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Best Internet Radio Services From Pandora to iTunes Radio

Stocks in this article: P AAPL

Pandora Internet Radio

Bottom Line: Though I will not, I could fragment my way through this one, given how much I write about Pandora.

For my most recent peek into why the Music Genome Project (MGP) sets Pandora apart as Internet radio's finest, see Why Pandora Trounces Apple's iTunes Radio. For something more like an investment case, go to Pandora: The Definitive Look Back and Look Ahead.

What's It Good For: Personalized radio and music discovery. That's the focus. Always has been (at least since Pandora became Pandora). Probably always will be.

No, you can't call up a specific song you want to hear in the moment, but that's not how radio works. Pandora redefined traditional radio, making the experience its own. Even if it wanted to (and I don't think it does) the method Pandora uses to license music doesn't allow for on-demand playback.

It's a straightforward, though hardly mindless listening experience. The above-linked "Why Pandora Trounces Apple ..." story illustrates this assertion well.

Why You Might Think It Sucks: When you first start using Pandora, it can be a bit basic. Sort of like, but not completely like my description of iTunes Radio.

The MGP needs to get to know you and you need to get to know it better. Once that happens (it doesn't take long), you're on your way. You'll feel the power of a curation system that serves up songs on the basis of the attributes of the music not the obvious pop culture associations between artists.

Platform Observations: I listen to Pandora via mobile device (iPhone in my car or at the gym) and via Roku Player at home. Probably a 40-60 split between the two.

As much as I love my Roku, the experience as you shift from an app's mobile (or desktop) environment almost always degrades a bit. Fewer functions exist on the Pandora Roku app than they do on other platforms. It doesn't kill the experience; it just makes it a little less robust, relative to mobile (and desktop, which I still tinker with from time to time).

Additional Thoughts: I would like to see -- and expect to see, based on conversations with the company -- Pandora become a bit more social. More interactive.

There's was something cool about that time period a few years back when we were hearing what songs celebrities and such had on their iPods. I reckon it'd be neat (and useful) if Pandora took a handful of public figures, its own employees (preferably the folks involved in curation) and its heaviest users and had these people provide the larger audience with customized playlists of sorts geared toward music discovery and general camaraderie.

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