Pandora is scrutinized for its usage metrics -- active listeners, listening hours, and share of market. Behind all that is the sales effort which funds the enterprise. 2013 has been a pivotal year in which Pandora built out a local sales network that resembles the revenue support systems of large media companies.
Steven Kritzman, SVP of Sales at Pandora, made that point to us in a conversation a few weeks ago. “Looking a couple of years down the road, our local/national advertising mix will look pretty similar to most major media companies.”
Pandora does not break out that mix, but the local effort is clearly outlined by the number of local sales offices and size of the local sales force. NetNewsCheck reported this week that Pandora now has 30 offices, doubling its local presence in 2013, and 250 sellers operating in city markets.
Kritzman sees the national/local balance as an equal-footed hybrid. “Both are important pieces of our business. With the scale we have now, north of 70-million people nationally every month, we are a national branding opportunity. It’s a huge piece of our business. In the last two years, our scale has gotten to a point at the local level where we are, from an audience perspective, as large as many of the biggest radio stations in any individual market. We’re getting as exciting responses locally as we did nationally.”
Pandora recently introduced audience segmentation that goes beyond location. Ad targeting that surpasses the capability of broadcast radio is a differentiator for Pandora that is certainly part of the local sales conversation. But Pandora is not alone among Internet audio companies in pushing that advantage. The Echo Nest, a music intelligence firm that provides user-intelligence technology to hundreds of competing music services, recently released its own audience segmentation product. TargetSpot, the largest digital audio advertising network, is The Echo Nest’s first partner and client. But Jim Lucchese recently told RAIN that he regards music services as highly qualified customers.
As Pandora continues to build its local sales network, the larger story is the gold rush for advertising dollars, national and local, across broadcast and online audio. On the Internet side, precise audience targeting is a reality that has been ignited in 2013, and will doubtless accelerate in 2014.