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Pandora’s Black Box?

July 30, 2011 2 comments

In case you skipped the trades for some July sun this week, Edison Research issued a release Thursday (07/28) that generated some heat. An audience analysis by Edison Research indicates that 18-34 listening to Pandora has reached between .7 and .9 ratings points in the top US radio markets. This would effectively rank Pandora among each market’s leading 18-34 FM stations (see RAIN’s analysis).

This triggered considerable hand-wringing and denial from radio, but also some questions about the data which, at least so far, are unanswered. Mary Beth Garber of Katz Radio (who admittedly is backing its own horse in this race) questioned  the market geography of the study, and whether it provides an “apples-to-apples comparison.”  In the release, Edison says they converted data provided by Pandora into the kind of AQH estimates used by Arbitron.  Beyond that, few details on the methodology or data source are provided, with nothing on either the Edison or the Pandora website.

It’s easy to see why Pandora would commission this analysis. Placing their numbers on traditional radio yardsticks reinforces the legitimacy of the service to media buyers and shareholders—even if it’s open to debate whether Pandora constitutes “radio” or just another way of listening to music. And there’s no reason to suspect that the numbers have been goosed; Pandora’s dominance in the space is well documented.

But a little more transparency in the methodology would be that much more convincing.

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