12/4/13: Pandora increased its audience in November

Brad Hill
December 4, 2013 - 11:00am

Pandora released its three-point Audience Metrics report for November this morning. The statistics reveal month-over-month growth in each category.

The most scrutinized part of Pandora’s monthly measurement drumbeat is the Active Listeners statistic. That number has received especially obsessive attention since mid-September when iTunes Radio launched. The two Internet radio platforms are widely regarded as direct competitors, pitting a pioneering indie (Pandora) against a richly resourced tech behemoth (Apple).

The good news for anyone bullish on Pandora is that the company regained most of the active listeners that it lost in October. Brian McAndrews, CEO, attributed the October dip to iTunes Radio tire-kicking in a recent earnings call, and he predicted the number would recover in November. The McAndrews Stabilization Theory seems to be proved out in today’s report. November ended with 72.4-million active listeners, up from 70.9-million in October, and compared to 72.7-million in September.

“Bullish” is the right word, as a quick look at Wall Street shows P stock apparently responding to the report with a sharp 5% gain at mid-day.

The obvious near-term conclusion within the Apple-vs.-Pandora framework, is that iTunes Radio is not the Pandora-killer that many predicted. Of course, competitive standings can change in the longer term.

Pandora’s listener hours increased slightly from October’s 1.47-billion to 1.49-billion in November. (Up from 1.36-billion in September.)

The controversial “Share of total U.S.radio listening” metric showed continued penetration growth. November’s share was 8.44 percent of total listening, up from 8.06% in October and 7.77% in September. That proprietary measurement has weathered criticism from radio groups which claim it should be cut roughly in half. (As Jennifer Lane points out, that would still be a huge share.) There is no integrated measurement system that includes Pandora listening with broadcast listening. In the recent earnings call, McAndrews wished for that situation to change, and stated that Nielsen Audio (formerly Arbitron) wished for an integrated solution also. 

Brad Hill
December 4, 2013 - 11:00am

But probably not for long. Keep in mind that everything written about YouTube’s entry into the subscription-music market is rumor, based on undisclosed sources. The latest twist: AllThingsD reports the rumored service will not meet its rumored launch timeframe (end of year), but is rumored to be planning a 2014 debut.

Despite the Big Question surrounding this speculation, we believe that Google will indeed put YouTube into play against Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, and other online jukebox platforms. What is the Big Question? This: Where is the added value to justify a subscription? YouTube is already the dominant listening service for teens, absolutely free of charge, easily shareable, robustly social, astonishing in scope, and rapidly expanding every day. 

But despite the odd fact that YouTube is already in the market, and dominating portions of it, Google probably perceives a business imperative to formalize the service and capture some portion of its roughly one-billion users as paying customers.

According to AllThingsD sources, the delay (in a timeline not acknowledged by the company) is due to product development complications, and not due to content licensing complications. Google already has relationships with music owners on both the YouTube and All Access sides of its music business. 

Brad Hill
December 4, 2013 - 11:00am

After months of leaks, the outlook for Beats Music is suddenly more specific and official. The service will debut in January, as announced by CEO Ian Rogers in his blog.

“We’re nearly ready for liftoff. Thanks to your diligent testing and feedback we are locked and loaded, ready to launch here in the US in January, 2014.” 

The service is accepting name claims, so let the name-grab begin. Go here to register early with a preferred user name. 

Brad Hill
December 4, 2013 - 11:00am

In what is widely interpreted a patent trolling, some radio broadcasters using HD digital transmission technology (HD Radio) alongside their analog signals are being sued by Delaware Radio Technologies and Wyncomm LLC for patent infringement. The spate of lawsuits has recently expanded to auto companies which build HD radios into their cars.

The lawsuit targets on the radio side are reportedly large broadcasters, lending credence to the trolling theory, as that strategy often aims for a deep-pocketed settlement. HD Radio technology developer iBiquity is not named in the filings. 

RAIN spoke to iBiquity CEO Bob Struble, who cited company policy against commenting on litigation matters, but offered: “We are aware of [the lawsuits] and are working closely with broadcasters and automakers on them.”

Brad Hill
December 4, 2013 - 11:00am

The Save Winamp alliance and Change.org are plugging away at AOL, which announced the sunsetting of Winamp and ShoutCast as ongoing products, as of December 20. (See RAIN coverage here.) Yesterday in RAIN, Jennifer Lane commented that the Winamp closure was inevitable. But thousands of Change.org petitioners want Winamp to continue, either as an open-source project or with a new corporate owner (rumored to be Microsoft).

In its latest gambit, Change.org has composed an open letter to AOL, formally addressed to CEO Tim Armstrong. (The letter would be better targeted to Jay Kirsch, head of AOL’s media and service brands.) The letter argues Winamp’s value to its many diehard users, and pleads for continued life by one route or the other. Interestingly, the letter cites radio stations which use Winamp for their music automation. The open letter is supported by a 40,000-signature petition

If you’re not a Winamp user, you might wonder why there’s so much fuss. Here in the RAIN editorial office, Winamp has been installed in all computers since version 1.0 came out 15 years ago. While we can relate to the sad sentiment surrounding Winamp’s demise, we also observe its increasing obsolescence as a music-playing interface. As ownership gives way to access, and local storage yields to cloud storage, Winamp fades in the shadow of music services like Rhapsody and Spotify

Winamp remains a stalwart production assistant not only for some radio stations, but for file conversion tasks -- Winamp was demonized in its early days for the facility with which it rips and burns audio tracks. But for the new generation of always-on mobile listeners, ripping and burning are quaint artifacts of a previous era.