When you think of Pandora, what come to mind?
A personalized music experience?
Stations that play music you'll love--and nothing else?
Discovering new songs?
What about comedy? When you think of Pandora, does helping the world laugh come to mind?
According to Pandora’s Tim Westergren, Pandora users were clamoring for the service to do just that, to do for comedy what it had done for music:
Adding comedians to the mix has been one of the top requests from our listeners. There is surely nothing more important than helping the world laugh a little more!
Explaining how Pandora intends to approach comedy, Westergren notes:
We've taken the same approach to comedy as we have to music: carefully and deliberately analyzing comedic bits across a very large number of attributes to capture the style, delivery and content of each performance.
As with music, we hope that the Comedy Genome Project will let people enjoy comedy they know as well as discover new talent that they love.
Students of marketing will recognize Pandora’s actions as classic line extension, an attempt to leverage the success of one brand to create a second brand.
Line extension is a controversial practice with a rather spotty history. Here’s what Al Ries and Jack Trout of Positioning fame had to say about it:
When a really new product comes along, it's almost always a mistake to hang a well-known name on it.
A well-known name got well-known because it stood for something. It occupies a position in the prospect's mind. A really well-known name sits on the top rung of a sharply defined ladder.
The new product, if it's going to be successful, is going to require a new name. New ladder, new name. It's as simple as that.
We recently posted about our two decades of research on humor. Yes, listeners like to hear comedy, and radio has been too slow to capitalize on an obvious new format.
However, we’ve yet to talk to a Pandora user who really missed Bill Cosby on Pandora.
Perhaps Pandora users were demanding humor channels, but we suspect it has more to do with Pandora’s growth trajectory than a groundswell for comedy cuts.
Last August after convincing the world that the secret sauce was the Music Genome Project, Pandora reversed direction and rolled out generic format channels not unlike those found on services like Sirius, Rhapsody, and even traditional radio.
In a post titled, Pandora Now More Perfecter Than Ever, we wrote:
Pandora has been brilliantly marketed and holds a tremendous lead over its competitors. However, regardless of how it is spun, this move to add traditional channels is an admission that Pandora needs more than the genome project buzz to keep growing.
Adding comedy channels, particularly by once again invoking their pet genome project (now branded the Comedy Genome Project) is further evidence that usage of the service is not growing like it once did.
Jumping the Shark is a reference to a Happy Days episode when Fonzie, wearing his leather jacket, water skied over a shark.
While the comedy show ran another seven years, critics point to that moment as a turning point for the series.
Since then, the phrase has evolved into a more general reference to an absurd moment when a brand moves beyond the essential qualities that initially defined its success, beyond relevance or recovery.
Maybe this will prove to be another brilliant move by a company that hopes to redefine radio. Or maybe one day we’ll mark this day as the moment Pandora jumped the shark.