Friday, July 29, 2011

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

"Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here" is actually a phrase from Alighieri Dante's Divine Comedy. thought it is more properly quoted as "All hope abandon ye who enter here." But that's beside my point. I read some news lately that you might have read too. It's not quite time for the white flags but what I'm trying to say is we have met the enemy and the he is us. That's a quote from Pogo.

The gist is that Pandora is kicking radio's ass in markets where bandwidth permits. For radioland this is not good. The RAIN newsletter probably covered this tale of woe better than anyone else so far. Most of the trade s have been suspiciously mum. Link here: Pandora beats all terrestrial stations among A18-34 in top five markets. the markets of the aforementioned whupping are as follows: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston-Galveston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Boston.  Edison hedged their bets a little and excluded the Pandora One customers that pay to omit ads... in other words THE CUSTOMERS WHO LISTEN MOST! Knowing that, I assume these numbers are optimistic.

The only saving grace here is that Pandora is not one radio station but many. So the numbers are a tad misleading. It's sort of like pitting the combined ratings of all the Sirius/XM stations against you instead of just the one you're competing against in your format. The realistic view is that you're only ever competing against similar formats and formats with similar demos. You are not competing WHTZ (Z100) in New York is not competing against my personal Howlin' Wolf Channel on Pandora. But they are competing against the untold number of Lady Gaga channels begin served up to my neighbors kids and all their friends.

The problem is that Pandora can serve up a surprising level of nuance among similar playlists, each tailored to the listener. I set up several channels as a test: Howlin Wolf, Pee Wee Crayton, Louis Jordan, the Black Keys, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. That's three post-war blues artists, one pre-war and two jokers in the deck. Pandora served up similar playlists for those 3 pre-war but not identical. But it also intuitively understood from it's existing listener data the common ground between the Black Keys and Howlin' Wolf. I can even stream it to my home stereo system with a Roku box.  They can tailor a channel to a single listener in a way that a broadcaster absolutely can not and should not try to do. Just hoping that your local cell providers keep it out of the car is not a plan. Their strengths still leave some gaps in the armor.
1. Pandora is not local and can not be local. 
2. Pandora is not geared to deliver local music
3. Pandora (at least for now) has notable catalog limitations
4. Pandora is not live in the same sense that radio can be
5. Pandora cant deliver news, traffic, weather or emergency information
So exploit that where you can and while you can. I'll keep aware of updates.