The question that has been on every tongue at any and all gatherings of broadcasters, “is Pandora radio?” The most recent answer based on research not opinion is both yes and mostly no. According to Jacobs Tech Survey 8 – even Pandora users are split as to whether the Internet pure play should be considered “radio” – 43% “yes” – 49% “no.” Pandora boasts it’s a new kind of radio. (What does that even mean?) It’s my opinion the question is irrelevant. The questions I ask myself are “why does Pandora want to be radio” and why doesn’t Pandora want to be Pandora?
Chris Spiek of the Re-Wired Group said in a Forbes article recently – Branding experts and customers agree that the world doesn’t need another “me too” car, music site or energy drink. Imitation may be flattering but it isn’t inspiring.” To quote Mike McCue Flipboard Co-founder, “I’d rather compete with 1,000 copycats than 1,000 innovators”. Stanford Professor Steve Blank talks about the four paths of startups. Pandora, please watch and see if you recognize your path.
Did I miss the research data that said radio listeners are clamoring for “a new kind of radio”? Seth Godin is famous for telling business to invent a new category so you can own it. Create your own path. Apple is the best example of this but the Internet has many more. So why would Pandora want to compete in a category that’s full? Not to mention a category that many think is irrelevant or at least less relevant every day with all the new digital choices people have now.
It’s my belief to succeed you obsess over your customers and not divert your focus to the competition. Its clear Pandora branding doesn’t match the Pandora user perceptions. Pandora your users have defined you and I’ve not heard one person say “Pandora is a new kind of radio”. You are what many wish radio should be. The good news is again according to Tech Survey 8 - nearly half of those who listen to Pandora believe your music is better than the stuff they hear on commercial radio. From a business POV you have a very unique and engaging sales story and it’s not commodity ad sales. You can hyper-target active listeners in specific zip codes and zero in the local business message with documentable ROI which traditional radio has not found a way to do. You have so many unique qualities and benefits in product, service and sales that are so…Pandora. Imagine Pandora-like experiences or partnerships with Pandora-esque products and services (think Fab.com - Thrillist.com) where you charge a premium.
Pandora, be proud of what you are…celebrate your uniqueness, your individuality. You own a category and you don’t seem to realize it. You have risen to the rarified air of a one name brand. No explanation necessary. When people say Pandora…it’s understood. I have my own Pandora incubator, my 18 year old son. To him Pandora is about music discovery. Now that’s a personally relevant benefit. That’s “what’s in it for him”. Whether its classics or new music…what’s new music to him he finds on Pandora.
Pandora, you are succeeding because you are different than radio in ways that are very relevant to those who love you as Pandora NOT because you are a new kind of radio. Stop telling people what you want to be and hear your users when they tell you what you are to them. Facebook never said they were better than MySpace…they just were in personally relevant ways. So be the best Pandora you can be…not a better than radio Pandora. Remember in the movie Social Network when Sean Parker told Zuckerberg to “drop the the…just Facebook”? Link - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEgk2v6KntY
Drop the radio…just Pandora.