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Twitter's Beating Pandora at What Should Be Its Own Game

Stocks in this article: P TWTR NLSN

The Relevant History

... that hopefully portends the future.

To understand why Pandora often moves at such a frustratingly slow pace, you must understand its core focus. What brought the company to the dance. The now better understood bread and butter that, with Wall Street, all of a sudden, hopping aboard, renders my predictions of $P to $100 much less silly.

I methodically outline the object of the aforementioned focus in Here's Why Pandora Keeps Crushing The Market.

Condensed takeaway: Pandora is, has been and always will be hyper-focused on two things -- personalized radio and music discovery as listener platforms. There's nothing wrong with that; however, it is not and should not be, by its own words and admission, where Pandora stops.

Pandora has, intentionally and by virtue of its music industry-changing success, assumed greater responsibility ... responsibility that goes beyond its stated mission to "play only music you'll love."

That's where the data comes in. Data that transcends thumbs.

Pandora already uses it to serve two primary ends:

  • To sell advertising; and
  • to further connect music fans to the music (and musicians) they love via Pandora Presents personalized concerts.

I explain the ins and outs of the latter in Pandora Steps Up Its Game In A Big Way.

Data drives these primary revenue generators and image crafters for Pandora. They're doing a wonderful job building a business that will stand the test of time on the backs of both.

But it wasn't too long before Pandora upped the ante on Pandora Presents shows that I chirped the company for not doing enough in that regard.

See, for example, I Can't Find Pandora's Name Anywhere In Hollywood and Does Pandora Do Enough To Promote Local Music?, both from May 2013 (when $P was at $16!).

The company responded. And I'm now confident it will continue to up its game in the live personalized concert area. Both in terms of quantity of shows and the names it signs up ... names that range from hot (Imagine Dragons) and huge (Celine Dion) to indie and maybe ... hopefully unsigned.

But it took forever for Pandora to take the next step in an area it probably could have been doing more in all along.

With respect to data, I reckon Pandora's at the same stage of development it was at when I got on its case about upping its game with the Pandora Presents shows. It just has get off of what has become, for better or worse, its corporate ass and move, swiftly and authoritatively, in the right direction.

Filling In The Blanks

For several years now, Pandora, led by co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Tim Westergren, has been talking about using the data it collects to super serve artists.

For instance, google "Tim Westergren" and "heat maps." You'll get results that date back to 2012. Maybe earlier. You'll see that Westergren was part of a panel at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (the event took place more than a year ago now) where he discussed using Pandora data to help musicians better route tours. On iTunes, you can even find Westergren visioning what Pandora could/might do someday ... (cue Keith Olbermann voice) way back in April of 2008.

It all sounds fantastic. The possibilities are limitless. And they extend beyond the notion of touring heat maps. However, unless Pandora is providing this data to acts and bands in secrecy (and I'm not sure why it would do that), it hasn't unleashed this data at any meaningful scale for anything other than advertising-related purposes.

By refusing to put the power of its data to work for the music industry (labels, performers, songwriters) as well as brands that seek to sell product, at least in part, with music, Pandora does a disservice to these parties and itself.

It's not as if Pandora doesn't have data products. They do. I have seen it.

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