8/16/13: That's not repetition, Pandora listeners, it's science

Paul Maloney
August 16, 2013 - 12:15pm

Fast Company Labs has a fascinating article that reveals the extent to which Pandora experiments and researches how its audience reacts to different variables in the way it creates its playlists -- with the aim of increasing the rate at which users return to the service.

[By the way, if this sort of thing interests you, please our coverage of Rhapsody VP of product-content Jon Maples' on the importance of music curation here.]

We really want to encourage you to read the entire piece, but we've pulled out some bits we found particularly fascinating.

According to the article, by John Paul Titlow, Pandora's data scientists regularly divide and subdivide its audience into test groups, then continually tweak how music is delivered to listeners. For instance, they might vary how often songs are repeated, or the ratio of very familiar tunes to new music. Perhaps they'll vary the concentration of artists that are "local" to a listener, or how many "live" or "acoustic" versions of songs a listeners hears. They even monitor how listeners react to music given their geographical location, or the time of day.

Pandora has run thousands of these tests over the years, some months-long, some taking just a few weeks. And they've apparently resulted in some very interesting insights. For example, the webcaster has found that listeners are less tolerant of unfamiliar music while they're at work. So the webcaster has adjusted for this, and now your personal Pandora channel may seem more familiar between 9 and 5, and a little edgier at night or on the weekend.

Or, fans of instrumental music (like most Classical and Jazz) are generally more receptive to new music discovery -- fans of vocal pop music, the opposite. Titlow writes, "The distinction is so pronounced that stations based on instrumental hip-hop will yield more serendipitous moments of discovery than those based on lyric-heavy rap tracks."

Pandora has even tracked how the same listeners may interact with the music differently based on which type of device they're using at the time -- on the web, or a mobile phone, or a Blu-ray player in a home theater.

While much has been made about the origins of Pandora's Music Genome Project -- hundreds of trained music expers dissecting each track and scoring it on dozens of characterists -- it's user data (skips, "thumbs up/down," etc.) that are training the system now. In fact, Pandora listeners create data far faster than its staff of human experts can. And to be able to more quickly ingest new music, Pandora has developed its own "machine listening technology." It merges the computer analysis of music with input from human experts "to create a deeper understanding of the music its service spins."

The article ends with a short bit about applying this intelligence to the dynamics of group listening, and how new technology could enable that. Again, we'd like to encourage you to check out the article here.

Paul Maloney
August 16, 2013 - 12:15pm

As a way to explore some novel online radio revenue methods beyond the typcial CPM campaign, RAIN Summit Orlando will present the "Alternative Revenue Strategies" panel. On the panel to discuss topics like performance-based and direct response campaigns, ad exchanges, and "daily deals" will be Dial Global's Matt Cutair, Univision's Ted Gurley, and Pandora's Dan Weiner.

Dial Global VP of digital operations and sales Matt Cutair (upper right) is responsible for overseeing all digital advertising sales and operations. He's based in New York, and his experience includes a stint with Pandora. He began his radio career as a producer and on-air talent at CBS Radio's WJKF-AM.

VP of digital sales for Univision Radio U.S. and Puerto Rico, Ted Gurley (left) is a former Katz Media Group VP/GM, with experience in broadcast- and cable-television. He's co-author of one of the first books about digital media and the entertainment and music industry, called Plug-In: The Guide to Music and the Net.

Western region VP of sales for Pandora is Dan Weiner (lower right). He's based in Los Angeles, where he was regional VP for the Fox Audience Network, and station and market manager for CBS Radio and Clear Channel.

Alternative Revenue Strategies is just one of five informative discussion panels RAIN Summit Orlando will present. Entercom Communications president and CEO David Field will give the keynote address, and GroupM Next executives will present their research on streaming audio and advertising. RAIN publisher Kurt Hanson will make his "State of the Industry" address, and the day will conclude with the presentation of the RAIN Internet Radio Awards and the RAIN Reader cocktail party.

Get the latest information on the Summit here, and register for RAIN Summit Orlando here. Since the Summit is an Official Partner Event to The Radio Show produced by the NAB and RAB, there's a special two-for-one discount for those attending both events. Simply select the "Radio Show + RAIN Summit" package when you register for the Radio Show.

Paul Maloney
August 16, 2013 - 12:15pm

Toyota will offer a touchscreen in-dash audio entertainment system standard across its entire Scion line, making it the first carmaker to do so.

The standard Scion set-up includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen, HD Radio, CD player, and an auxiliary input to feed audio from a mobile device. Throw in an extra twelve-hundred bucks, and you get the Scion BeSpoke Premium Audio system, powered by Harman’s Aha Radio dashboard platform with access to 30-thousand free streaming radio stations (including AccuRadio).

Read Inside Radio's coverage here, or AutoBlog here.

Paul Maloney
August 16, 2013 - 12:15pm

Got a minute? Check out One Minute Radio.

MusicMachinery.com reports it's an experimental, multi-genre online radio app (based on The Echo Nest data) which exclusively plays tracks clocking in at under sixty seconds.

"Now I can’t testify that you’ll always get a great sounding playlist – you’ll hear intros, false starts and novelty songs throughout, but it is certainly interesting," says MusicMachinery.

If nothing else, One Minute Radio is likely playing "more songs per hour" than the competition. The MusicMachinery blog piece is here, and One Minute Radio is here.

By the way, The Echo Nest CEO Jim Lucchese will moderate the "Streaming Music Trends" panel September 17 at RAIN Summit Orlando. More details are here.