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Is Pandora “the Greatest Media of All Time”? Q&A with Ric Militi – Part 2

Ric Militi is CEO and Creative Director of InnoVision LLC, a leading independent Southern California “anti-agency” (they don’t “buy” radio, for example, they “invest” in it), and he has strong feelings on radio’s place in the mediasphere. If you read no other part of this interview, skip to the last few paragraphs.

This is Part 2 of our conversation. Find Part 1 here.

Watch the video of our conversation or check out the highly abbreviated transcript below.

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Talk to me about Pandora. I assume Pandora has approached you.

Yes, we actually use Pandora. I have very mixed emotions about Pandora. I love Pandora. I think Pandora has the potential to be the greatest media of all time if they can understand that what they really need to do is to service the advertising community, the marketing community.

Right now they sell themselves as a “radio Internet company.” That instantly means you’re looking for results, e.g. click-through rates, so you can quantify that Pandora is “working.”

I think that’s a tremendous mistake for Pandora. I think Pandora should sell itself as a radio station.

Can you imagine if everybody who bought radio started looking at click-through rates from radio station websites? It would be disastrous for those stations! That’s what Pandora did.

They completely destroyed their idea by saying “we’re Internet, we can prove to you we can get you click-throughs.” Well guess what? The click-throughs are ridiculously low, but that’s not important.

What’s important is they have millions of listeners and you can pick the genre, you can pick the age category, and you can pick the zip codes. Now you’re talking my kind of statistics! Now you’re telling me whom I’m talking to!

What Pandora needs to do is to drill down deeper. They need to get more information on their listeners. Even if they can get only half of their listeners to give up information on themselves, can you imagine the database that this company would have?

One more thing: Pandora has to stop telling people on their own stations to stop listening to ads.

They have promos saying, “If you don’t want to listen to advertising anymore, then just pay $3 a month and we’ll stop all the ads.” So basically they’re telling people not to listen to the ads that they’re selling, which is completely preposterous in my mind and completely contradictory to the whole concept. Just tell people to listen and stop selling that whole concept.

They need to treat themselves as a radio station. I think they have fundamental problems, but they have gigantic opportunity ahead of them if they make the right choices.

It’s interesting that you suggest they should present themselves as a radio station with deeper listener data. How many conventional stations come to you with an extensive database full of richly detailed listener information?


I’ve been telling radio stations for 20 years build me a database of your listeners. Tell me who goes to casinos. Tell me who needs to buy a car in the next three months. Guess what? I’ll buy every one of those. I’ll buy your radio station just to get those lists. That’s all I want to know. I just want to know what people’s buying habits are going to be. If we can predict that, then we know who we market to much more effectively.

But when you’re talking about “pie in the sky” stuff that’s much more difficult.

With data getting so big, why do you think data for radio remains relatively small?

I think they’re struggling on how to capture it. It takes a Pandora, assuming they stop looking at their model from the perspective of musicians and start looking at it from the perspective of the marketing community.

Consumers are probably willing to give up this information very easily with some very small incentive. Then you discover what kind of cars they like, when they go to the movies, what they like to eat, how often they buy pizzas, etc.

Can you imagine if this information could be categorized so that when you make a buy with a radio station or Pandora or whomever, they could say “well the only people that are going to be listening to that, Mr. Domino’s, are pizza buyers.” Oh my God. Hello!

What’s the best thing about the radio experience as an investment partner for you and your clients?

Radio has been a great experience.

It’s fantastic that radio can change creative on a dime. The endorsements and the willingness of radio stations to do what we want them to do, those are great advantages.

Our radio partners love working with us because we push them harder, we make them think more, we give them the opportunity to come up with ideas.

I always say to them, “tell me your craziest, wildest vision that you ever wanted to do for a client?” That’s what I want to hear. Those are the conversations I want to have.

Radio is open to ideas, and that’s a great advantage.

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