Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 10:00am
Leading webcaster Pandora late yesterday announced the relaunch of its mobile apps for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch (but reportedly not the iPad) and Google Android smartphones. The company says its "Pandora 4.0" is the most significant and comprehensive redesign of the applications since their first launch on the mobile platforms.
Undoubtedly, with the majority of Pandora's listening now coming from mobile devices, the company sees the need to both (a) offer mobile users the full functionality of the service, and (b) monetize mobile listening at a rate in line with web listening.
San Jose Mercury News tech blog SiliconValley.com describes the redesign as "essentially bringing the features of its website to users of its apps." The blog suggests Pandora's need to ramp up mobile advertising dollars was a main force behind the redesign.
For the launch Pandora has brought on four major advertisers as sponsors of "tips and information" inside the redesigned apps: McDonald's, Nike, Sony Pictures, and State Farm. SiliconValley.com reports that these sponsors will launch mobile ad campaigns to appear in the apps' new social features in the coming weeks.
Interestingly, TechCrunch characterizes the app redesign more as a "competitive" move, with a view of quickly "locking in" listeners as Spotify gains visibility in the U.S., and with a possible Apple entrance into the Internet radio market.
Over 75% of Pandora's 3.3 billion listening hours in the quarter ending July came from mobile -- nearly double the amount from a year earlier. Pandora says more than 115 million of its 175 million registered users have listened on a smartphone, and that "over 1 in 3 smartphone users in the U.S. have listened to Pandora in the past month." Pandora will further increase its mobile footprint next year when Microsoft makes the service available on the new Windows Phone 8, with one year of ad-free use.
Pandora's mobile ad revenues aren't dismal, by any means. Over half (55%) of its ad income now comes from mobile. "That worked out to $100 million in 2012, putting it second to Google in terms of mobile ads," writes TechCrunch. SiliconValley.com writes, "revenue from mobile ads was up 86% at $59 million in the last quarter."
But by enhancing the usability of the app, and increasing the value of interacting with it, it's clear that the value of any advertising that accompanies it is also increased.
App users will get access to many features of Pandora's website for the first time. Pandora's page described the new apps reveals they've simplified the navigation and controls for listeners.
A favorite on the web, dedicated artist pages, are now available via mobile. Listeners can now see their own personal music profile, with a detailed timeline of their listening (stations created, bookmarked tracks, ratings history), and they can share that profile via social media, or keep it private.
Taking a cue from the Facebook timeline, the "music activity feed" is now part of the app as well. Listeners can find and follow their friends and see what music they're enjoying, or explore similar listeners' play history. And the apps offer "instant sharing:" for the first time on mobile devices Pandora listeners can share links to their favorite stations and tracks on Facebook, Twitter, or among their Pandora friends.
The Pandora 4.0 app for iOS is available in Apple's AppStore now. The app for Android smartphones will be available from Google in the next few weeks.
See the new app enhancements here. Read CTO Tom Conrad's comments in the Pandora blog here. Pandora's press release is here. Read more from SiliconValley.com here and TechCrunch here. Read more on Pandora on Windows Phone 8 here.