The Securities and Exchange Commission has subpoenaed Pandora as part of an investigation into the way that certain popular applications that run on Apple and Android platforms share information about users. According to the Wall Street Journal, the investigation is centered on the question of whether certain popular smartphone applications used information about their applications’ users, without disclosing the uses properly.
This information follows a report by WSJ in December that Pandora and other popular applications were transmitting information obtained about user locations and preferences to third parties such as advertising platforms without permission. Pandora’s app reportedly fed info about the user’s age, gender, and location.
The news of the subpeona came to light when Pandora filed an amendment to its plans for an IPO. Supposedly other popular applications are included in the investigation – Pandora has said it is not the specific or sole target of the investigation.
Sometimes it’s not all roses when it comes to being the leader of the pack – in this case Pandora’s highly popular mobile apps are causing some higher profile scrutiny. And again, the industry will have Pandora to thank for pushing the envelope and finding the line in the sand. While advertisers demand more targetability, these functions can only be delivered with this kind of user data.
You can hear more about this topic at RAIN Summit West in Las Vegas on April 11th, especially on the Legal Issues panel hosted by David Oxenford and joined by experts from Rhapsody, Live365, SESAC, and EMF Broadcasting. You can register for that event here.
By now you’ve probably heard that Pandora has moved to go public. On friday afternoon they filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission of their intention to sell shares via an IPO as soon as possible after the filing. They seek to raise $100,000,000.
The document they filed is full of great info about their business and their strategy.
Pandora says they are redefining radio from a one to many to a one to one radio listening experience by enabling personalization and discovery. Their Music Genome Project, which assigns attributes to songs and then is able to define and deliver an individual’s preferences for music, is their key weapon. Listeners choose to listen to Pandora because of this service, because it is free and because it is everywhere. Advertisers choose the service because it offers a one to one delivery, multi platform options, and an “enhanced messaging environment.”
Pandora has 80 million registered users. Listening on mobile devices is higher than on computers. According to AndoMedia’s ranking of the top 20 stations or networks in the US they have more than a 50% share. Perhaps they should have added the caveat that not all stations or networks are measured by Ando’s service, however they do list their reliance on third party measurement services as one of their risks.
In the first nine months or 3 quarters of last year their revenue was slightly more than $90 million, $78 million of that was ad sales and the remainder was subscription. The ad revenue number includes more than $6.6 million in ads they run as part of the Google ad network.
A daunting 60% of those dollars are paid out in royalties which they call “content acquisition”. Pandora was not profitable last year based on income and expenses for the first 3 quarters. In the fiscal year ending January 2010 they lost $16.8 million.
Westergren owns 2.4% of the company he founded by maxxing out credit card after credit card back in the early 2000s. CEO Joe Kennedy has 2.7%.
Pandora’s going public is big news for Internet radio. They are by far the most widely known Internet radio service in the US, and their success or failure will impact the ability of other services to do the same. May they thrive…