Pandora Goes With Old Intrusive Media Ads To Boost Their New Media Product

from the too-bad dept

The Technocrat writes in to let us know that Pandora, a music recommendation and listening service that is built on the Music Genome Project (classifying millions of songs to find similarities) has started streaming audio ads into their feeds. In the past, the company has simply placed ads on their website (as well as giving people options to buy the songs they're listening to). The Technocrat wonders why such a "new media" service would go with such an old media form of advertising. The founder of Pandora replied, saying that they're just experimenting, and they want to hear reader feedback. So, he put up another blog post with some ideas, and figured he'd try to get some more people thinking about it. It's not surprising that Pandora would try intrusive audio ads, as it's a model people know and understand, but it seems like a risky play. Especially for a new service trying to get off the ground and attract listeners, the last thing you want to do is turn them off -- and these days, intrusive, unwanted advertising is a good way to turn people off. It sounds like Pandora hasn't been able to really achieve enough in just pointing people to buy CDs, which isn't surprising. They recently released features to let people share their "stations" as well, and it would seem like their real opportunity may be in that realm. The ability to build up real communities around fans of a similar type or style of music has plenty of potential. After all, MySpace was originally supposed to be a service for building communities around bands, and that's worked out pretty well for them.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    misanthropic humanist, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 7:59pm


    "Intrusive" is the nub of this discussion for me. Assuming it's not placed within the song as a thinly disguised attempt to thwart recording and is actually between the songs, then how long is "intrusive"?

    Actually I can tell you, it's about six to eight seconds. There is a world of difference between a full length radio ad (approx 30s) and a "sting" or "byte" as they are called in the business which just hooks the listeners attention for long enough and then lets go. The shorter and more frequent stings have a much better impact than full adverts and most listeners don't percieve them as "intrusive".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Olivier, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 8:05pm

    Question is whether they can provide targeted and

    This move from Pandora seems to make a lot of sense for me.

    I don't agree that streaming audio ads is necessarily intrusive and goes against the concept of "new media". If they can use the metadata they collect to provide relevant targeted ads, they might be able to provide actually valuable content/information to the user.

    Isn't a certain level of intrusion necessary for any type of medium? To a certain extent, sponsored ads are somewhat intrusive, right? When I play Pandora, I don't watch their website and am not likely to buy CDs. But I pay attention to what I listen, so it seems obvious that it is where the ad should be...

    Now, if I can have one ad once in a while that is relevant for me, it will be such a revolution compared to the stupid irrelevant ads I used to be submitted to when I listened to the radio...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Evil_Bastard, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 8:08pm

    Bye Pandora

    Damn, I liked Pandora. I hate ads though, even if they are only 8 seconds long.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    The Technocrat, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 8:26pm

    examples abound of this concept

    While I agree that it is definitely possible to use "old" advertising methods in the new media, I feel this is artificially placing the required negative aspects of monetization on a media where it's not required.

    A simplified example of this can be seen in the domination of iTunes. By making it "grandma-easy" for iPod owners to get music on their iPods, Apple has boosted their revenue in both the hardware and music sales businesses to a height greater than the sum of these products individually.

    Apple could easily make a lot of money by selling ads with the music they sell on iTunes, but they don't. They instead choose to maintain and grow a great service, and take advantage of the efficiencies in their market to add value to ancillary products.

    Overall, I think a worthy goal for a new media company like Pandora is to identify the future market and application of online music early enough to be able to define it themselves, instead of taking a great implementation and trying to apply it to a solution that was the product of limitation.

    I'd like to state again that behind *, Pandora easily comes in second (sorry guys - at least techdirt is third!), and I have nothing but hope for them that they will find a way to completely dominate a self-defined market. I feel that all they have to do is choose to do so, and they will be well on their way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Rick, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 9:08pm

    Who didn't see this coming?

    I think most people who listen to Pandora aren't just sitting there watching their Pandora scroll along. They're surfing other sites or working around the house etc.; but not reading the ads.

    Pandora runs ads on their site presumably to help fund their operations. If I'm an advertiser, I'd sooner give Pandora my advertising dollars if I know my message will be reaching more people.

    I'm not sure I'd call these too intrusive either. As long as they come between songs and not, "We interrupt this song for an important message."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Mr Schotz, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 9:47pm

    I don't know what else Pandora can do..they have to make some money some how or they won't be able to do what they do

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Joe Schmoe, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 10:40pm

    Pandora is actually [so very] good, that I can't say I mind in this case. If it infuses enough revenue to keep the service up & running, so be it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Jim, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 12:50am

    They Have to Pay The Bills Somehow

    And a quick 8 second ad in a stream of music targeted to my tastes is worth putting up with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    fuse5k, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 1:04am

    Pandora = A load of toss

    Pandora is a load of toss, it doesnt play good tunes.
    If i wanted the same old middle of the road rubbish i would put on the radio.
    It doesnt play the music you like, it plays something similar to the music you like, by someone you have never heard of.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Roy, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 4:04am

