Pandora is a $5-billion company

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - 12:40pm

Publicly traded Internet radio service Pandora will report 3rd-quarter earnings next Thursday, November 21. But the company and its stock are benefiting from analyst anticipation of quarterly results. Investment house Needham & Company raised its target stock price for P from $25 to $33, which was certainly a driver of yesterday’s four-percent trading jump, with more gains in progress today.

We don’t normally report on daily stock movements, but this spike represents a milestone of market capitalization. Pandora is now valued at just over five-billion dollars in the public market for the first time, as it trades into all-time highs.

An article in the December 2 issues of Forbes notes that mobile ad sales of more than $100-million for the third quarter makes Pandora third in mobile ad revenue behind Google and Facebook. 

Google Glass eases into mobile music

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 12:45pm

Google’s wearable Glass product, which clamps onto the user’s face like glasses and provides on-command field-of-vision computing, is reportedly stepping into music in a few ways.

First, predictably, Glass will interact with the Google Play Music service, enabling song, album, and playlist listening through voice command. This function is available now via a “sideloading” procedure which requires using Android Developer Tools -- beyond the ken of most users, but a clear indicator that the feature will get baked into Glass soon.

Glass would need some way to get the audio into the user’s ear, and USA Today reports that Google has designed ear buds for Glass.

In a related Glass update, Google has introduced sound search -- a feature wherein the user asks the device what music is playing within earshot, and the song is identified. That sort of music recognition intelligence is not new, Shazam being the most prominent application.

The mobile music trend is pointing toward moving its controls off the smartphone, onto smaller and more wearable devices. Directionally, this trend matches the thrust of streaming music services, which seek to deliver highly customized audio untethered from the geographic restriction of radio and the desktop restriction of traditional computing.

Smartwatches represent one product manifestation of the trend. The recently released Samsung Gear smartwatch is a wrist-worn controller for some Samsung Galaxy smartphones. The usage theory driving this sort of product is that the phone, pocketable though it be, is too clunky a device for easy music management on the go. (And management of some other smartphone functions.) Putting music control on the wrist is certainly convenient, and harkens back to strap-on MP3 players of several years ago.

Glass is the most high-profile example of a wearable computing device. The proximity of the thing to the user’s ears, and its native voice control, makes it natural as a music player. It doesn’t hurt that Glass is sitting right on the user’s ears, too.

Where does radio fit in? If our music systems will eventually move right onto our bodily accessories, radio should focus on distributing there as importantly as distributing into the car. The integration might happen most felicitously via aggregating apps like iHeartRadio, but we can also imagine AM/FM receiver technology adapting to Glass and other devices that will inevitably come to market, much as NextRadio is pushing enhanced radio into smartphones.

By the way, the next step in the mobile product evolution would be embeddable devices, in which our bodies become the devices. The “yuck factor” might make that scenario unimaginable … but technology does march on. What stream (or frequency) are you tuned to?

Pew Internet surveys music listening on cell phones

Friday, October 18, 2013 - 10:25am

The Pew Research Center has added a survey category to its ongoing study of how Americans use their connected phones. Adding to historical behaviors such as texting, emailing, browsing, downloading apps, and getting directions, listening to music is a component of Pew’s latest report.

The headline statistic is this: 48 percent of all cell phone owners listen to music on their phones. The sample size was 2,076.

Men tend toward listening more than women, 51 percent to 45 percent. Phone listening is a youth activity predominantly, with 80 percent of positive responses falling in the 18-29 year-old population. Generally, more education transfers to more listening. Likewise with more money: households with incomes above $75,000 contained 58 percent of positive responses. Urban listeners outnumber suburban listeners, which in turn use cell phone for music more than rural residents.

The survey was conducted in April and May of this year.

Pandora to lift 40 hr/month cap on free mobile listening

Friday, August 23, 2013 - 2:25pm

Pandora will lift the 40-hour/month limit on ad-supported mobile listening, it announced yesterday, but also limit the number of songs these users can skip, as a way to manage royalty costs.

These announcements came along with the company's second quarter earnings and usage reports (see today's top story here).

Since March, Pandora has limited listeners of its free streaming service to 40 hours per month on mobile (listeners could purchase additional listening for the month). Beginning in September, that limit will lifted. Paraphrasing CFO Michael Herring from the earnings call, CNet reports Pandora will use "tools like skip limits and other measures" to "manage Pandora listening patterns much more closely than the 'blunt tool' of a cap did." Those other tools include "a newly announced 'sleep timer,'" says The Wall Street Journal, "that users can program to freeze the service after they fall asleep."

Tom Taylor reports you can also expect more ads on the Pandora free service. Limited to between 3 and 4 per hour in the past, Pandora plans to go up to 5 commercial units (perhaps as much as 3 minutes of commercials) per hour, with some "stop sets" including more than one spot back to back.

One last interesting note from Tom's coverage: Pandora announced it paid $8 million to Yahoo for patents related to the now-defunct Launch Media service, which should help protect it in potential intellectual property disputes.

Read more from Pandora here, from CNet here, from The Wall Street Journal here, and once again, Tom Taylor Now here.

NextRadio-equipped Sprint phones hit stores Friday

Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 11:20am

Sprint's new HTC One comes preloaded with NextRadio, the Emmis-developed app that tunes in radio via FM. The new phone will be available Friday, accordint to GigaOm.

NextRadio uses the phone's FM receiver chip to tune in local FM radio (not streaming data) -- which is far more power- and data-efficient.

The app does use some data, however, as it displays a "now playing" visual, allows listeners to browse artist and album info, purchase music, and share song links.

Sprint HTC One owners can also download the app free from Google Play (it'll also work on the HTC EVO 4G LTE). Sprint reportedly will make the app available on other devices in the future.

Read more in GigaOm here.


More data shows Net radio's growth as a mobile medium

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 12:50pm

This year almost half of all "digital radio" (pureplay webcasters, broadcast simulcasts, and podcasts) listeners will likely use their mobile phones to tune in at some point, according to eMarketer.

The research site has posted new data on the use of mobile phones and music listening. Included in its coverage is a focus on "digital radio" and mobile devices. It estimates that 147 million Internet users will listen to webcasts and podcasts "at least monthly" in 2013 -- roughly six in 10 of all Internet users. Next year, that number should be close to half of the overall population, says eMarketer.

When listening to music downloaded directly to a phone is included, more than 20% of Americans (over 70 million) will have listened on their phones this year. Finally, more than 99% of those who listen on their phone are smartphone owners.

Read more in eMarketer here.

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