Some within the radio industry are calling Pandora out. The latest came from Clear Channel CFO Richard Bressler. Pandora, which each month releases its own metrics on listening hours and share of U.S. radio listening, claimed that it had 8 percent of all radio listening in in October. Clear Channel doesn't buy it, because other statistics say the total of all radio listening online makes up only 8 percent. That's all Internet radio stations and services combined, including Pandora -- and iHeart, TuneIn, Slacker, and thousands of others.
But Pandora continues to issue releases about its numbers, and people are buying it -- including many advertisers who have seen Pandora's impressive presentations about its audience.
In fact, radio, with repeated calls for Pandora to step up and prove its numbers and methodology, may be playing right into Pandora's hands: Pandora could easily claim radio is just being defensive because the industry feels threatened.
And they might have a point: It's not helpful for radio to appear to be on the defensive. If Pandora is so insignificant, why does radio keep talking about it? I had that very reaction when Pandora issued a press release saying its listening levels actually went up the week Apple's iRadio was announced -- I thought Pandora wouldn't make such an announcement unless they were running scared.
I co-sponsored an online radio event at the Wizard Academy recently, and I was surprised by the way advertisers were enamored with Pandora -- and how few were asking the tough questions, like "Can you prove your numbers?" Pandora is a new shiny object, and there are advertisers who want to believe in its success.
Meanwhile, every radio station has to prove its numbers with advertisers every day, as they demand ratings from credible sources like Nielsen Audio, which has to adhere to specific standards from the Media Rating Council. Where is the demand from advertisers for Pandora to prove its numbers are accurate?
This game needs to stop. The advertising industry needs to hold Pandora to the same standards they hold all other media. They need to demand an apples-to-apples comparison of Pandora and terrestrial radio listening, and refuse to support Pandora until it allows a third party to verify the accuracy of its numbers. Frankly, Pandora should be glad for an opportunity to prove its figures are valid.
Pandora entered the radio space in hopes of acquiring radio's audiences and advertisers. If Pandora truly believes its numbers are accurate, it's time to step up and prove it.
I invite Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews to talk about the numbers face-to-face with a radio-industry audience at my Forecast conference November 20 in New York. If Pandora's numbers are accurate, there is nothing to hide, and may the best win.
Pandora: Time to step up and live by the standards of all other media.