then selling that association – that seems to be a formula that works for public radio and a strategy subscription services may want to go to school on…
With more than 200 million registered users, Pandora’s collection of user data is substantial. Now they are beginning to use that data to create marketable audience segments that advertisers can use to target their campaigns.
The first of these “proprietary audience segments” created by Pandora are Hispanic and Spanish speaking users of the service. To create these segments, Pandora cross referenced their registered users with zip codes that have a high population of Hispanic and Spanish speaking listeners, using publicly available census data. It’s still inference based targeting, meaning that the buyer has to agree to make assumptions about the consumer based on where they live, but it’s an improvement over cookie-based technology, which makes inference based assumptions as well – usually assuming that someone visiting a certain site matches a certain set of established criteria.
Critics will argue that users often give false registration data as well, and that is certainly a factor, but probably not a significant deterrent for buyers who are looking for any improved ways of reaching more of the people they want to reach, fewer of those they don’t.
Studies have shown that listeners are quite tolerant of targeted ads online, especially when they are targeted to offer products that the listener might find useful.
In fact, Pandora’s capable of slicing up their audience by market, zip code, age or gender, or the kind of music they listen to, and has been doing that for a long time. These new customer segments are available in media buying software that makes it very simple for agencies to identify, price and purchase. It’s a smart way to market their large audience to advertisers and showcase their targeting capabilities. This video features Heidi Browning, Pandora SVP of strategic solutions, discussing the streaming service’s targeting capabilities.
The big boys have arrived. Last week brought the news that YouTube’s subscription based streaming music service will launch before the end of the year, adding another massive player to the standing room only arena of streaming audio platforms. According to Billboard, there will be a free tier to the service as well, although it’s hard to imagine exactly how that will be delineated significantly from YouTube’s current free and on-demand offering of just about any music video. The subscription tier will add the ability to play full albums and cache music for offline listening, and probably playlist building as well.
YouTube has been the dominant on-demand streaming music platform in the land for a long time, although many folks didn’t think of them that way. The powers to be at Google have likely decided that the size of ad revenues and level of interest from advertisers in the streaming audio space have gotten big enough that it’s time to get serious about branding their service as a player.
The launch of iTunes Radio probably had something to do with the imminent rebranding of YouTube as well. Last week, Apple announced that their months old streaming service had 20 million users and 11 million uniques in 5 weeks. Of course, this is another service that’s self-reporting their own numbers, which to date are unchecked by third party measurement. But who expected less from an Apple launch that was well timed to sync with an OS upgrade that put the service front and center on everyone’s iPhones and iPads? The real data comes a little later when we start to see and hear metrics coming from other sources on the traction of iTunes Radio with consumers.
Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the much discussed Beats streaming service to launch, and keeping an eye on Microsoft’s Xbox Music, not to mention Pandora, Spotify and other significant players. One thing is for sure – the consumer has plenty of choices at this point. With minor distinctions between each one, branding has become the key factor in the streaming music game…
comScore has released updated smartphone usage information for August. Pandora is the 9th most trafficked web property among US smartphone users, reaching 43.2% of total US smartphone mobile users over 18. Pandora’s mobile app ranks 8th on the list reaching 43.3%.
145 million people owned smartphones, representing nearly 61% of the population. That’s a number that jumped 3% since the last report in May. Apple is the top smartphone manufacturer, followed by Samsung. Android is the top smartphone platform, with 51.6% of the marketplace, with Apple’s platform at 40.7%.
While some may question the veracity of Pandora’s ratings, there’s no doubt that their reach in the mobile marketplace is huge. Here they sit, on a list of the top 15 sites with the deepest reach among mobile users, along with Google, Facebook and Amazon, and above CBS Interactive and Twitter…
Pandora hosted a 2Q earnings call last week, giving investors news of increased listening and revenues, and continued disappointing profits. The highlight of the call was the news that mobile ad revenues are up 92% over last year, with Pandora now claiming to be the third largest generator of mobile ad revenues in the US, behind Google and Facebook.
