Setting The Record Straight On Pandora

Today’s Inside Radio featured a grossly inaccurate story about how Edison Research is measuring listening for our client, Pandora (the entire article, like the rest of Inside Radio, is behind a subscriber paywall). Amongst the article’s many sins was this line:

“The Edison reports converted Pandora server-side log file listening data into local audience reports using AQH metrics that ranked Pandora alongside local radio stations in Arbitron market reports. [Cumulus COO John] Dickey says he’d like to see Arbitron to ask Pandora to reveal details of how it is calculating its audience estimates.”

No attempt was made to contact Edison about the “facts” in this article, which are of course patently untrue. While we await a correction from the typists at Inside Radio, let us be clear: Edison has never (as in never) reported anything other than the AQH figures for Pandora – full stop. We defy Inside Radio or any interested party to come up with a “ranker” from Edison that compares Pandora “alongside” any terrestrial radio station. Not only have we never produced such a report, we have never allowed a third party to produce such a report. A report comparing Pandora’s AQH measures with those of Arbitron subscribers would, amongst other things, violate Arbitron copyrights. We do not have the legal right, nor the desire, to produce such comparisons.

Also, Mr. Dickey need not pressure Arbitron to ask Pandora how these audience measures are calculated. Should he, or any other radio executive, care to find out, they need merely ask Pandora themselves, and they’ll be happy to provide the complete methodology for these figures, which are not, as Mr. Dickey intimates, “estimates;” rather, they are the actual listening data from the population of Pandora listeners.

3 replies
  1. Drew Kondylas
    Drew Kondylas says:

    Pandora makes these comparisons during both public (conference) and private (client) meetings. Most recently, a senior manager presented data at a BIA/Kelsey conference that was held in San Francisco from Dec 12-14. There is a great need for clarification in and around this space.

  2. James Cridland
    James Cridland says:

    Pardon me for correcting you: you’re not measuring “listening”. Your figures are the “actual *streaming* data” from the population of Pandora listeners. You have no knowledge of whether there’s anyone there actually “listening”; unless you can tell with certainty whether a) Pandora isn’t streaming into an empty room; or b) Pandora isn’t on speakers in a room with ten people listening. (I suspect that b) is more often the case, but that’s just a guess).

    Thank you, however, for clarifying that comparisons between internet figures and diary/PPM-based surveys are not accurate. In particular, Pandora – being thousands of individual one-to-one stations – can’t be compared to KIIS-FM since it’s not the same deal; instead, it’s more relevant to compare Pandora to the entirety of Cumulus or Clear Channel services available in each market. That, however, makes for a less good press story.

  3. Rory
    Rory says:

    Hi James,

    Pandora has data that shows how many people are playing music on Pandora at any given point in time. Exact numbers. In addition, Pandora stops playing music if you don’t interact with the site or app after a while.

    On the other hand, broadcast radio has absolutely no idea how many people are really listening at any given point in time. The numbers they report are from surveys – not actual listening numbers. In addition, you don’t know if broadcast radio is a) playing in an empty room or b) playing with ten, twenty or one hundred people listening. And lastly, radio doesn’t stop if people aren’t interacting with it/listening… it just keeps on playing.

    If anything, the exact opposite is true – broadcast radio numbers are suspect (they have no idea how many people are really listening or even tuning into their stations) and Pandora can provide exact listening numbers because it is internet-based, trackable and it cuts off if people don’t interact with it.


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