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Pandora Users Want Control

Kassof survey looks at listener differentiation of the Internet audio service from FM radio

Pandora users really, really like control.

Choice comes in a close second, according to the latest survey by audience research firm Mark Kassof & Associates.

Both choice and control are the perceived differences between Pandora and FM radio, according to the findings in “Choice: The Difference Between Pandora and Radio.”

In April, the firm contacted just over 1,000 listeners 18–64 and asked them to rate seven music sources on a 1 to 5 scale, with “one” meaning different from Pandora and “five” meaning exactly the same as Pandora.

The findings show Pandora listeners see iHeartRadio as the music source most like Pandora and YouTube least like it. FM radio ranks fifth.

Among those who see FM as clearly different from Pandora, the “ones” and “twos,” Pandora’s ability to let them choose what they want to hear is the number one difference, at 31%.

More specific choices — for example, the ability to select genres and artists and skip songs — also relate to the control they think Pandora gives them that FM doesn’t. Seventy-six percent of these listeners (who expressed an opinion) say the differences make Pandora “better to listen to” than FM.

Following control and choice as key differentiators between Pandora and FM are commercials. Older listeners especially are more likely to see commercials as a difference between FM and Pandora compared to younger listeners.

According to Kassof, Pandora may not “be” radio, but that doesn’t make it any less of a challenge to radio. He also said that the industry can compete with Pandora “on its own terms,” as Clear Channel does with iHeartRadio. He says the radio industry needs to get a better handle on Pandora’s weaknesses, which he plans to detail in his next survey.

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