Is Pandora’s Entry Into Podcasting A Good Thing?

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Last week, Pandora announced it was launching a new podcast platform. Out of the gate, the launch (now in beta) will include about 420 shows.


That number is expected to grow in late December or early next year as Pandora rolls out more shows. Does having yet another platform to listen to podcasts confuse the already crowded platform field for users? Or should the industry be happy everyone is jumping into the podcasting pool? We heard from several podcasting veterans over the past few days and here’s what they had to say…

Rob Walch

On The Feed, the official Libsyn podcast (LISTEN HERE), Vice President of Podcast Relations Rob Walch said he’s really happy to have Pandora supporting podcasts. “This will be a destination where we all get real incremental growth. There are a lot of people in the U.S. that use Pandora every day. And soon, these people will have podcasting available to them in the app they are already using for audio, and that’s key. It’s not about another new aggregator app that has to try to steal market share from another aggregator app. It’s about the largest U.S. audio listening platform making podcasts available to their listeners. Podcast listeners are a lot like cats. There is no herding cats. You need to get your podcast everywhere so that when your listeners promote your podcast to their friends, the person they mention it to can easily find it in the platform they like to listen to audio on. That means getting podcasts everywhere, and Pandora is a big part of that everywhere, in the US at least. This will mean incremental growth for podcasting overall. This announcement was a really good day for podcasting.”

Todd Cochrane

On The New Media Show podcast (LISTEN HERE) Blubrry CEO Todd Cochrane said when Pandora dips its toe into the podcasting water they are going to find out the water is boiling. “Because people are going to say I have to be there, I have to be there, I have to be there. I would suspect the majority of the content is risk averse. Nothing too far right, nothing too far left. Calm, down-the-middle content. It’s painful to do that because you have an entire valley of podcasters saying how come I wasn’t picked? Why was I excluded? Therein lies my eternal bitch: that you alienate [so many podcasters]. All they have to do is ask us for the database and we’d be happy to export them a list with 75,000 shows. So, I guess we’ll see what happens. We all want more distribution. More distribution is good. I have impatience, let’s get everyone included.”

Rob Greenlee

Also on The New Media Show Voxnest Vice President of Podcaster Relations Rob Greenlee said Pandora does have the potential to have a significant impact on podcast listening in the U.S. “They want to be able to analyze these shows at a very deep level, understand them, and make recommendations in the Podcast Genome Project. What Pandora is known for is a personalized linear playback experience. It’s quite different than the user experience of podcasting. This may not be a perfect fit unless they are willing to adapt and make some concessions around their user experience for podcasting, and its yet to be seen if they’re willing to do that.”

Dan Franks

Podcast Movement Co-Founder Dan Franks said one of the bigger arguments we’ve seen in recent years is whether or not there is a “discovery problem” when it comes to podcasts. “Some would argue that podcast listeners have a hard time finding a ‘what’s next?’ podcast, while I argue the discovery problem is much more aligned with ‘what’s a podcast?’ or ‘how do I listen to podcasts?'” The exciting thing about Pandora’s Podcast Genome Project is it might just address both arguments. There are a lot of Pandora listeners who do not listen to podcasts, so will getting them in front of them help overall podcast consumption? And we know there are at least SOME podcast listeners who discovered a show they liked, but don’t know what show to listen to next; so will the recommendation engine behind Pandora help these listeners? While I don’t know the answer, and don’t want to predict the future, there is no better way to see how it all plays out than it happening before our eyes.”

According to a Pandora press release, the company has partnered with several publishers including APM, Gimlet, HeadGum, Libsyn, Maximum Fun, NPR, Parcast, PRX+PRI, reVolver, Slate, The New York Times, The Ramsey Network, The Ringer, WNYC Studios, and Wondery, and will continue to feature existing podcast content including Serial, This American Life, and Pandora’s original Questlove Supreme, with many more to come in the future. Genres will include News, Sports, Comedy, Music, Business, Technology, Entertainment, True Crime, Kids, Health and Science, offering inspiring audio experiences for a variety of diverse interests.

Walch, Cochrane, Greenlee, and Franks are all members of the Podcast Business Journal editorial board.

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