The continuous stream of Pandora stories and the repeated retelling of Pandora’s near death and phoenix-like rise to Internet radio preeminence has provided those in its shadow a free ride into mainstream consciousness.
Because of Pandora’s meteoric rise, everybody assumes Internet radio use is growing by leaps and bounds. Because of Pandora, everybody knows that broadcast radio’s days are numbered, that soon radios will go the way of typewriters.
And Triton Digital’s streaming ratings prove it. Or do they?
According to RAIN:
While listening to broadcast radio simulcast online is indeed growing, it’s the huge gains made by Pandora (and to a much lesser extent, other “pureplay” Internet radio outlets) that’s powering that growth.
Two years ago, 70% of online listening Triton measured was credited to simulcast streams of broadcast radio. As of September’s numbers, it’s online-only radio that accounts for 70%.
Sounds like Internet radio growth is really coming at broadcast’s expense. Right?
Let’s look at the facts and see what’s really going on.
Unlike Arbitron which measures radio listening to all stations regardless of whether they subscribe, Triton Media only measures streams of clients who pay Triton.
The analysis and story compares September 2009 to September 2011. Triton Digital (then Ando Media) had a lot going on.
Pandora had just become an Ando client. Desk-top listening was first measured in August 2009, but their mobile listeners weren’t measured until January 2010.
Slacker signed up much later. It’s audience wasn’t measured until July 2010. That means the Slacker audience wasn’t included in the September 2009 report.
Like Pandora, Slacker ratings initially included only desk-top listening. Their mobile listeners weren’t measured until December 2010.
These subscriber changes make trending Triton Media ratings extremely misleading.
The first period does not include Slacker at all and does not include Pandora mobile numbers. The second period includes both services and mobile listeners for both.
Just these measurement changes are going to give the illusion of growth. So should there be any surprise that the tables tilted towards pure-play during this time?
There’s genuine growth buried in there, but the growth is inflated.
And Triton Digital ratings raise questions about the assertion that broadcast’s 70% of streaming has fallen to 30%.
Looking at Triton’s monthly rankers, broadcast streams made up about a third of Average Active Sessions (AAS) in their September 2009 report. The September 2011 report shows broadcast streams making up about 20%.
So the drop is much smaller, and Pandora is virtually the only reason broadcast dropped.
Over this period, Pandora increased their AAS by about 600,000, an increase of over 400%.
Yes, hats off to Pandora. That’s a tremendous growth story. But this is one tide that has raised a single boat.
When Slacker became a Triton client it added nearly 30,000 AAS to pure-play’s side of the ledger. Then a few months later when Triton started including their mobile audience, it increased Slacker’s apparent audience by 83.3% in just two months.
At first glance it would seem that Slacker took off just like Pandora, but that’s not the case.
Since Slacker has been consistently measured, its audience has barely grown, certainly nothing like Pandora’s. In the last nine months they’ve only added a little over three thousand listeners, a very modest 12.2% increase in AAS.
Hardly a rocket.
The story acknowledged that broadcast streams have also increased over the past two years, but the claimed 70/30 flip-flop seems to suggest that growth is sputtering.
It turns out that broadcast listening has increased nearly 50% over the period, not a bad performance given Pandora’s momentum.
Pandora is to pure-play streaming what Apple is to tablet computers. Each is not only the category leader, it is the category.
Slacker and other pure-play services are the HP Slate and Blackberry Playbook of streaming, also-rans riding the coattails of Pandora’s success.
They only wish a rising tide floats all boats.