Will Pandora Kill the Radio Star?

As traditional radio listening hits its lowest point ever and more and more young people
are using services like Pandora to discover new music, do digital music services mean the end
for radio?

“Video Killed The Radio Star.”

So sang The Buggles on their 1979 worldwide hit record which reached number 1 in 16 countries.
Two years later it was the first song to be played on air on MTV when it launched on 1st August
1981. 35 years on however, radio is still very much alive and kicking – even though MTV is now
available in 85% of homes in the US.





But radio faces a new threat. A threat, it could be argued, that is in the process of killing off radio’s elder
sibling print. In its quarterly report last week, the UK radio industry’s audience measurement provider
RAJAR revealed that the share of UK radio listening via traditional analogue radio hit its lowest point ever.
Only 56.5% of radio listening was registered via the traditional AM and FM bands – down 1.9%

The threat is, of course, digital. Recent years have seen the emergence of platforms such as Spotify, Rdio,
last.fm and Pandora. A survey by Niche reported that 77% of graduating high school students in the US
claim to source new music from Pandora, while Clear Channel’s tradition radio brands came in third place at 31%

In a recent interview with Kurt Hanson – the globe-trotting founding editor of RAIN News – Pandora SVP
Heidi Browning made much of the discussion focused on the company’s new “Promoted Stations” product, which
“leverages a combination of media creativity and data knowledge.”

The most publicly visible example of this kind of campaign so far has been US television network WGN’s three
Promoted Stations for their new drama serial MANH(A)TTAN


Ahead of the launch of their new drama series Manhattan, WGN augmented their campaign on Pandora with
three “promoted stations” – curated playlists of music from the show itself from artists including Sigur Rós, Jake
Bugg and Zero7.

The WGN/MANH(A)TTAN Promoted Stations campaign, while at first glance simple, is a very exciting
development. It’s the first time we’ve heard of an advertiser perceiving added value in curated, targeted,
interactive audio content in this way – paying for more than the usual spot buys. The MANH(A)TTAN
campaign was developed and implemented by Pandora’s new in-house creative  advertising team. The
team “works with agencies and advertisers to build customized messages, programs, and productions to
connect brands with targeted groups of listeners”.

Browning went on to say, “We co-create; we don’t replace the agency.It’s a collaboration. We come to the
table with what we know is best for the listener. They come to the table with what they know is best for the
brand. Together we create a custom experience.”

Hold on. That sounds awfully familiar. So their creative team works with clients and agencies using the
knowledge they have acquired of their audience…

Sounds like a radio station!

Perhaps digital does not mean the end of radio as we know it. The world of digital audio can learn
many things from the established medium of radio. Knowing and understanding your audience has a value
and developing engaging and creative campaigns will help an advertiser communicate with that audience.

But traditional radio can also benefit from the advantages that the digital world has to offer when broadcasting over
the internet and to people listening on mobile devices, particularly when it comes to targeting, interaction and

Targeting – Ads in live streams can now be as targeted as the ads we’re all used to seeing on Google or Facebook.

Interaction – Mobile devices offer a whole new raft of ways for broadcasters and advertisers to interact with listeners,
whether it’s tapping through to a website or sending a text message. Who knows, the “press call” function could
mean an end to telephone numbers in radio ads.

Measurement – Mobile audio campaigns can now be as fully accountable as any other digital campaign with reports on
when and where people are listening as well as measuring audio ad impressions and interactions.

So will Pandora kill the radio star? Hopefully not.

If radio learns from print and embraces digital rather running away from it – adding the targeting, interactivity
and measurement that digital offers to the powerful intimate medium of radio, the future of the original “new media”
is looking rather bright.