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What Radio REALLY needs to learn from Pandora

So what’s the secret the radio industry needs to learn from Pandora?

Is it the importance of personalization or technology or the role of streaming in the consumer’s entertainment diet?  Is it the importance of being cool and talked about?

It is none of these things.

Recently I saw Pandora founder Tim Westergren speak to a room of people who were not broadcasters or radio industry types.

He could have talked about the methodological details of the Music Genome Project.  He could have talked metrics.  He could have talked reach.  He could have talked time spent listening.  He could have talked about the stuff folks in radio always seem to be talking about, as if those are the areas where we are most threatened.

He did none of these things.

Instead, Tim told stories.

Stories of his meetups with Pandora listeners in small groups across the country.

He told of the marching band enthusiast who assumed that Pandora was a marching band channel because that’s what he loved to listen to and it’s all he listened to on Pandora.

He told of the man who was deaf and would place his hands on the speakers while Pandora played as he followed along with the lyrics on the screen.

Stories of human lives changed in no small part by their experience with Pandora.

In the end, it’s not about the idea of personalization or technology or music genome this or that.

In the end, it’s about changing the world by touching one human being at a time and making his or her life better.

How often does your Tim Westergren meet with your consumers in informal settings?

What are your fans’ stories?  And will they move an audience to tears and laughter, as Tim’s did?

Do they, in other words, matter?

None of Pandora and none of radio matters unless it matters deeply to real people in the real moments of their individual lives.  Not just in emergencies, but all the time.  This is the “why” that makes the “what” worthwhile.

Not the profits, not the reach, not the ubiquity, not the history, not the deal-making, not the IPO.

Just simply this.

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