A Story

Internet listening flat in September; year-over-year growth

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - 11:50am

Triton Digital released its Webcast Metrics Top 20 Ranker for September yesterday, revealing that Internet listening among Triton's top-20 clients was sequentially flat from August. (iTunes Radio, which began operating during September, has not been announced as a Triton client.) Looking at Average Active Sessions (AAS) as the guiding metric, we see a statistical dead heat in cumulative listening to the top-20 list.

Within the ranking, the best nominal month-over-month success belonged to market leader Pandora, which gained nearly 24,000 average active sessions. In percentage terms the monthly top-gainer wasESPN Radio, which grew active sessions 110 percent. The largest August-to-September percentage drop-off is attributed to New York Public Radio (September tracked at 84% of August).

The long-term historical trend of the top five leaders (see chart below) shows Pandora’s dramatic climb over the past four years. That trendline also illustrates summertime dips in listening that occurred in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Year-over-year, we see 19% growth in cumulative listening, gauged by Average Active Sessions. Both NPR (133%) and Univision (104%) more than doubled listening from September 2012. Pandora showed an 18-percent improvement from September 2012, by adding 232,000 sessions. Most of the other top-20 participants experienced year-over-year gains, but Cox and New York Public Radio each dropped in listening by single percentage points.

The following chart illustrates cumulative year-over-year listening growth, with the top five leaders called out.

Here is the Top 20 domestic list from Triton Digital, organized by Average Active Sessions, Domestic streams from 6:00am to midnight.

Domestic market leader Pandora does not appear in the international All Streams Ranker. At the top of that cohort is Clear Channel, which dropped six percent month-over-month, with AAS reducing by 14,630 sessions:

YouTube continues search for new music identity with awards show

Monday, November 4, 2013 - 1:10pm

The YouTube Music Awards played last night with an anti-TV programming sensibility, to a small anti-TV audience. A reported peak concurrent audience of 220,000 individuals streamed the event. Total viewership finalized to 873,000 people, according to the live page. The thumbs up/down voting system registered 79 percent positive response.

The live audience represented less than one tenth of one percent of YouTube’s claimed 1-billion users.

YouTube is authoritatively rumored to be ramping up a music service that would formalize the platform’s unofficial status as the most-used online listening platform. Hosting a music awards spectacle makes sense in the double context of a music streaming site, and a social network. The relative lack of interest among users might reflect the futility of emulating old-media formats in new-media services. Despite the implications of YouTube’s name (a new kind of television “tube”), the platform’s core competency is facilitating and organizing user-uploaded content, not imitating TV shows.

Questions about the purported music service loom, the largest being how Google will add value to a platform which already has immense value built into it. (See RAIN’s analysis here.) YouTube’s runaway success has perhaps sent it running in directions unforeseen when Google acquired the thing in 2006. If the Music Awards show was a fun stab in the dark, well and good. But as a test of making YouTube something it is essentially not, the YouTube Music Awards didn’t seem to work. 

Spotify enables clip sharing via Tango Messenger

Sunday, November 3, 2013 - 11:35am

Spotify, which arguably has the most vigorous social environment of the interactive music services, is pushing social sharing outside of its apps, via a new partnership with Tango Messenger.

Tango is a stand-alone message, game and communications service. Members can interact with texts, lightweight games, animations, and now 30-second music clips supplied by Spotify. The business play is to hook new users into the Spotify music-and-app ecosystem. To hear the full track of a clip, Tango throws the user into the Spotify app -- which of course must be downloaded if the user doesn’t already have it.

A quick test of the latest Tango update in Android revealed the music-sharing piece in place and functioning perfectly.

Tango is a four-year-old company with current funding of $85-million. The service has 150-million registered users as of September, and a reported 60-million active monthly users. Spotify has 24-million global actives and six-million paid subscribers.

Pandora releases Android tablet app

Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 12:30pm

Pandora is making some fanfare over the release of a new Android tablet app, which re-packages Android version 5 for the bigger screen. Version 5 exists for Android phone and Apple phones, with the same essential features as the tablet version, but in a compressed form.

We like music services in tablets -- Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify, iHeart, and many others get lots of tablet time in the RAIN editorial office. We’re not sanguine about the mainstream future of mobile listening on tablets, especially in the car where the convenience of smartphones rules the cockpit. But tablets give app developers enough room to create multiple overlying swipe screens, which comprise the great navigation advantage of larger devices.

The release gives Pandora an opportunity to brag about version-5 features:

  • Informational artist pages with Music Genome characteristics. Those Genome aspects, while just a fraction of a complex music analysis, give an indication of why Pandora selected the music for you to hear.
  • A timeline profile which tracks your actions in the app -- e.g. thumbing up and down, creating new stations, and social actions. We especially love the ability to leave a comment on one’s own feed, to been by all followers.
  • A social feed, similar to spotify’s which reveals what your Pandora friends are listening to.

