Pandora addresses growing competition and need to bump mobile ad revs with comprehensive app redesign

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 10:00am

Leading webcaster Pandora late yesterday announced the relaunch of its mobile apps for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch (but reportedly not the iPad) and Google Android smartphones. The company says its "Pandora 4.0" is the most significant and comprehensive redesign of the applications since their first launch on the mobile platforms.

Undoubtedly, with the majority of Pandora's listening now coming from mobile devices, the company sees the need to both (a) offer mobile users the full functionality of the service, and (b) monetize mobile listening at a rate in line with web listening.

San Jose Mercury News tech blog describes the redesign as "essentially bringing the features of its website to users of its apps." The blog suggests Pandora's need to ramp up mobile advertising dollars was a main force behind the redesign.

For the launch Pandora has brought on four major advertisers as sponsors of "tips and information" inside the redesigned apps: McDonald's, Nike, Sony Pictures, and State Farm. reports that these sponsors will launch mobile ad campaigns to appear in the apps' new social features in the coming weeks.

Interestingly, TechCrunch characterizes the app redesign more as a "competitive" move, with a view of quickly "locking in" listeners as Spotify gains visibility in the U.S., and with a possible Apple entrance into the Internet radio market.

Over 75% of Pandora's 3.3 billion listening hours in the quarter ending July came from mobile -- nearly double the amount from a year earlier. Pandora says more than 115 million of its 175 million registered users have listened on a smartphone, and that "over 1 in 3 smartphone users in the U.S. have listened to Pandora in the past month." Pandora will further increase its mobile footprint next year when Microsoft makes the service available on the new Windows Phone 8, with one year of ad-free use.

Pandora's mobile ad revenues aren't dismal, by any means. Over half (55%) of its ad income now comes from mobile. "That worked out to $100 million in 2012, putting it second to Google in terms of mobile ads," writes TechCrunch. writes, "revenue from mobile ads was up 86% at $59 million in the last quarter."

But by enhancing the usability of the app, and increasing the value of interacting with it, it's clear that the value of any advertising that accompanies it is also increased.

App users will get access to many features of Pandora's website for the first time. Pandora's page described the new apps reveals they've simplified the navigation and controls for listeners.

A favorite on the web, dedicated artist pages, are now available via mobile. Listeners can now see their own personal music profile, with a detailed timeline of their listening (stations created, bookmarked tracks, ratings history), and they can share that profile via social media, or keep it private.

Taking a cue from the Facebook timeline, the "music activity feed" is now part of the app as well. Listeners can find and follow their friends and see what music they're enjoying, or explore similar listeners' play history. And the apps offer "instant sharing:" for the first time on mobile devices Pandora listeners can share links to their favorite stations and tracks on Facebook, Twitter, or among their Pandora friends.

The Pandora 4.0 app for iOS is available in Apple's AppStore now. The app for Android smartphones will be available from Google in the next few weeks.

See the new app enhancements here. Read CTO Tom Conrad's comments in the Pandora blog here. Pandora's press release is here. Read more from here and TechCrunch here. Read more on Pandora on Windows Phone 8 here.

UK RadioPlayer releases mobile app for Apple devices

Monday, October 8, 2012 - 11:25am

RadioPlayer, the online radio platform that aggregates more than 300 UK commercial and BBC stations, has launched its app for the Apple iPhone and iPad.

"Our aim was to create a simple app that showcases the amazing variety of UK radio," said Michael Hill, Managing Director of RadioPlayer. "The fact we’ve built one that’s also beautiful, innovative, and a joy to use, is testament to the power of partnerships." Hill spoke at both our recent RAIN Summit Dallas (here) and at Friday's RAIN Summit Europe in Berlin.

RadioPlayer, which launched in March of last year, reportedly attracts seven million unique listeners a month. The group says an app for Android phones is in the works.

Read more in TheNextWeb here.

Xbox Music service to go public this month

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 6:45pm

Microsoft has set October 26th as the day it will roll out the new Xbox Music service (announced in RAIN here) to Windows Phone, Windows 8, and the Xbox 360 (Windows 8 OS is scheduled to launch that day as well).

Microsoft reportedly plans to offer Xbox Music across other platforms, like iOS (Apple) and Android.

As we've reported, the service will include both ad-supported streams and a subscription access. Integration with Microsoft's SkyDrive will enable customers to keep music and playlists in the cloud.

Read more from The Verge here.

Apple reportedly negotiating with labels to stream with fewer restrictions on interactivity and content

Friday, September 7, 2012 - 1:05pm

"In a move that could shake up the growing field of Internet radio," writes The New York Times, "Apple plans to develop a service that would compete with Pandora Media by sending streams of music customized to users’ tastes," news broke late yesterday.

The Wall Street Journal wrote, "Such services create virtual 'stations' that play music similar to a song or artist of the user's choosing, either on Web browsers or smartphone apps. Like traditional radio, they are typically free for users, but incorporate advertisements."

Interestingly, Apple is reportedly negotiating with major labels regarding the service. Webcasters wanting to operate a non-interactive service don't need label agreements to stream -- as long as they adhere to DMCA rules (and pay royalties at the established rates), there's a statutory license available to them.

The fact that Apple is looking to forge deals with the labels indicates (and some sources have confirmed) they want to operate on terms other than the statutory -- in regards to the rates they pay, or the level of user-interactivity (on-demand song play, offline play, downloading, etc.), or content presentation (the DMCA limits the amount of music by a single artist a webcaster can stream in a given time frame, for instance).

Sources say the Apple service would likely be free to the user, and ad-supported. The service would like come preinstalled as an app on devices like iPhones and iPads, and might be able to connect to users’ iTunes accounts to collect usage info and better understand their tastes (both huge competitive advantages for Apple over services like Pandora). The service, reportedly, will not work on the Google Android mobile platform.

"Going head-to-head with Pandora pits Apple against one of the only other companies to gain real consumer traction in online music," writes The Journal. "According to a recent consumer survey by Nielsen Co., more adults said they use Pandora to listen to music than Apple's iTunes."

Read more from The New York Times here and The Wall Street Journal here, and look for more on this in RAIN.

Pandora, CBS Radio News issue major overhauls for their mobile apps

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 12:05pm

Pandora on AndroidApps from Pandora and CBS Radio News have received major upgrades.

Pandora has updated its Android app with many of the features already offered in its iPhone app (RAIN coverage here). That includes a completely refreshed design, song history, song lyrics, artist bios and much more. TechCrunch has more coverage here.

Meanwhile, CBS Radio News has issued a "major upgrade" for its iPhone app. The update includes "a new uninterrupted stream offering coverage of special events, speeches, and other news conferences, plus social media links and headlines from Twitter," reports AllAccess (here).


Spotify launches app for Kindle Fire, issues update to support upcoming iOS 6

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - 1:30pm

Kindle FireOn-demand music service Spotify has launched an app for Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet. It includes the service's free customizable streaming radio service (RAIN coverage here), as well as 320kbs listening. Engadget has more coverage here.

Spotify has also issued an update for its iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad apps with support for iOS 6. That's Apple's upcoming new operating system for iOS devices. The update also includes bugfixes and lets iPad users "see more stations," reports CNet (here).

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