We've spent considerable time talking about Pandora in this blog, and justifiably so. Over the past couple of years – especially accelerated by smartphones – Pandora has reached new peaks - now 80 million users. And they’re going for more.
As we have discussed, founder Tim Westergren has made it a point to make sure that his Internet radio station is everywhere. Many say that 2011 will be the year that Pandora goes public. Whether or not that happens, it is impossible to ignore the impact that Pandora is having – something that we’re also continuing to track in our Tech Surveys.
Some argue that Pandora has no discernable business model, or that commercials will kill it, or that Internet radio’s TSL is low, or other rationalizations. But however you think of Pandora, "Chairman" Westergren’s philosophy is noteworthy. His often doesn’t look at the world like radio broadcasters do.
And I will leave that to you to decide whether we’re missing something important here, regardless of Pandora’s financial model. Here are selected quotes from a recent Fast Company piece that focuses on Pandora, their approach to music, and pleasing their rapidly growing audience:
- “(Hiring music lovers) is the magic bullet for us. I can’t overstate it. It’s been the most important part of Pandora. It defines us in so many ways.”
- “We want Pandora to feel like it’s talking to you. We also literally talk to people. We have a team of people who are called listener advocates. Their job is just to respond personally to every single email, phone call, or letter we get. The identity of Pandora is forged through these collective interactions.”
- “The big arenas for us are the car, half of all radio listening happens in the car so it’s very important, and then there’s this ecosystem of connected devices with everything from blu-ray players and flat-screen TVs to refrigerators – Samsung just unveiled a refrigerator with Pandora. Virtually every piece of new (consumer electronic device) is Web-enabled and if it has audio or a speaker it could deliver Pandora. There are over 200 connected devices that can stream Pandora.”
- “The one thing that is shaking up the industry right now is personalization. It’s becoming more of a standard for consumers. I think that increasingly, people are expecting that they should be able to personalize their radio channels. That combined with the increasing number of distribution points is a very powerful combination.”
- “The general scaling of the Internet means that automation is tending to increase. As companies try to become more efficient, cut costs, do bigger things less expensively, automation is a common answer to that. And I think we’re going to continue to cut against the grain (by relying on people)…”
That’s something to think about the next time voicetracking is offered as a cost-savings solution. It is radio’s personality that makes its content proprietary and unique. And let's not forget customer service and focus on the listener.
Westergren gets that. He just doesn’t have the personalities, the DJs, the concierges, the guides - yet. At least for now, that’s still radio’s “secret sauce.”