programmatic ad buying

Pandora CFO on ratings, ad sales, and subscriptions

Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 12:10pm

Pandora CFO Mike Herring addressed the Credit Suisse 2013 Technology Conference this week. The format was a moderated Q&A session. We pulled out three subjects within which Herring’s responses were of particular interest: ratings measurement, how Pandora sells ads, and its hybrid subscription/advertising revenue model.

On the subject of ratings, Herring pushed Pandora’s agenda of inclusion in traditional radio measurements developed by Arbitron (now Nielsen Audio). His talking points echoed what CEO Brian McAndrews said in Pandora’s recent quarterly earning teleconference, and we expect the company to continue hammering away on this issue. Currently Pandora releases a proprietary “share of total U.S. listening” metric every month, a number that disputed by some broadcast executives.

HERRING: “You mentioned Arbitron, they currently don’t measure streaming services like Pandora. Now that they’ve been acquired by Nielsen, conversations are ongoing. We’re optimistic that they’ll embrace the future [by] allowing us to be measured alongside broadcast radio. That’s what we’ve always wanted. Our release of monthly metrics are really about trying to put a stake in the ground about how we’re measured, how we stand up next to the competitors we have in the market for advertising dollars. We’d love to have that measure, [to be put] side by side within the Arbitron system.” 

Herring addressed a question about the rise of programmatic ad-buying, and how Pandora’s large-scale build-out of a sales network fits into the automation trend. Herring’s answer acknowledged the importance of both sides, and defends the future of personal selling.

HERRING: “So, you really have to think about it in two buckets. So, the audio side of the business or the broadcast side -- $15 billion in radio is really a consultative sale. You are [personally] pitching buyers on the value of your audience I don’t see that becoming an automated platform soon.” “We hear a lot about programmatic buying [...] on the digital side of things. And Pandora is going to be right alongside the leaders in that space in developing capabilities there. But on the audio side there will always be a feet on the street. You are out pitching agencies [which is] why we put people in 29 local markets last year to really pitch local radio advertisers.”

Herring addressed paid music and free music. When there is a steady focus on the subscriber number -- how many Pandora listeners pay a monthly fee to remove advertising -- analysts often must be reminded how Pandora prioritizes and balances the two sides of its business. In his reply, Herring valued subscriptions, but emphasized the advertising side of the revenue equation.

“[We] got to 3.18 million subscribers at the end of the last quarter. It’s a great business [which is] 20% of revenue. But at Pandora we fundamentally believe the big opportunity is not the 20% of people in the United States that are willing to pay for music. And there are a lot of streaming services that are fighting to get a piece of that market. We have a piece of it as an adjunct to our free business. We also have 67-69 million people who have grown up believing that music listening should be a free experience. They’re willing to listen to advertising associated with that. We think that’s a much bigger addressable market and that’s why we focus so much time on that. The subscription business will always be an important part of our business but not the main growth driver long term.”

Streaming audio ad platforms will drive revenue up

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - 9:55am

This guest column is by Jennifer Lane, CEO of RAIN Enterprises. It first appeared in Audio4cast.

Programmatic buying will capture nearly 20% of the display ad spend this year, according to eMarketer, and that’s a number that is growing more quickly than anticipated. In general, display advertising is growing more quickly, thanks to increased demand for mobile ads. Advertisers are becoming more adept at using real time buying systems, attracted to the cost effectiveness and increased targeting capabilities. Meanwhile, as mobile usage continues to expand, publishers are releasing more inventory to the programmatic buying platforms. More buyers, more inventory, more revenue. 

Meanwhile Triton Digital continues to announce enhancements to their programmatic exchange for streaming audio advertising, a2x. They recently announced a partnership with Lotame to integrate its unifying data management platform (DMP) into a2x, enabling a2x publishers such as Entercom, CBS, and Univision to to collect, understand and activate audience data from any source, including online, offline and mobile.

Essentially, Triton’s a2x platform is enabling publishers to transform their largely unidentifyable inventory and transform it into units that can be targeted and sold as targetable inventory in a real time buying platform. As advertisers and their agencies become more and more interested in platforms that offer greater flexibility in targeting and real time pricing, publishers are wise to have these options in their arsenal. However, as AdAge was quick to note in this article, it’s also smart business to complement this selling strategy with one that offers custom and sponsored ads that net a higher rate.

Last week CBS Radio introduced Audio Ad Center, a self-serve platform that enables small businesses to promote and target their products and services to their online and mobile radio listeners with customized messaging and creative copy. Small business owners can visit the website to purchase ads to run on any of the online CBS Radio stations. ”Streaming audio is a very effective form of advertising and does not have to be limited to the companies with the biggest budgets,” CBS Local Media president Ezra Kucharz added. “With AUDIO ADCENTER, business owners can align themselves with the most trusted radio brands with millions of listeners between them to choose from.”

Innovative online platforms that enable advertisers to easily purchase, track and manage their ad inventory. These are the components that will drive more revenue to streaming audio platforms.

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