Commentary

Real-Time With Pandora's John Trimble

Despite recent reports that Pandora is close to launching a Facebook Exchange-like infrastructure to automate sales of its Internet music users, don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. I heard that directly from Chief Revenue Officer John Trimble during a conversation I had with him on stage at OMMA Mobile in New York this morning. When I asked him whether Pandora was close to launching such an exchange, Trimble demurred, saying the company is looking into it, but wants to focus on its “plumbing” first. That makes sense, because Pandora has effectively created a new category (make that categories) of media consumption and audiences that may not fit neatly into existing inventory models. Yes, it calls itself “radio,” but it’s very different than conventional over-the-air radio.

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Not the least of which are issues like how, when, where and why users access the music service, including surprisingly new platforms like cars (not so surprising), refrigerators (more surprising) and even washing machines (even more surprising). What surprised me most by Trimble’s responses was how much like conventional radio Pandora has been defining itself. That makes sense when you consider it already has about 7.5% of the radio market, which is still a $15 billion ad medium.

That said, radio has moved relatively slowly into real-time trading, and so will Pandora, he implied.

Most of its focus, he said, is on understanding the marketplace, and how agencies and brands would benefit from automated trading -- and of course, how much Pandora’s yield would, as well.

In terms of plumbing, you may recall that just last week, Pandora integrated with Madison Avenue media-buying data processing systems Mediaocean and Strata to create what it calls “frictionless planning and buying.”

While that integration will enable end-to-end automation of buying ads on Pandora, there’s still some friction associated with trading that way. And there’s the rub.

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