Pandora believes that people like to listen to songs similarly coded by their analysts:
We believe that each individual has a unique relationship with music - no one else has tastes exactly like yours. So delivering a great radio experience to each and every listener requires an incredibly broad and deep understanding of music.
By utilizing the wealth of musicological information stored in the Music Genome Project, Pandora recognizes and responds to each individual's tastes. The result is a much more personalized radio experience - stations that play music you'll love - and nothing else.
For a music service that prides itself on its Genome Project and it’s ability to deliver a great personalized radio experience, Pandora’s latest announcement seems a step backwards.
Pandora is adding 20 genre and more than 100 "micro-genre" stations to the service, stations like Teen Pop and Classic Rock. In other words, Pandora is going to offer channels just like broadcast and all the other services like Rhapsody have been offering all along.
Senior Music Curator Michael Zapruder explains it this way:
Our listeners have been telling us for a while that they'd like an easy way to start a station from popular genres with the option to personalize the station from there. We wanted to find a uniquely Pandora way to address this consumer need so we created a number of genre stations that are carefully seeded with relevant songs and constantly refreshed with new releases.
Of course, the Pandora spin is that the genre channels can be fine-tuned using MGP. The odd thing is that Mr. Zapruder tells us the genre channels were created because listeners had trouble creating customized stations.
If Pandora’s users really don’t understand how to use the feature that differentiated Pandora from its competitors, what does it say about Pandora?
Pandora's continuing publicity blitz frequently generates headlines declaring Pandora the future of radio. We question the prediction.
The MGP helps convey the impression that Pandora has something special, something that no other Internet service has. In that regard, the Genone Project is a great marketing tool. It does not appear, however, to offer a sustainable programming advantage.
If the Music Genome Project really creates the perfect personal station, why do users need generic format channels?
Pandora’s genome generated personal music experience already has the distinction of having the shortest listening span of any measured service. What is going to happen to TSL as more people turn to the generic channels?
In a post we noted that Pandora's approach ultimately fails to offer any advantage to radio's historical "top down" approach to programming. Pandora simply replaces the traditional programmer's role with musicologists and algorithms.
Pandora has been brilliantly marketed and holds a tremendous lead over its competitors. However, regardless of how it is spun, this move to add traditional channels is an admission that Pandora needs more than the genome project buzz to keep growing.
Brilliant marketing can only take a product so far. For the long run, it also takes a brilliant product.
The jury is still out on whether Pandora has mastered the second part.