We notice that although Pandora displays album art of tracks previously played by the current station, you cannot backskip to those tracks, as you can do in the new Rhapsody Android app. (See the RAIN review here.)

Pandora makes a beautifully designed product in our view. The web app has been elegant for years, undimmed through many revisions. Synchronization across all devices works nicely, and the version-5 features are implemented everywhere. We do note that a heavy visual ad load plagues reduces the pleasure of phone access, where the small screen doesn’t give ads any room for discrete placement (and perhaps encourages subscribing to the ad-free version).

TuneIn reaches milestone: 100,000 radio stations

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - 12:10pm

Aggregation platform TuneIn announced today that its portfolio of streaming radio stations has reached 100,000 -- “the most radio stations ever in one place,” according to the press release.

TuneIn is taking the long-tail approach to radio stations, adding broadcasts of German soccer leagues and a wide spectrum of international broadcasters. The service is not afraid of innovative programming, recently getting attention for setting up a 24-hour This American Life stream, featuring a non-interactive flow from that public radio show’s 18-year archive.

TuneIn currently reports a user base of 40-million active listeners, and distributes its brand to 50 automobile models for in-car listening. It might not be natural to think of TuneIn as fitting into the streaming music competition, but for all the talk about Apples’ 20-million listeners, and Pandora’s 73-million actives, TuneIn’s high-profile position as a radio and progamming aggregator is grabbing share and reach.

Survey and Interview: iTunes Radio little threat to Pandora

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 12:25pm

Investment firm Canaccord Genuity surveyed Pandora users who have tried iTunes Radio, to get a picture of its existential threat to Pandora. The survey’s headline indicates a limited downside to Pandora: “92% of iTunes Radio Listeners Still Use Pandora.” RAIN spoke with Michael Graham, author of the research note, to flesh out the survey’s conclusions.

It is important to note that the survey and its report are part of a “Buy” recommendation for Pandora stock, to the company’s investment clients. We asked Graham about the integrity of the research.

“We commissioned this survey from an outside party,” Graham told RAIN. “We had no influence over the who the respondents were. We presented the data as we got it. Obviously there are different ways to interpret it. But the data that we’re showing is raw.”

While the context gives this survey an agenda (Graham: “We’re bullish on Pandora”), it presents an interesting antidote to the fuzzy media math surrounding the iTunes Radio-vs.-Pandora comparison of audience metrics reported by the two companies. (See RAIN coverage here.) Apple recently announced 20-million unique users have listened to iTunes Radio, while Pandora cited 72.7-million active listeners were engaged with Pandora in September.

The research also peers below the pure number of listeners in each service, to discern the reaction and intent of those listeners when evaluating the two competing music platforms. Following are excerpts of our conversation with Michael Graham. 

RAIN: What was the purpose of the project, and the sample size?

MG: We surveyed 860 users, all “iDevice” [Apple] users. We asked them a few qualifying questions: First, are you an active Pandora listener? Second, are you using iOS 7? Third, have you tried iTunes Radio? We then asked them a few questions to compare and contrast the two services, and what their intentions were for future listening.

The purpose was to understand better how competitive the landscape is becoming. We’re bullish on Pandora stock. We’ve tried iTunes Radio extensively, and found it to have good and bad points. We wanted to see what consumers at large think of it. In the short term, we wanted to gauge what the impact would be of Pandora’s October audience metrics.

RAIN: What are the key takeaways?

MG: Number one, 92 percent of those who tried iTunes Radio indicated that they have gone back to using Pandora at least a little bit. Sixty-six percent indicated that they resumed using Pandora as much, or more, than before using iTunes Radio. About 40 percent said they are using Pandora more than iTunes Radio. This is significant. It means that a very small portion will listen to iTunes Radio and never listen to Pandora again. The others will probably fire up their Pandora account in October. So, short-term, we don’t think the October listener metrics [for Pandora] are going to suffer much.

Longer term, I think the implication is that there will be a lot of people using both services. If we roll forward the math behind all this, the eight percent portion of the addressable market that iTunes Radio can go after (not Android, Windows PC), we come to about one percent of the Pandora listener base that is at heavy-duty risk of leaving, and going to iTunes Radio. That’s a much smaller number than most people are scared of.

RAIN: Do the data indicate whether iTunes Radio is expanding the market for streaming listening, or merely is dividing the existing pie differently?

MG: We didn’t explicitly ask that. As a matter of fact -- our survey only questioned Pandora listeners, so we only determined whether iTunes Radio was dividing the market or not. My hunch is that it is expanding the market, and a big chunk of those 20-million [Apple-reported unique listeners] is incremental.

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