November 5, 2013:Pandora says its listening rose after iTunes Radio launch

Pandora wp8Apple’s iTunes Radio is a significant threat to Pandora, but media outlets pointing to the former’s 20m first-month users as a death-knell for its personal-radio rival were jumping the gun: curious triallists of iTunes Radio aren’t yet comparable to established active users of Pandora.

The true impact will become clear over the coming months, with Pandora’s monthly listening figures a better guide than isolated iTunes Radio stats announced by Apple. Well, now we have some Pandora stats. They’ve not been officially released yet, but the company’s chief financial officer Mike Herring talked about them at an investor conference yesterday.

According to Herring, Pandora recorded listening hours of 1.47bn in October, up 18% year-on-year and its second highest total ever behind March’s 1.49bn hours. Pandora’s listening hours in September were 1.36bn, so that’s an 8.1% month-on-month rise. Apple, schmapple!

Not so fast: just as we were cautious about proclaiming Pandora’s death based on early iTunes Radio figures, we’re also wary of judging its success. Pandora’s active listeners fell from 72.7m in September to 70.9m in October: a 2.5% drop compared to a 1.5% rise in the corresponding period in 2012.

And when considering the growth in listening hours, you can’t ignore the fact that Pandora removed its 40-hour monthly listening cap for free mobile users at the start of September.

Apple’s own stats suggest that each of those 20m first-month iTunes Radio users listened for roughly 3.4 hours, while Pandora’s October stats suggest around 20.7 hours per active listener, so there’s still a big engagement gap.

But without labouring the point, we’ll say again: it’s too early to judge iTunes Radio’s impact on Pandora unless you’re stretching to make the few facts fit an existing prejudice for or against either company. In other words, stay tuned.

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Stuart Dredge
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