Pandora: online radio that almost wasn’t
Pandora is a no-brainer to me. It’s an online radio that recommends songs based on characteristics categorized by the Music Genome Project. So you can create a Miley Cyrus radio station that will play songs with musical attributes similar to “Party in the U.S.A.” So you can create stations built around an artist, a song, a genre — whatever you happen to like. Pandora streams the appropriate songs to users via the internet.
Yesterday, the New York Times published an article suggesting that maybe Pandora wasn’t such a no brainer from the start. Started during the tech boom, Pandora almost went bust as the bubble popped. However, after many years, Pandora finally got the marketing right.
Interestingly, Pandora was never short of users, it just could not find a way to monetize the service (isn’t that always the issue). They managed to sell a couple ads and things climbed from there. Recently, Pandora has partnered with Amazon and iTunes for the selling of songs and with Ford to include Pandora in their cars.
Read the article for more details, but what I find interesting here is the story of fervent users and marketing.
In 2007, Pandora almost shut its doors as radio stations had to start paying fees for playing songs — something Pandora could not survive. Instead, its users wrote into their representatives. The experience of Pandora was more than just music — it seems that the users felt as though they were a part of the Music Genome Project themselves (a part of scientific research to determine the DNA of Rock and Roll?).
Also, there are several alternative online radio options, a few that even allow the user to requestion specific songs and that have larger libraries of music. However, Pandora still retains more users. Could this be because we are like trained dogs, stuck in our ways? Or simiar to how users wrote into their representatives to save Pandora’s viability, does Pandora engage users through a cause?
Whatever it may be, I am glad Pandora didn’t fall away like the scores of other internet start ups. It was the first application I downloaded on my Blackberry and could not be more useful and convenient in everyday life. Its story is similar to many other tech start ups, but its survival seems to have rested on marketing.