One thing critics lose sight of -- in both the royalty and competition discussions -- is that Pandora has more leverage than it's commonly given credit for. It's responsible for a growing share of airplay, particularly of artists who receive no traditional airplay, and digital music sales via platforms such as iTunes. It also ranks, consistently, as one of the most downloaded and top-grossing iOS apps.
Everything everybody has done or is rumored to be doing in streaming is a knock-off on Westergren's brainchild -- The Music Genome Project. No challenge to date, including from terrestrial radio giant Clear Channel and its iHeart Radio, has come close in terms of audience size or nailing personalization.
Three: On mobile, all I can say is look out. Recall the data I published from eMarketer several months back. It shows Pandora's place in the presently exploding mobile advertising marketplace. It's right there with Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB - Get Report) and Twitter. Don't forget those projections. They'll be key over the next several years. I bet they'll get revised up.
I'll be curious to see how Pandora did on the mobile front in the most recent quarter. Something tells me the company's CEO, Joe Kennedy, was a bit too cautious when he dampened expectations around the New Year over fiscal cliff-related concerns.In any event, the folks running ad sales at Pandora get it. There's a reason why terrestrial radio salespeople continue to jump ship for Pandora. They understand the limitations of their old employers and see the future of Internet radio meets mobile. No amount of competition can change Pandora's pioneer status or erase all it has accomplished as personalized radio for roughly a decade and as a mobile disruptor more recently. It's a risky stock. For as right as I am about the company, you have to play the stock smart. Noise will come along. There's bound be another rumor, an actual move by Apple or "a cautious mention" from a Wall Street analyst such BTIG's Richard Greenspare. These wild gyrations are all emotion-based: General market overreaction to the "news" of the day and emotion from a guy like Greenspare, who cares more about being right than learning the inner workings of an industry and the key company that shapes it.