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Pandora's Goal: Be Ubiquitous

Heidi Browning Pearson
Senior Vice President, Strategic Solutions

During this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, you would be hard pressed to find launch materials that didn’t mention connectivity with internet radio service Pandora. The streaming music provider’s senior vice president of strategic solutions, Heidi Browning Pearson, spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren McKay about Pandora’s latest listener milestones and the company’s relationships with automakers and brand advertisers.

eMarketer: What are the biggest areas of growth for Pandora?

Heidi Browning Pearson: In last 12 months, we’ve seen incredible growth in two areas. One is the number of listeners on Pandora—we’re at 67 million unique users who are active on a monthly basis, which is a 41% increase from the year before. Listening hours are also at an all-time high. In December [2012], we had more than 1.39 billion hours of listening, which was a 54% increase from the previous year. We’re not only attracting more people, but they’re listening longer.

The proliferation and accessibility given mobile devices has enhanced the listening experience. Seventy-five percent of our total listening hours are through mobile devices or other nontraditional outlets like smart TVs and connected cars.

eMarketer: Is Pandora’s goal to be ubiquitous among connected devices?

“We’re not only attracting more people, but they’re listening longer.”

Browning Pearson: Absolutely. Our role is to redefine radio and part of that is being as free, easy and ubiquitous as radio is. We focused first on auto[mobile] integration because traditional radio’s stronghold has been listening in the car. We’ve since expanded to the world of connected homes, integrating Pandora into many consumer electronics.

eMarketer: What progress has Pandora made in the area of in-car app integration?

Browning Pearson: We’ve been working to get integration into each of the different car manufacturers and models for a very long time. We are now integrated in 85 on-the-lot car models. Each one of them has Pandora implemented in a unique way. So you can imagine the complexity of doing that to create an amazing user experience that not only reflects Pandora but also reflects the brand of the automotive dealer there.

Partly driving this auto push is the trend of people taking a cable and plugging in their cell phones or using Bluetooth listening while in the car. Surveys of our own listeners say over 50% of people connect their phones in some way. That said, having Pandora integrated into automobiles is really the future of the connected car. Many automotive manufacturers have voice activation so that you can safely change your Pandora station and engage with it.

eMarketer: In the early days of internet radio, advertisers repurposed their radio spots on Pandora. How has that changed?

“When you start to marry demographic data with ZIP codes, and then you marry that with an audio ad, you’ve got magic.”

Browning Pearson: Our killer ad remains the audio ad, but we believe it is going through a renaissance. If you think about connected homes, connected cars and mobile consumers, the audio ad is the one ad that can resonate whether you’re looking at a device or not. It starts to get interesting because of Pandora’s incredible ability to target based on our hundreds and millions of registered users. When you start to marry demographic data with ZIP codes, and then you marry that with an audio ad, you’ve got magic.

We’re finding that advertisers are increasingly customizing their ads for Pandora and for streaming media services.

“Pandora’s been focused on giving the people the opportunity to share on their own terms.”

eMarketer: How important is social sharing to Pandora?

Browning Pearson: Sharing is huge. Music, by definition, is a very social experience, whether you’re listening with friends or you’re having a moment and want to share that with someone else. Pandora’s been focused on giving the people the opportunity to share on their own terms. A big mission for us in this last year has been to evolve our sharing strategy and to bring it more to the forefront across all of these mobile devices. With our new mobile app you can share to Twitter and Facebook, and you can also share your music feed with people you choose to follow and connect with on the Pandora platform.

A longer version of this interview is available to eMarketer corporate subscribers only. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a corporate subscriber, click here.

Check out today’s other articles, “Super Bowl Commercials Still Draw Their Own Audience” and “Smartphone Buying on the Rise in Norway.”


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