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TheStreet Open House

Exposing a Pandora Article That Reads Like a Press Release

Stocks in this article: P

Long story short, I spoke to Pandora's VP of Communications, Will Valentine (no, he's not a wrestler), Tuesday afternoon. I asked point blank -- Is there anything specific you guys will be doing with respect to data? I wanted to know if there was something on the horizon that might trigger me to temper my recent criticism over the company's inaction on data.

With its data, Pandora can do many things. It can sell advertising, which it does a remarkable job of. But it can also use data to help brands leverage music as a marketing tool and assist musicians with their careers.

I was told by the Pandora VP that what I speak of is certainly on Pandora's radar, but there's nothing they could show me at the moment. And that they could not provide a timetable as to when a data-related product would see the light of day.

Then, this morning, Fast Company publishes an article: For Its Next Tune Pandora Will Change the Music Industry.

In the article, the author, Drake Baer, notes that the "first fruits" of a data product geared to help artists will come "this summer." So much for not being able to provide a timeline.

But here's the deal, the Fast Company writeup is little more than a shill piece. In fact, Baer didn't have to do anything other than regurgitate the words of Pandora co-founder (and, apparently, no longer Chief Strategy Officer) Tim Westergren. The article makes my most bullish Pandora articles look tame. In fact, the more I read it I wonder if it's actually native advertising -- that new technique where companies provide content to media outlets, but it's actually a form of advertisement.

Let's take the Fast Company/Pandora PR piece point-by-point just so investors and other observers can see how these things transpire. There's little doubt in my mind that this article came together -- and was likely thrown together -- as a result of my recent criticism. For the record, that's conjecture on my part. However, the turnip truck is so far off in the distance I can no longer see its brake lights. 

Baer opens with a story we have heard about six million times over the last few years: Westergren used to be a working musician. Now he's a millionaire. And he wants to use Pandora to help artists carve out better careers for themselves.

He goes on to explain a product that sounds curiously similar to the "Artist Dashboard" I have written about previously. You know -- the platform where musicians can see audience metrics for their music. They can see thumbs up and thumbs down data. They can see where people are listening to their music and how listeners created stations with it.

That's all fine and good. While it doesn't go nearly far enough, the Artist Dashboard is a decent product. But I call the article a shill piece because the author either purposely left out context or was taken for a ride by Pandora.

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