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How Pandora can become the New “Radio”

From Inside Radio: 

Pandora is pushing its way into the car. The pure play webcaster that allows users to create and customize their own radio stations has its eye on the auto market and home appliance integrations. Pandora VP of business development Jessica Steel tells eMarketer that many of its 30 million registered users stream the service in their car via mobile apps. “We’re definitely looking at ways to make that experience more seamless — basically making all the core user interactions of Pandora integrated into the vehicle, so that you don’t have to fumble around with your iPhone to skip or rate a song.” Pandora has partnered with Sony to be included on Blu-Ray players and other devices. Echoing a refrain often heard in the over-the-air radio industry, Steel says: “Success for my team looks like Pandora being available on pretty much any connected entertainment device.”

Where do I begin?

This is not "echoing a refrain" often heard in the over-the-air radio industry.

It is a fundamentally different notion to get Pandora integrated into a piece of electronics, let alone a car, than it is to integrate a radio.  We should not assume Pandora is following our lead but rather assume that we are following theirs, and none too successfully.

Pandora is new and fresh and shiny and popular among the young and/or hip.

Radio is not and not and not and popular among the older and/or not so hip.

Yes, our cumes are massive.  But this is not about who uses the radio, it's about who loves the radio.

And radios will only follow the audiences who love them.

The call for radios to be integrated into devices that never used to contain them is one which could have been made a generation ago.  Where were we then?  Indeed, the time to get a radio in a toaster was 1985, not 2010.  Today, such a move would be viewed as a gimmick, not a value-add.

Pandora, on the other hand, is all value-add.

Radio must to be pushed into devices which don't already contain them, while Pandora can be pulled in – by audience or consumer demand.

If you make cars or electronic gadgets, which will you respond to faster, "push" or "pull"?

The largest concern you should have is that Pandora's entry into the auto market – something I view as inevitable – has the potential to create a complete substitute for your (music-oriented) radio station.  And this will happen much faster than you think.

Remember what PPM tells us:  "Fulfill expectations."  Well, if "more music" is your expectation, Pandora is a better radio station than you are.  And it's certainly better tuned to my tastes than yours is.

So what are you going to do?

Lobby for more FM and AM dials in more places, or redefine what radio means for a generation which craves novelty, freshness and innovation?

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