10/2/13: Pandora grew audience in September, despite iTunes Radio

Brad Hill
October 2, 2013 - 12:45pm

This morning Pandora released its monthly Audience Metrics bulletin, showing across-the-board growth in the company’s key indicators.

Pandora’s reported listening hours grew to 1.36-billion, an 18% year-over-year gain from September 2012 (1.15B). Month over month, listening time marginally improved from 1.35-billion hours in Pandora’s August report.

For September, Pandora claims 72.7-million active listeners, a year-over-year increase of 25% (58.3M in September 2012, and 72.1M in August). Some observers regard September as the start of a crucial period of metrics comparisons with iTunes Radio, which claimed 11-million users in its first week. iTunes Radio and Pandora operated concurrently for 13 days in September. Although much was made of the 11-million number, it is too early in the life cycle of iTunes Radio to delineate “active” listeners -- users who return to the service. September, by itself, does not tell much of a story, but it is a reasonable bet that P stock would not have jumped today (+6.3% as of this writing) if Pandora’s active listeners metric had gone down. For one month's report at least, the launch of iTunes Radio does not seem to have had a discouraging impact on Pandora.

Finally, Pandora reports a 7.77% share of total U.S. radio listening for September, a 6.53% lift from a year ago. (August share was reported at 7.46%.) That particular metric has come under scrutiny and criticism recently, by Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman (here) and Entercom CEO David Field at the recent RAIN Summit Orlando (audio here; coverage here). Pandora’s monthly reports do not disclose methodology or underlying data, but RAIN spoke with a Pandora spokesperson about the share-of-listening statistic, and received this response:

"Pandora arrives at this calculation using data from Triton Digital, Arbitron and the U.S. Census. The estimated total hours include satellite radio. There is no one group that measures total radio metrics. We welcome all third-party research from a variety of established partners, including Triton Digital, Edison Research, The Media Audit, comScore and Nielsen. Ultimately, we would like to see all radio measured side-by-side."

 

Brad Hill
October 2, 2013 - 12:45pm

Spotify has long recognized that social, in its many dimensions, is a key differentiator for the music service. Spotify’s extensive (some say intrusive) sharing features set it apart not only from competing listening platforms, but represent a “killer app” that distinguishes interactive listening from traditional broadcast with which it broadly competes. At the same time, social is sticky, conduces users to build identities within Spotify, and ties them into a community matrix that intersects their larger social graphs.

On that last point, Spotify has launched an at-large Follow button, extending Spotify user profiles outside of Spotify boundaries, much as Facebook, Twitter, and other social services do. The button is beautifully productized, instantly accomplishing the follow action when the user is logged into Spotify, without popups of further authentication.

The little Spotify Follow button has the power to reverse Spotify’s usage equation -- from a listening service with social features to a community platform that concentrates on social listening. Perhaps the greatest benefit to Spotify is simple brand extension. As Spotify Follow buttons begin to appear all over the web (which is the prediction here), they both increase engagement of existing users and draw in new ones. As ripples from the iTunes Radio launch continue to wash through the waters of Internet radio, all stripes of competition must find ways to retain and grow audience.

It’s easy to imagine that the Follow button will be eagerly adopted. First, by devoted Spotify users seeking to build their follower base and increase social influence as music curators. The Spotify follower count could become a prestige marker similar to a person’s Twitter flock. Second, the Follow button could afford musicians, bands, and labels a new way of attracting attention to their profiles on Spotify. To whatever extent musicians suffer from the high signal-to-noise ration in Spotify, the Follow button gives them a way to cut through.

Brad Hill
October 2, 2013 - 12:45pm

In what could be characterized as a noble attempt to bridge the mass market’s preference for convenience over quality, and the audiophile’s choice of pristine audio over mobility, a Scandinavian streaming music service called WiMP has introduced lossless streaming. Lossless audio files are derived from the original source (such as a master recording) without suffering the sound-degrading compression which is applied to create an mp3 or AAC file. The value of compressed files is their smaller, more portable size -- you can fit more of them into a mobile device, and they stream more fluidly in mobile bandwidth situations. In a market governed by smartphone listening through cheap earbuds with severely constrained frequency response, audiophile demand is always niche.

WiMP does not force the high-quality solution on its users, but does offer it as one of several quality options. The company also re-sourced its library, replacing so-called lossy originals with lossless versions. That enabled WiMP to control the compression schemes from top to bottom.

WiMP is currently available in Denmark, Germany, Norway, Poland, and Sweden.

Brad Hill
October 2, 2013 - 12:45pm

Google All Access expands to seven more countries: A search for this topic yields over 7,000 versions of a simple announcement: Google’s streaming and music-locker service is newly available in the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Russia, and Switzerland -- in addition to the 12 other countries already enjoying the service. Some portions of the commentariat are grumbling that there is still no Google Internet radio in Canada.

iHeartRadio gets Turner content: Clear Channel-owned iHeart has inked a content deal with Turner Broadcasting which will enhance its Talk offerings. Users can expect to see clips from CONAN (Conan O’Brien’s TBS variety show), as well as select sports and news programming. The Talk portion of iHeart’s app currently includes a strong ABC presence, and the Turner deal could provide some balance. President of Clear Channel Digital Brian LaKamp called the deal “a significant milestone for iHeartRadio Talk.”

Brad Hill
October 2, 2013 - 12:45pm

RAIN Enterprises is looking for an industry-savvy sales expert to manage accounts for RAIN Summits and RAIN Publications. We are looking for someone with strong sales skills who can work independently. Knowledge of the audio marketplace, broadcast, digital or both, is a plus. If interested please contact Jennifer Lane: lane.jennifer@gmail.com