Two years ago we noted Tim Westergren’s seemingly pathological need to denigrate local radio using unsubstantiated unverifiable statistical factoids, confident that no one would question his numbers.
Since going public, Pandora executives have pursued the same wink-filled PR path, offering upbeat predictions backed by shaky statistics nearly always coupled with a solemn reference to broadcast radio’s imminent death.
The pitch of Pandora’s PR drone has recently kicked up a full octave, perhaps a consequence of Wall Street’s skeptical response to the service’s prediction of a bright future.
Pandora’s stock price is stuck below it’s June 15, 2011 debut, barely half of its first day’s high.
So Pandora’s PR machine has changed gears.
The service’s exponential growth in Triton Media ratings is old news. New month, new record numbers. The story has been told with numbing frequency.
Pandora is like the school yard bully that has already beaten up all the kids at school. The bully needs somebody bigger to beat up.
So Pandora has stopped picking on its weenie streaming competitors and instead is taking aim at someone considerably bigger: local broadcast radio.
In July the service released numbers it purported were AQH ratings, for the first time enabling the service to claim it is just as big as broadcast radio.
Pandora’s accomplis in this assault on local radio claimed, “this data demonstrates the significance and scope of Pandora’s audience.”
Like most of the other statistics Pandora releases, the AQH release had a thin shell of credibility.
Citing AQH invites, even begs one to compare Pandora’s numbers to Arbitron’s station ratings. And lest anyone miss the point, Pandora’s CRO John Trimble notes:
AQH is the industry standard for buying radio advertising and providing buyers with an apples-to-apples metric is just one of the things we do to help advertisers.
It didn’t help that Arbitron abetted the crime by allowing the release of broadcast station AQH ratings (KIIS 0.7 Pandora 0.9, WHTZ 0.6 Pandora 0.7, etc), a clear violation of the company’s “fair use” guidelines but then blocked our attempt to provide more meaningful comparisons.
With the duplicity of Pandora sycophants, the announcement and release ricocheted around mainstream media, radio trades, blogs, and then back to mainstream media so that today everyone just accepts the “fact” that Pandora is bigger than any local radio station.
If you Google Pandora beats local radio, you’ll find close to 11 million links. Yet Pandora's number-crunchers indignatly claim with a straight face that they had nothing to do with attempts to compare Pandora numbers to terrestrial radio stations.
Radio’s giant flywheel of a ratings service finally got around to releasing a well-written thinly veiled response to Pandora’s scribbles, but long after the damage was done.
Arbitron’s paper (PDF) should be required reading by pundits who gush over Pandora, but we doubt few will bother. The fix is in.
Radio, showing vigilance that would make the guardians of Troy blush has finally gotten indignant about Pandora’s made up numbers now that Pandora has announced 13-25% gains in their made-up ratings.
And radio’s slow-motion push-back led to some defensive back-peddling on the part of Pandora’s enablers, but too late.
There’s blood in the water. Pandora’s fix is in.
CRO Trimble once declared that, “accurately reflecting our audience listenership is critical to our clients,” but that isn't going to stop Pandora from continuing to release their home-brew ratings.
And we bet they will show dramatic growth.
Did we mention the service is now releasing cume numbers?
Next post we’ll look a little more closely at the back of the envelope Pandora uses to calculate their numbers.
We’ll also explain why radio’s response has so completely missed the mark.