Pandora's iPhone success - showing a path to an ad-supported, mobile music future
Image by via CrunchBase
Some readers may recall that the very existence of Pandora, one of the biggest next-generation, personalized digital radio platforms was recently seriously endangered by the threat of having to pay outlandish and retroactive music licensing fees right after having been kicked out of Europe (also for similarly bizarre licensing reasons). Now, thankfully, a report reveals that Pandora has gained an even bigger (albeit only U.S.-based) audience by launching a free iPhone application that is, you guessed it, entirely supported by some apparently quite smart advertising. I wish I could see for myself but since I am in beautiful Switzerland I have been barred from the pleasures of Pandora - after all, why would the music licensing organizations even bother with Pandora's international users... right?
But anyway, what is so great to hear (see the press release) is that ad-supported music seems to work so very much better on the iPhone (and soon, many other mobile devices, I would hope) than it does on the good old computer - this, I think, holds great potential for the future of ad-supported, free or feels like free + freemium content on mobile devices. First music, then films / TV, then books (and games.... yes, of course: already there!)
A quote from the press release (December 4, 2008) sums it up very nicely (even if we remove the few instances of PR hype): "Since September 22, when Pandora began marketing its iPhone platform to marketers, it's had a steady queue of the biggest national brands anxious to deliver their ad messages to iPhone mobile users with Pandora as the conduit. The first advertisers to launch on Pandora's iPhone application were Best Buy and Beck's, followed by a list of other top tier brands such as Target, HP, Nike and Kraft Foods. To date, Pandora's iPhone ad platform has delivered over the twice the response rate as its other ad products due to the highly interactive nature of the device. Additionally, iPhone users can continue to stream music while they engage with the ad so the user experience is not diminished in any way"
Here is the key, in my view: it's all about the INTERFACE. The USER EXPERIENCE. That is what is so great about the iPhone (after all, it's really a lousy phone, in my view, but a great mobile computer and communication device), and that's what's so great about Pandora, too. The sum of the two really makes it tick, I guess. Next destination: Nokia?
I think users will pay to use the Pandora interface, the functionality, the build-in community features; and advertisers and brands will pay to align themselves with those tens of millions of keen and open, interested and fast-clicking users. And yet other users would probably pay to have Pandora without ads, too!
Now (add: sound of broken record) if only the labels, publishers and rights societies could actually allow them to make this work, economically - then we would have something that would show a real path to a mutually beneficial future; a future that will create many of those 'New Generatives' that Kevin Kelly writes about, and a future that is based on true collaboration in an open ecosystem.
Here is an another interesting fact from the release: "Currently, Pandora's iPhone users spend an average of 90 minutes a
day interacting with the application, accounting for nearly 1.2
million ad impressions per day..." This is pointing us straight to a future recipe of success: great interface + supreme ease of use + great content + great community features + freemium + ads2.0 = Success.
Pandora reaches roughly one in every five iPhone users in the U.S., already (and is set to have 20 Million users by the end of the year) - so what would happen if the music industry took the lid off, and allowed them to broad/narrow/micro/social-cast worldwide, on the iPhone, the new N97 and Nokia's Ovi enabled phones that are coming down the pike, 3's Facebook phone, Google Android Phones...? You tell me.
Other nice iPhone music apps inlude Last.fm and Sonos - not to forget!