WKRP tried and tried, yet remained a minor player in Cincinnati radio.
It didn’t stop Herb Tarlek, the station’s irrepressible account exec, from going after business even if it meant playing a little loose with the facts.
Tim Westergren is Pandora’s Herb Tarlek, playing fast and loose with the facts to make Pandora look bigger and a more significant player than it is.
A recent example is the PowerPoint presentation Pandora put together for the investment community.
The 72 slides are a mix of wishful thinking and back-of-the-envelope calculations all designed to give a truthiness patina to the dog and pony show.
Slide 12, for example, shows Pandora’s tremendous lead over its competitors in Ando Media rankers. We’ve all heard the stories.
Yes, Pandora is a giant in streaming. The problem is that Pandora is a giant in the land of little people. Streaming remains a very small segment of radio listening.
Pandora’s real target is broadcast radio, so it has to appear bigger. It isn’t enough to dominate the Ando Media rankers, it has to show it is competitive with broadcast radio.
The slide notes sources of Ando Media, Arbitron, and the US Census Bureau (!), but only Herb Tarlek could come up with an estimate using these sources, and then have the balls nerve to carry the estimate to one decimal point.
The problem is that there is no agreed metric for radio listening hours that combines broadcast radio with streaming. Even worse, any estimate of total listening is nothing more than a wild guess.
The 3.6% number is simply a made up number linking Pandora to radio listening. It means nothing and relates to nothing measured in the real world, but it does look impressive.
To continue the sting Pandora next releases carefully selected narrow demo local AQH ratings.
You may have seen the headlines (exclamation points added):
Lest readers miss the point, Herb Tarlek Tim Westergren added:
Listeners are increasingly turning to Pandora personalized radio to listen to music at home, at work, in the car and all points in between. It's a great platform for advertisers to connect directly with their audience throughout the day.
If personalized radio makes Pandora a great platform, why the need to create AQH ratings? To make broadcast look weaker.
Comparing Pandora to a single terrestrial radio station is just a clever trick. It is Pandora’s three card monte.
Comparing Pandora to a single station is meaningless. The only meaningful comparison is between Pandora Media (Pandora’s corporate enity) and broadcast groups.
What does Pandora look like compared to the leading broadcast groups? Not even close.
NOTE: Despite the posting of specific station AQH ratings elsewhere, Arbitron has ordered that we remove the broadcast group rating graphs originally included in the post. The graphs now appear without ratings and groups names. You'll still get the idea.
In Los Angeles, Pandora is tied for fourth, but still at a fraction of Clear Channel, CBS, and Univision.
Back in 2010 we noted Pandora and Westergren’s obsessive effort to cast broadcast in the worst possible light to make Pandora look that much stronger:
"Someday Pandora will go public. Westergren and those who financially bankroll Pandora will become a multi-millionaires. Understandably, there is an incentive to talk up Pandora and make it seem bigger and more important than it actually is.
"Fair enough. However, since he seems to have a compulsion to distort and manipulate the facts repeatedly attacking local radio, it is time for local radio to push back and set the record straight."
Unfortunately, just the opposite happened. Radio took this latest effort hook, line, and sinker. Herb Tarlek would be proud.