Music listening apps are making it harder to avoid podcasts, with platforms like iHeartRadio and Spotify serving up podcast recommendations front and center alongside music. Pandora is now following suit as it rolls out a redesigned mobile app. It includes a “For You” tab that includes suggested music and podcast picks. Those recommendations are personalized based on a users’ past listening.
Pandora has been beta-testing the new app with select users since October. “Early data shows that this is driving discovery, giving users greater access to on-demand music and leading people to experience more content than ever before” said Jim Meyer, CEO of Pandora’s parent company SiriusXM Radio. “Among its benefits, For You will also help grow Pandora’s podcasting platform as well by exposing users to even more types of content,” he told investors on a conference call.
Pandora made its move into podcasting last December. Since then, the company says its catalog of podcasts has grown five-fold and now includes thousands of shows with more than 600,000 episodes. Pandora also created what it billed as the Podcast Genome Project to help listeners dig through that catalog. Similar to how its Music Genome Project serves music to listeners, the Podcast Genome Project is a cataloging system and discovery algorithm that uses a combination of technology and human curation. It relies on more than 1,500 attributes which include such things as production style, content type, host profile, timely and evergreen topics, and listener signals including thumbs, skips and replays, to deliver personalized podcast recommendations.
Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM’s President and Chief Content Officer, said he believes podcasters will find the same benefits that the record labels have enjoyed through recommendation capabilities. “Once Pandora’s algorithms are able to align your music taste to your podcasts and you can surface podcasts the way they surface music, it’s an entirely different game. Because as the music industry learned, the issue is whether you can curate well and surface well when there is a tremendous amount of content out there,” he said on the investor call.
Spotify used a similar redesign in May to give podcasts a bigger footprint on its app.
Pandora hopes the redesign not only increases listening to podcasts, but also helps to slow the rate of user declines it has experienced through the past year. Pandora monthly active users during the third quarter totaled 63.1 million, down 8% from a year earlier. And total ad supported listener hours were 3.32 billion in the period, also down 8% from last year. The company will promote the new app and the features it sports as part of a multi-channel advertising campaign that weaves music, humor, and a vibrant new visual identity into a fresh narrative for the brand.
“This campaign is all about showing our listeners that Pandora is still the service they know and love, but it looks and feels a whole lot different — a whole lot better. The product is at the center, and we are highlighting the personalized, on-demand content Pandora users want, but may not know we have,” said Brad Minor, VP of Brand Marketing at Pandora.
In addition to television commercials, Pandora will also produce large-scale experiential events, including the unveiling of interactive street murals in key markets, and it will host a live-streamed concert with Halsey in New York’s Times Square.