In one respect, I overreacted in that piece, at least if you measure such things using today's stock price. Since that article hit on Nov. 16, 2012, Pandora stock has increased 53%. That said, even though I'm bullish heading into earnings (which should come in late February), Pandora will crash again. Always does. This stock moves on noise and swing trader whims.
While this royalty situation is a big deal, people act like there's no Plan B. That if Congress doesn't level the playing field and set a sane content acquisition cost structure for Internet radio, Pandora goes out of business. Enough of the simple dichotomies.
Just as you can't think of Amazon.com (AMZN) as a near-term profit and margin story, you have to take a deeper, more theoretical approach to what Pandora is as a service and ultimately is and will evolve into as a business.
That's what Westergren has always done in public appearances as well as communications I have had with him. I emailed him to double-check over the weekend. He replied:
You have it right. We hope people think of us as great radio. Easy to use, but totally personalized. Distinctively great for discovery and a platform for mass exposure for working musicians.
It's the MGP [Music Genome Project] that allows us to deliver on this. Ideally designed to handle the most obscure music because it doesn't require popularity data. A truly level playing field.Pretty straightforward. So, after a wholly-uninformed case study in fallacious reasoning, Edwards goes out in style, explaining that "if it wanted to," Pandora could turn a profit. Then, another dichotomy -- Edwards blames the absence of consistent profit on the commissions Pandora pays its salespeople or marketing costs as it scales out its business. Throttle back spending or, presumably, stop paying sales commissions (?) and, bingo, there's your profit. Heavy sigh. If Westergren decided to halt free food and water for his staff, moved the company headquarters to North Dakota and stopped paying employee health care premiums, Pandora might turn a profit as well. Investors should be happy that Westergren -- and the rest of Pandora's management team -- operates in the real world. That's a world where things don't happen overnight and long-term vision and opportunity trumps short-term and not only poorly, but barely-researched media noise. How's this for a deal? Enough barking about problems. In a two- to three-part series of articles to hit over the next few weeks, I will address major points of contention -- Pandora and profitability, Plan B if Pandora does not get a sweet royalty deal -- in this battleground. It's one of the most intense -- outside of stocks such as Apple (AAPL) and Netflix (NFLX) I have ever followed. Follow me on Twitter (link below) so you know when my articles hit. Follow @rocco_thestreet --Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
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