Other big news included the fact that just months after a move to cap listening at 40 hours per month, Pandora is removing that cap. No doubt, this decision has to do with the impact that move had – Pandora’s numbers dipped about 10% this spring after the cap was instituted, and at least one competitor, Slacker, saw simultaneous growth. Meanwhile, it did appear that the cap spurred subscription sales as well – although whether those subscribers will stick now that the cap is lifted remains to be seen. Non-GAAP subscription and other revenue was $33.5 million for the quarter, a 153% year-over-year increase, including $4.7 million in revenue relating to our subscription return reserve which has to be held separately since they collect the fees upfront, but subscribers may cancel for a refund.
Advertising revenue was $128.5 million, a 44% year-over-year increase for the quarter.
Pandora also announced that they will for the first time be running back to back ads in listener’s streams, increasing the potential number of ads a listener can hear from about 4 per hour to 5. Since these are mainly 30 second ads, the ad minutes may climb to 3 minutes per hour.
My take on the listener hour cap and commercial units per hour tweaking is that Pandora is growing up and turning its attention more to profitability. They’re demonstrating a willingness to try different things in their attempt to make money per listener. The fact that they are connected to identified listeners gives them the ability to watch their tweaks closely, and they are obviously not afraid to change course if they don’t like what they see. And since they are a public company, these are experiments that the entire industry can watch and learn from..
Are you coming to RAIN Summit Orlando on Tuesday September 17th? Join attendees and speakers from Pandora, Slacker, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Spotify, Univision, Greater Media and so many more for a great conference with excellent panels and networking. Click here to register, and use the code Audio4cast to save a bit.
- Pandora Shows That A Media Business Can Grow Around Mobile Ads (businessinsider.com)
- Pandora scraps 40-hour mobile limit ahead of iTunes Radio launch (digitaltrends.com)
Innovative technology for connective cars continues, this week Pioneer Electronics debuted a new line-up of in-dash receivers that offer bluetooth and usb connectivity for Androids and iPhones. These affordable, aftermarket products make it even easier for consumers to connect and listen to streaming audio in their car, featuring Siri technology for voice commands, simplified Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling and audio streaming, enhanced playback compatibility, and Pandora internet radio.
“The smartphone has become a part of most consumers’ lifestyles and a source of both entertainment and communication,” said Ted Cardenas, vice president of marketing for the Car Electronics Division of Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. “Pioneer’s new CD receivers provide various means for integrating a variety of smartphones into the vehicle.”
At prices starting at $90. That sounds like a pretty affordable price point to me.
Pandora continues to lead the pack of services that come integrated into the new offerings, they recently announced that they are now integrated with more than 100 car models and 23 manufacturers. That doesn’t mean other services are unavailable – just that Pandora is front and center as the featured service in the car. Mazda recently integrated Pandora into its 2014 Mazda6, incorporating voice commands that make listening while driving very easy and fun.
Pioneer Electronics Ted Cardenas and Pandora’s Director of Automotive Business Development Geoff Snyder will join a panel discussion at RAIN Summit Orlando on Dashboard Integration. Other panelists include Ford’s Global Lead, Business Development and Partner Management Scott Burnell, Slacker SVP Steve Cotter, and TuneIn VP Kevin Straley.
RAIN Summit Orlando takes place Tuesday September 17 starting at noon and finishing with a cocktail reception in the evening. Register here, and use the code Audio4cast to save a few bucks. I hope to see you there!
Pandora will be installed in one-third of the new cars sold this year, which represents an impressive effort on the part of the leading Internet radio station in the US. That fact appeared in wsj.com recently. Pandora’s strategy of gaining automotive deals also gets them lots of listeners – Pandora says they have seen more than 2.5 million unique activations through integrations from the 23 major automotive brands and eight aftermarket manufacturers they are installed with.
Meanwhile, the popularity of streaming and the connected dashboard is not being overlooked by Sirius XM. Despite deals that already have their satellite service installed in a long list of vehicles, Sirius XM has been improving its streaming offering of late, and just announced a deal with Ford that will pair both its satellite and online radio offerings in new Ford cars with Sync AppLink.
Smaller Internet radio stations that don’t have the brand power to create their own automotive deals have options as well. Harman’s Aha Radio and TuneIn are two aggregators that have deals with car manufacturers to offer access to a wide variety of content through their platforms, and Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio has announced deals with Toyota, GM and Chrysler.
