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Pandora's Achilles' Heel


For Release: Wednesday January 6, 2010
Upated April 8, 2010

There is considerable interest in the on-line streaming measurement from Ando Media. It is an excellent product, one that gives the industry never-before-seen graphical and quantitative data on the streaming audience.

In the last quarter of 2009, Pandora's true on-line usage was available and as of the most current report, over 71 million session starts between 6am and 8pm Monday through Friday. CBS remains at the top position in Active Sessions 6am and Midnight Monday through Sunday.

Perhaps the more interesting data point is time-spent-listening. Clear Channel (1.69 hours), CBS Radio (1.40 hours) and Citadel Broadcasting (3.39 hours) all have significant listening levels based on data for Monday through Friday 6am-8pm. Pandora's 1.03 hours is less than the terrestrial simulcast streams as well as Accuradio (2.87 hours) and Bonneville (3.26 hours) for example.

As part of Bridge Ratings' Future of Radio study for 2010 concluded in early fall 2009, Pandora perceptions were pursued and evaluated.

In our sample, we found 843 persons ages 6-64 who used Pandora for at least one session Monday through Friday 6am-8pm.

During focus groups and telephone interviews, it was learned that while Pandora has a large base of users, the longer the consumer used Pandora's custom on-line music service, the more fatigue or tedium set in.

A follow-up study was conducted in March 2010 to confirm the findings of the initial stand-alone study.

This chart represents five Pandora consumer levels with satisfaction responses. Note the comparison with the original study:

The newer the Pandora consumer the higher the satisfaction level. Over time, though, the satisfaction level is affected by "fatigue or boredom". Generally speaking, even those Pandora users who have been using the service for more than three years, retain high levels of satisfaction. Responses for the service being "Just OK", "Somewhat Dissatisfied" and "Very Dissatisfied" increase the longer the user experiences the service.


The answers can be found in the following chart.

Pandora "Primes", those users of the service that use it consistently (at least three times a week), and also use other streaming services such as terrestrial radio or pure play webcasters such as Accuradio were asked "How would you rate your experience with Pandora compared to [the other services you use].

Pandora's time-spent-listening softness is rooted in two factors:

1) The sheer number of significantly larger session starts, and

2) It's song-by-song selection.

As we've learned with terrestrial radio analysis, large cuming stations tend to have lower average-time-spent listening simply due to the sheer size and variety of listeners. The same can be said of Pandora.

However, there is something else going on here. While a solid 40% of Pandora's consumers rate the service "Excellent", a large component of Pandora's users find the music flow or unfamiliar music quotient to be less comfortable compared to their experience listening to terrestrial radio streams, for example.

The very reason for its appeal, music discovery based on artist selection, is also Pandora's time-spent-listening Achilles' heel.

Read about Pandora's Music Genome project here.

We found that the longer consumers use Pandora, fatigue and/or tedium sets in as users become accustomed to the programming "style" of Pandora.

Sample size: 843 6-65 years of age. Sample error +/- 3.5%

If you are interested in learnng more about these findings through a consultive relationship, please contact Dave Van Dyke at or 888.790.1102.

Bridge Ratings is a ratings and research company based in Glendale, California with offices also in Dallas, Texas. We are dedicated to providing on-going, immediate, reliable, useable and affordable audience measurement services for the radio industry. Our methodology is based on sound consumer research principles. We are in the business of tracking listeners - not listening. Because we are a true research company we offer flexibility to our clients.

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