Pandora Sucks (and Tim Westergren Kicks Dogs!)

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I figured I would try a new technique.

Maybe if I beat others who "cover" Pandora ( P) to the bottom of the barrel, if I apply absolutely no standard whatsoever to at least a portion of what I do, if I have no shame at all -- maybe then we'll hit a point where the articles people publish about Pandora can get no worse. Call it an attempt to put the notion of hitting bottom -- having no place to go but up -- in motion.

Because right when you think it can't get any worse, it does. A handful of scribes take the Pandora story to new and even more shameful depths.

Already this week we have seen Business Insider publish an eight-month old blog post passing it off as "today's" news. Then there was Greg Sandoval's Pandora hit job over at The Verge where he passed off Tim Westergren dining on a "truffle-infused Kobe beef burger" with investment bankers as somehow germane to the royalty conversation. Earlier in the same article, Sandoval passes off the inability of All Things D's Peter Kafka to conduct real reporting as a pockmark against Pandora. Of course, that's what they teach you in Journalism 101: Tweet the CTO of a public company to get answers to your most vexing questions.

This is where we are -- next these guys will pick through Westergren's garbage and produce smashed vinyl copies of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. They'll mark it as "EXCLUSIVE" or "BREAKING" and take pats on the back from the clique of colleagues and "industry sources" they work so feverishly not to piss off. Forget doing actual work to get the real story or find something closer to the truth; it's not about the reader, it's about the personal relationships they maintain that the general public couldn't care less about.

We have come to a point where not only in this story, but, sadly, in the broader scope, journalists routinely make something out of nothing and expect companies to spoon feed them information in lieu of doing actual journalism.

It's a pretty crappy day when I have to use relationships I have worked to establish to find out that Tim Westergren selected the "truffle-infused Kobe beef burger" off of the buffet at a reception hosted back around 2006. What bearing that has on the royalty dustup, I'll never know. And, newsflash to Sandoval, most urbanites can walk a few blocks from where they rest their heads to secure truffle-infused Kobe beef burgers and equivalent fare.

But the real kicker -- at least it gets slightly closer to issues that matter -- is Sandoval's defense of Kafka. Kafka Tweeted Pandora CTO Tom Conrad to find out a number. Exactly how much would Pandora like to lower its performance royalties? Is it the 85% talking point the music industrial complex uses or something else?

Here are the Tweets, which include responses from me that Kafka ignored, but should have paid attention to. Just do some work, man. Don't expect Pandora to spoon-feed you information over Twitter.

Everybody wants a number. They want information. They want to be able to make a phone call or consume a press release and regurgitate it as a scoop or some grand revelation. As is often the case, it's just not that simple. And that's definitely the case with relation to this royalty debate; it's so multi-layered and complex that it doesn't boil down to one number or one answer.

That said, I will do Sandoval and Kafka's work for them. I know the answer to their question. How do I know it? I went through the proper channels, triggered and nurtured dialogue with several key people, put together much of the information I gathered, thought and assembled and came to as best of an understanding as possible of what is, again, an incredibly complicated situation. You know -- I practiced journalism!

First, Pandora's CTO didn't give Kafka a number because he's the freaking CTO! Do you go to the bond fund manager to find out the firm's stance on corn?

Second, there is no number. Absolutely no number to report that reveals -- in one or two digits -- the performance royalty rate decrease Pandora would like to see take place. Last year's legislation in Washington sought to have the same standards for setting rates apply to Pandora that apply for broadcast radio (Wait! there are none), satellite radio and cable. The same standards for setting rates, but nothing about the actual rates themselves.

Third, that 85% number everybody throws around is nothing but crap. I set the record straight on that in late June. It's a lie, derived from basic, but completely meaningless math. Pandora has never said how much it would like to see its performance royalty drop. Frankly, I don't think it knows. It doesn't have a number in mind.

But, I will tell you this with my left hand placed on the bible, right hand in the air, Pandora has never said, never will say and definitely does not want or expect an 85% decrease in its performance royalty. What it has said, wants, expects or, better yet, hopes to secure is a more equitable structure. One where, theoretically, Pandora's rate comes down and, say, cable's and satellite's go up (and, ideally, broadcast radio pays something!). A structure that clears up the present unjust, outdated and glaring discrepancy.

I do agree with Sandoval's article to a certain extent. Pandora has a PR problem. It's something I have been writing about for several months. Sandoval should take note. Pandora must back off the larger piece of the pie argument and focus on shifting the discussion to a place where the emphasis is on what it can do for major label and independent artists.

Pandora can pay less and give artists more -- as Kafka recently put it -- if the music industry collaborates in a way that puts less emphasis on the ancient and myopic royalty system and more focus on using data to harness the marketing power of music in relation to everything from touring to advertising. Guys like Sandoval and Kafka are apparently tech reporters; they should understand this inside and out. Speak the language. It's shocking that they don't and even more disappointing that they focus their energy on conducting road-to-nowhere "research" via Twitter.

I'll keep fleshing out these issues and demand better not only from the media covering Pandora, but, when appropriate (and it is right now), from Pandora itself.

For color and context on the real issues, use the three links in the paragraph just ahead of this one as starter. Also see the results of my recent conversation with ASCAP President and Board Chairman Paul Williams.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in New York City

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

More from Stocks

Flashback Friday: Amazon, Chip Stocks, Memorial Day

Flashback Friday: Amazon, Chip Stocks, Memorial Day

Week Ahead: Wall Street Looks to Jobs Report as North Korea Meeting Less Certain

Week Ahead: Wall Street Looks to Jobs Report as North Korea Meeting Less Certain

Dow and S&P 500 Decline, Energy Shares Fall as U.S. Crude Oil Slides 4%

Dow and S&P 500 Decline, Energy Shares Fall as U.S. Crude Oil Slides 4%

Replay: Jim Cramer on the Markets, 10-Year Yield, Oil Prices and Foot Locker

Replay: Jim Cramer on the Markets, 10-Year Yield, Oil Prices and Foot Locker

UAW Officially Files Complaint on Tesla Thanks to CEO Elon Musk

UAW Officially Files Complaint on Tesla Thanks to CEO Elon Musk