Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

The iPod as a Pandora’s box

If I had to put my testicles on the chopping block and successfully pick one acquisition that’s going to take place in the next 12 months or lose my marbles, I’d without hesitation point Cupertino way and predict that Apple will buy Pandora.

I love Pandora. I have it playing constantly and I’m amazed at the number of cool new artists I’ve come across that I never would have heard of before. And that’s really why these two great companies fit together so well. Pandora is simply the greatest  music discovery engine ever invented and if integrated into iTunes could potentially significantly drive up music purchases as buyers consistently discover new artists that match their tastes.

Apple is already well aware of this fact, of course. When you run Pandora there’s an iTunes ad that runs down the side and you can click on it and go and purchase the song your listening to. I guess the question then is what’s going to push these two companies into taking their existing relationship further and actually come together.

Firstly, it would be a great branding move for Apple. Apple, iPod and iTunes are all very well-positioned as the music lover’s first choice. Whether it’s creating music in Garageband, playing your music on an iPod or buying and managing with iTunes, Apple has cred. Pandora, of course, with its music genome project, whereby it has a staff of music afficianado’s classifying and categorising as much music as it can get its hands on, is the ultimate in cool. It certainly whips some ass, on a faceless, machine-oriented music recommendation service like Yahoo might be perceived to offer.

Can you imagine the raptures that the Apple faithful are going to go into if at next year’s MacWorld Steve Jobs walks out and announces the Pandora acquisition.

If that happens, chances are he will simultaneously announce the connected iPod. That’s where the magic happens between Pandora and iPod. You’re out on the road, connected iPod strapped to your waist and you’re streaming Pandora songs. You’re paying Apple a monthly fee for the connectivity, on top of which they bundle a Pandora subscription. Cool! Wow, that was a great, new song you’ve never heard of. You press a couple of buttons on your iPod and it downloads the songs to your iPod harddrive, adds the download charge to your monthly bill and you’ve magically grown your music collection with almost zero effort. Suddenly, BitTorrent seems way too hard.

If Apple doesn’t buy Pandora, someone else will. Google, Apple and Microsoft will all want this kind of personalised streaming music offering because it’s an almost unparalleled vehicle for delivering targetted, personalised advertising. You’ve already told these companies a lot about you based solely on the kind of music your listening to, so as well as throwing you down a song that should appeal to you they can just as easily stick in a targetted, relevent advertisement.

Oh, and imagine if you control the hardware too like Apple does and you can build a GPS device that tells the ad server exactly where you are. “We see your passing Starbucks, drop in now for a half-priced cup of coffee!”.

If there a more powerful advertising medium than that, I’d like to see it. it’s got attention, relevence and context all in one. It wouldn’t even be unfeasible to suggest, especially as the hardware continues to be commoditised that a company like Apple could give away the iPod to anyone who signs up to a connected contract and who agrees to receive advertising at the same time. Screw those every-shrinking hardware margins, the money in the future’s gotta come from a combination of comms, music sales and advertising.

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22 Responses

  1. Caitlin says:

    It’s got attention, relevance and context but also a huge annoyance factor. Advertising is fruitless if it annoys the customers and it’s a bit creepy to be reminded that your every move is being tracked. Plus, different stores have different opening hours – it would be even more annoying getting these messages after hours.

    GPS technology would be useful if your iPod gets nicked though.

  2. Brock says:

    Dude, thanks for the Pandora link. I hadn’t heard of them before, but I’m addicted in under two minutes.

    PS – I first read this post on my RSS reader.

  3. Fabrice says:

    I couldn’t agree more, I discovered Pandora a few weeks ago and I am addicted to it… My first thought when I dicovered it was here is something that’s actually better than itune, mostly because of the discovery factor.
    This thing is going to kill satelite radio.
    And by the way if you have an airport express connected to your stereo you can stream Pandora using a shareware call “Airfoil”, which is a utility that allow you to send audio to your airport from any application.

  4. nicolas says:

    You forgot one other thing that Pandora does that I would love in my iTunes. Relevance.

    My iTunes are all mucked up and unclassified. Therefore I’ll be happily grooving along to Dizzy Gillespie and then get hit by some Eminem. Why can;t it group my music for me automatically. My feeling is that iTunes does this a little, but could do it so much better. Imagine if using Pandroa all my tunes are properly classified and so it becomes my only little automatic DJ, playing my songs in some kind of relevant order.

    or to take it one step further, they actually start automatically mixing them (hell they should be able to judge from the BPM’s) so I get one non-stop stream.

