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Deeper Inside Pandora’s Box

Last week we wrote about the TSL that’s already developed for new online music services, chiefly Pandora.  We said it’s time radio stopped focusing on competition just from within its walled garden and started focusing on the wider world of competition for consumers’ ears.  We offered some thought-starters last week and wanted to offer some additional insights this week.

When we asked music radio users to compare streaming services like Pandora to terrestrial radio, some complain about the cost associated with (some of) the services, roughly as many don’t feel the streaming services are better than radio.  Smaller groups feel the streaming services are too complicated or feel that they miss the human element interjected on FM/AM radio.  But, across the board, large pluralities or even a majority didn’t take any of the bait we offered as reasons that terrestrial is better than streaming.

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We’re all painfully aware that as music services alone, compared to terrestrial, online services offer more specific targeting, greater customization and, for now, significantly smaller commercial loads.  In order to compete, terrestrial music stations need to develop greater added value, more unique content and better entertainment compared to music alone.

So, among the various other content already provided regularly as added value by terrestrial, which types are most appreciated by listeners?  As you’d imagine, we asked respondents about the broadest half dozen types of added-value content heard on music radio.  Overall, service information (traffic & weather), local events and music information topped the list – though the specifics vary among partisans of different music radio formats.

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Appreciation for “hosts who are good company” approached half the younger CHR partisans, as well as partisans of Urban, Urban AC and Country.  Surprisingly, “hosts who are good company” was appreciated by comparatively smaller portions of those aligned with AC and Classic Rock – suggesting that stations have a thinner connection with these listeners or that talent on these types of stations have not done as well developing content tailored at listeners.

We’ve been encouraging clients to take intelligent risks, ask different questions, explore new content and experiment with presentation styles.  In some cases, these are easy to research.  In other cases, stations will be better served by conducting closely-monitored experiments (which PPM makes possible) to evaluate programming innovations.  In either condition, the time to start is now.  Taking no action threatens a tougher future as cars become better connected and consumers gain experience with streaming alternatives.

What are you willing to try?  What are you prepared to lose as online competition gets more fierce?

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