    Just another annoyance

    I like Pandora in general. It's turned me on to some music I might not have discovered otherwise. But what happens when their algorithm starts to drift? As it turns out, you can only skip 5 songs in an hour. After that, you can "thumbs-down" a song but still have to listen to the whole thing. That's more annoying than an occasional 10-second ad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Rick, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 5:13am

    Re: Just another annoyance

    If you can't skip anymore, you can always just create a new station. I know it will require some tweaking but if you have several stations you can usually find something you can at least tolerate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 5:18am

    Re: Just another annoyance

    "As it turns out, you can only skip 5 songs in an hour. After that, you can "thumbs-down" a song but still have to listen to the whole thing. That's more annoying than an occasional 10-second ad."

    Just change the station

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Marcster, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 5:52am

    Pandora is available ad-free for $36/year.

    From their FAQ section:

    "How much does it cost?

    Pandora is available in two forms. Both versions have exactly the same features.

    The first form is an advertising-supported version which is entirely free. Over time we'll be incorporating ads into this version of Pandora.

    For those who want to steer clear of advertising, subscriptions are available in two different flavors:

    ANNUAL: 12 months of unlimited use for $36
    QUARTERLY: 3 months of unlimited use for $12"

    So, for the equivalent of one latte a month, you can have Pandora ad-free.

    Compare that to that to a "Premium" membership at (a family of online-only stations) for $4.95/month and can't tell exactly what bands to play or affect how often a song is played (thumbs up/down on Pandora)

    The other obvious comparison is XM or Sirius radio at $17.95/month, and they have the same limitations as to musical "requests/control".

    Granted, you can listen to XM or Sirius in your car, and they have additional programming, but it is significantly more expensive.

    Pandora is a bargain at $36/year, or free w/ads... your choice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    jedipunk (profile), Jan 12th, 2007 @ 5:54am

    Not too bad

    At first, I found it annoying. My step daughter thought it lame. However, I like using OpenPandora which avoids me from having to the load the pandora page and keep my browser open. If by streaming in ads it allows me to continue with openpandora without feeling guilting for not watching ads, then go for it. Very shorts adds not very frequent, though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Rod Burch, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 5:57am


    While I love Pandora. I would not appreciate my music being interupted by unwanted media ads.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 6:21am

    Re: Pandora = A load of toss

    If that's your complaint, you missed the entire point of Pandora, you dolt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Rick, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 6:25am

    Re: Pandora

    Then pay the $36/year.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Rob, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 6:46am

    XM is not 17.95 p/month

    To clarify pricing on XM subscription - it is only 12.95 per month.

    I fell in love with Pandora once a friend told me about it. I just wish I could use it in the car. I'd cancel my XM subscription if I could have Pandora instead.

    As far as the ads - it's a lot better than the endless ads on normal radio. I couldn't go back to listening to FM if my life depended on it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    thecaptain, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 7:14am


    I don't know, I LOVE Pandora as a music suggestion system. It's acquainted me with tons of new music and reminded me of a few forgotten favs from my younger years.

    I'm not totally against audio ads from them, as one poster suggested, I never LOOK at the pandora page while it plays (its usually on for ambient music) so any ads it has are wasted.

    It will all depend how they implement it (I haven't been on in a while). If I have a 6-8 second ad in between each song (or even every 3 songs), then I will feel it is intrusive and stop using the service. If its 1-2 ads every 30 mins or so, like say a good radio station from the old days, then I'll stick with it.

    The quality of the ads also matter too. If they start blaring annoying crap or porn ads, then I don't care if its one ad per hour, I don't want to hear it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Marcster, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 10:00am

    Re: XM is not 17.95 p/month

    Yes, you're right... $12.95/month, not $17.95 a month.

    I don't understand the people who complain about the ads, I mean you had to know they were coming. Everyone here is saying they never look at the ads on the Pandora Web page.

    Pandora is a company, not a charity. They need to make money somehow, whether it's by audio ads or by you buying a subscription, it's up to you.

    This is no different than other online-only radio advertising,, yahoo's radio stations, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Solo, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 3:43pm

    Pandora made me discover a lot of good music. It's a fantastic tool for that. New music that I promptly bought off

    It's not because the 'buy' link is staring at you from the Pandora client that you have to click it.

    1) steal underpants
    3) profits!

    If you don't have a business plan, you don't have a business plan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Tom Conrad, Jan 16th, 2007 @ 6:10pm

    We've shared some of our thoughts on this topic over on our blog:

    We'll continue to follow the thread here of course, but we'd also welcome your comments and feedback on our post as well.

    This audio ad in question was a test and the dialog that's taking place now is exactly the kind of thing we need to help us make good decisions about how advertising on Pandora will evolve. Thanks to everyone that's participated to this point. Looking forward to the continuing discussion.

    CTO @ Pandora

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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