While market leaders like Pandora and Sirius XM make deals that put them front and center in your next new car, the truth is the dashboard of that car will probably have a unit installed that will enable you to access any content you want. At the Connected Car Conference during CE Week in New York recently, Audiovox President Tom Malone discussed the automotive aftermarket products his company is bringing to market, which are all about letting the consumer bring whatever content they want into the car. Solutions that enable the consumer to connect to their content wirelessly through a variety of options – smartphone, usb, cellular, and stored content in the car, for example – are the focus now. Connected car discussions are about more than just the dashboards these days too. Today’s consumers share listening less, and personalized content solutions are coming to the car as well, with rear seat docking solutions.
Content delivery to cars is diversifying, putting the consumer in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing what they will listen to. Receivers that are dedicated purely to AM/FM or satellite are quickly becoming a thing of the past, replaced with devices that enable easy access and endless choice. In a way, you could say that it’s a game in which content is king…
As iTunes announces their streaming radio service to launch this fall, Pandora continues to make deals that put their service in the dashboard, where they can continue to expand audience. According to wsj.com yesterday, Pandora will be available and installed in one-third of new cars sold in the US this year.
That impressive stat brings the streaming service a lot of new listeners – Pandora says they have seen more than 2.5 million unique activations through integrations from the 23 major automotive brands and eight aftermarket manufacturers they are installed with.
Meanwhile, the popularity of streaming and the connected dashboard is not being overlooked by Sirius XM. Despite deals that already have their satellite service installed in a long list of vehicles. Sirius XM has been improving its streaming offering of late, and just announced a deal with Ford that will pair both its satellite and online radio offerings in new Ford cars with Sync AppLink.
Meanwhile, tuner platforms like TuneIn and Aha Radio both have integration deals with auto manufacturers as well, and folks like me connect just using their smartphones. Audio options in the car are expanding, and the big services have taken note. Is the next new thing an iTunes radio in your dashboard? If so, it will likely be one that will sync with your iPhone…
Streaming news at CES 2013 last week was all about integration into cars, with big announcements from Ford and JacAPPS, Pandora and Chrysler, Livio, Tunein, and lots of others. The news about Sprint and Nextradio is big as well.
Connected cars are a reality now, and Pandora has played a large part in that evolution. Pandora’s been concentrating on getting their service integrated into connected devices for a long time, and their efforts have had a very large impact. They’ve led a coordinated effort which can take a lot of credit for the high level of interest in connected cars at this year’s CES. Sure, lots of companies are enjoying the advantage of that increased buzz, that’s how it works – pioneers lead the way, open the doors, and others follow, and hopefully flourish.
I’ve said it before and I think it bears repeating – the Internet radio industry has benefitted enormously from having a giant like Pandora in the space. They’ve generated lots of buzz and innovation that others have and will continue to benefit from in terms of listeners as well as technology. This Techcrunch interview with Pandora CTO Tom Conrad offers a nice overview of where they have come from, and how they do it.
This morning in my email, one from Spotify offering me a bunch of ready made playlists for New Year’s. The Top 100 Songs of the Year on Spotify, Most Popular artists, Most Popular Female Artists, Most Popular Male Artists…you get the idea. All waiting for me to listen to and share with my social networks to celebrate the arrival of 2013.
This is very smart marketing by Spotify. The biggest party night of the year and they’re offering up easy soundtracks for the party. It’s an excellent use of playlist based streaming, and a great way to highlight their music library. I’ll bet they get a lot of traction and new listeners from it.
Pandora is offering a slate of End of the Year genre stations as well, including 2012 Top Pop, Adult Rock, College, R&B and Hip Hop, and New Years Eve Party Radio. Built in soundtracks for your party. iHeartRadio is offering one channel, called Party 2013 Radio.
In 2013 streaming audio services will continue to look for ways to grow audience by making their offerings as enticing as possible. Personalizable channels that can be tailored for special events are an easy way to highlight interactive features and hook listeners. In fact, those channels are quite possibly a platforms best marketing tools..
Happy 2013 to you and yours, may you enjoy the streams of your dreams in the coming year…