Pandora: More Listening - Less Satisfaction.

That's the summation of a new Bridge Ratings report which continues to confirm that with time Pandora user satisfaction deteriorates (see chart).

As one would suspect, new users (0-3 months) of the music service have a high degree of satisfaction which includes song selection, artist and title discovery, reduced commercial interruption and uninterrupted customized music.

However, as users learn to work with the service, "liking" or "skipping" songs, satisfaction begins to waver.

Time spent listening and the number of sessions per day begin to dip until a group we refer to as "Pandora graduates" (25 or more months of use for an hour or more a day) have reduced their daily sessions to less than 20% of their initial use and are spending less than 30% of the time spent listening during those sessions.

Reasons for this reduction in satisfaction stem from increased commercial interruption (for free users), disintegrating ability to select songs "I like", and song or artist repetition.

This is an update from our 2013 Pandora Usage study.

Additionally, data from the study related to advertising awareness and retention comparisons between broadcast radio and Pandora suggest that over time Pandora users have a reduced awareness of their audio advertising. Contrarily, awareness of advertising and advertising brands on broadcast radio - as you might suspect - is high and remains high over time.

Consumer expectations play an integral part of these results. Users of broadcast radio have always be exposed to advertising messages inserted into the programming on commercial radio stations. Retention of advertising messages and brands in this type of environment is aided by the expectation.

However, we have found that expectation of Pandora users is for no advertising or commercial interruptions, especially in the early days of the service. And while a paid subscription option which eliminates audio advertising exists for Pandora only about 15-20% of Pandora's total user base chooses this option.

Awareness by the sample of hearing commercial advertising on broadcast radio and on Pandora is depicted in this chart below.

Listeners expect that, for the most part,  broadcast radio as a free service also comes with commercial announcements. The difference is that commercial interruptions have been a part of broadcast radio for decades and they are part of the listening environment.  Most consumers who use on-line radio or on-demand streaming services on the internet do so for the expectation that there would be no commercials or very few interruptions.

Click on image to enlarge.

In the case of Pandora's free service, commercials - as few as they are - are also part of the listening environment but our studies have shown little retention or awareness of these short commercial announcements.

As Bridge Ratings has tracked consumer satisfaction of Pandora users over time, it has become evident that the longer one has subscribed to the service the less the service satisfies the original need.  In the above graphic, newcomers/users to the service (6 months or less) find the appeal quite powerful and rate the experience as "Highly Satisfying". However, over time, song repetition, the number of song skips and poor song selection contribute to less satisfaction. Heavy usage exposes negatives which results in shorter time spent with the service and fewer daily listening occasions.

Consumer Fatigue

Fatigue by long-term consumption is a well-known consumer marketing challenge. Many products and services can suffer from over exposure and Pandora users are experiencing this malady as well.


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