Pandora's Tim Westergren Thinks He's On a Mission From God
Simply put, the company's co-founder and former Chief Strategy Officer (not CEO) Tim Westergren thinks he's on a mission from God. I mean that colloquially, but seriously. Over at my Facebook page, TheStreet's Jason Notte made a comment worthy of a screen shot because it's the perfect lead-in to my informed rationale:
Here's the deal -- there's not much more Pandora can do because Westergren, for all intents and purposes, runs the company and he's absolutely married to the idea of doing pretty much nothing but radio. Albeit it's radio redefined with singular-focused personalization and discovery broadcast radio can't quite replicate. But ultimately Pandora's business -- in practice -- consists of the same components as traditional radio. They play music subsidized by advertising. They run promotions and hold Pandora Presents concerts. While I'm on record as being on board with all of these things -- Pandora does them well and different enough to make them impressive and effective -- it's not enough. Pandora absolutely must start acting like a tech company or be left behind. Because, as Notte astutely pointed out, Pandora's becoming nothing more than a souped-up clone of terrestrial radio. Why is this? Pretty simple. Pandora finds itself under the same and similar pressures as traditional radio. But it chases its tail in its own unique way as the amount of money it funnels to Sound Exchange continues to grow along with the cost of building out an advertising sales infrastructure and such. It doesn't have to be this way, but it is. Despite what seems to be consensus in the tech, music and financial media, Pandora's business model doesn't render it dead after arrival. There's nothing wrong with the present business model if -- and this is key -- it doesn't remain as is. Fixed and static. But it is. And that's largely because of Westergren.