Pandora Surpasses 40 Million Users (and what it means for terrestrial radio)

According to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Pandora, the personalized online radio service, reached 40 million users in 2009.

On average, 15 million people stream internet-only radio stations like Pandora every week.  That’s not far from matching the number of those streaming terrestrial radio station sites (22 million, according to the article).  Think about that for a second.  A handful of internet-only radio stations have nearly 3/4 the listeners as do all regular radio station streams combined.

“What’s the big deal,” you say.  “Besides, internet-only stations can’t compete with radio’s ubiquity, right?”  Guess again.  The last real advantage radio has is quickly evaporating.

Here’s the kicker quote from the article: “Unlike Pandora, CBS and Clear Channel don’t necessarily require users to register.” Did you get that?  Many stations, mine included, aren’t asking visitors/users to register (the first time) in order to consume the station’s content.

For my company, that’s nearly 50,000 unique streamers every month we’re NOT collecting information on.  For Clear Channel it’s 8 million a month.  For CBS, 9 million.  Want to take a guess at how many Pandora users give up at least an e-mail address for the chance to consume Pandora’s content?  I’ll tell you.  It’s 100%; as in, all of them.  That’s a database of 40 million e-mails.

Remember, back in the day, when your station first put up its streaming player and someone on staff argued against requiring registration for fear your users would find it off-putting?  I guess it’s safe to say now that that’s a hollow argument.

Maybe the real problem isn’t the various barriers to entry, but rather the experience (or lack thereof) we’re offering and the content we’re streaming. After all, we’ve removed all the hurdles, yet Pandora and its ilk are still kickin’ our tail.