  5. zgoda says:

    I discovered Pandora about half a year ago. It was great for 10 hours, then suddenly stopped playing tracks. I wanted to pay yearly subsription fee but – guess what? – I live in Europe. These times Pandora subsriptions was available to US of A residents, so I gave up. I got to, which is not as good as Pandora, but had no such annoying limitations. And, oh, it’s getting better each week, unlike Pandora.
    Now I see there’s no “first 10 hrs are free” at Pandora. Something changed in their licensing scheme, but it isn’t obvious at first sight. Maybe I’ll give Pandora a second chance, but I don’t feel the rush.

  6. Atom says:

    The idea of Pandora beging intergrated into your itunes is an excellent idea, and the possiblities once it’s in there are endless. (Idea: you could set your itunes to shuffle, and each time one of your tracks are played, Pandora chips in with one you don’t possess – but which Pandora thinks is a similar style.)

    Personally though, I’m often a little disappointed with the songs Pandora picks out for me. (I’m usually left thinking: in what way does THIS sound anything like THAT?!!) But that’s probably cos I’m an awkward bugger.

  7. S.H. says:

    All these companies merging… That’s a bit scary.

  8. constantlysu says:

    Goodness, thanks for the pandora link!

    Where have I been all this time man? Pandora rocks!

  9. Daz says:

    I love Pandora, and just pray that this does happen. Apple + Pandora merger is the best idea I have ever heard. Plus that GPS advertising, awesome thoughts man.

  10. Sebastian Bruhn says:

    For me it’s just a matter of time, until Apple buys PANDORA and fully integrate it into itunes. Saves lots of times to find songs you want to hear and ,in the end, buy.

  11. […] Personally, I think we’ll have to wait until Macworld. When you move into the telco space there’s always a multitude of regulatory crap you have to get through so it’ll take time. But its obviously going to happen and with Zune coming along it will be sooner rather than later. Once the iPhone thing happens then somebody let me stack my chips on that Apple/Pandora acquisition I riffed about a while back! […]

  12. MichaelD says:

    Normally, I don’t enter the comment frenzy, but I have to admit to the urge to pitch it on Pandora. It’s a marvelous bit of design. Pandora has all the attributes that Apple products have. Great, thoughtful design, highly functional, easy, logical interface. Come on Apple, this program is a natural!

  13. Armando Maynez says:

    I have also been thinking about this “natural” merge of technologies and I think that I have a feasible way of linking them, at least as a first stage wich does not require to be online all the time:
    The first obvious step is to include Pandora’s algorithm into the iPod/iPhone, this could be done by downloading the Pandora Classification Info of the songs you already have (just as you get the album info and artwork), and then having smart playists from a song or artist (just like pandora), that can be adjusted (fine tuned) from the iPod/iPhone using the stars rating instead of thumbs up or down, and adding more songs or artists “on the go”.
    This way you will have one of the Pandora’s features, still you need to incorporate the “new music discovery” into it.
    I would do it with wifi on the iPod/iPhone, monthly subscription will have you streaming songs, and if you choose to keep them, an extra charge for downloading will be on your montlhy or prepaid bill.
    What do you think?

  14. […] a sad state of affairs. My hope for Pandora is that my prediction that Apple would buy the service plays out. I still believe that a streaming Pandora service to […]

  15. Cesar says:

    If u love pandora maybe u ll love
    it shows u videos from an artist or similar artists (using the Lastfm huge library)

  16. Karthik says:

    I completely agree with you. I love my ipod and I am addicted to pandora. I had the same thought of clubbing ipod to pandora. Thats why I did a google search on (ipod + pandora ) and came across this article.
    Well.. I can only hope this marriage occurs soon !!!

  17. steve says:

    looks like you lost your balls. it’s been well over 12 months.

  18. The Information says:

    Pandora is the most important web site in existence.

  19. Rick says:

    Can you listen to Pandora on a ITouch by just going to Pandora or is there some additional step to the process

  20. […] than three yearsa ago I posted this:  ”If I had to put my testicles on the chopping block and successfully pick one acquisition […]

  21. grace says:

    i absolutly love Pandora and i think that this idae is wonderful! if i could listen to Pandora without the computer…i would take my iPod EVERYWHERE. it would be even better if Pandora had its own portable thing like the iPod only with Pandora! i would SO buy that. and when you bookmark the song it saves the entire song instead of just 15 seconds or however long it plays. yea, i would DEFINATLY buy that =)

  22. Good day! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him.
    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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