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Why Pandora Blows Apple's iTunes Radio Away

Stocks in this article: P AAPL

How did this subset of Pandora listeners respond? Did they thumb down the test song? Did they thumb it up? Skip it? Did they tune out? Switch to another station? Or maybe create a Bronze Radio Return station. This data gets analyzed and Pandora makes the decision to ditch the test or increase it to 2%, then 4% and so on of its audience.

You can imagine the endless combinations and variations Bieschke and his team can work through every minute of every day. In fact, Bieschke receives reports listing all of the experiments Pandora runs. Columns highlighted in green indicate tests that worked really well. Columns colored in red alert Pandora to ditch a test and determine what went wrong and why.

This merely scratches the surface, yet it is the type of discussion of the Music Genome Project you simply do not see in the media, be it music, financial or tech. And that's too bad. Because, without it, misconceptions about what Pandora does, how it does it and how others stack up not only form, but turn into toxic Internet memes.

On the bright side, plenty of folks -- more than we saw six to 18 months ago -- now recognize the power of Pandora's platform for advertisers as well as artists. Witness P's meteoric rise from single digits.

I saw presentations this week on how Pandora targets audiences for advertisers. I also got a look at the artist dashboard, in beta now, that Pandora expects to roll out to as many musicians who will have it (and why wouldn't they want it?) soon. This gives artists detailed information on where, when, how and who listens to their tracks on Pandora.

It's the technology Westergren and his co-founders devised and developed before Pandora was even Pandora that makes everything the company does possible. There's nothing like it in the business. Nothing even close. And it cannot be replicated overnight -- or even in a few years -- by anybody. Not even Apple.

This doesn't mean Apple will fail. It's not in the music business. It's in the hardware business, a point I get at in " Again, Apple Proves It's Smarter Than a Dumb Crowd."

But, make no mistake, Pandora is a technology company that's in the music business. And it's in it for the long haul.

I didn't need Bieschke's passion and attention to detail to confirm this for me, but it doesn't hurt. The story he and his team tell in relation to the Music Genome Project needs to be told, if only to put consistently shoddy Pandora media coverage, shrouded in conjecture, in its proper place.

Having said that, I must in closing give a shout-out to an excellent piece on the MGP, published by John Paul Titlow at Fast Company: At Pandora, Every Listener Is A Test Subject.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist and TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.
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