Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Radio Challenge Part 1 - The Premise

There has been a lot of debate recently about the differences between online music services and broadcast radio. On one side, broadcasters claim that services like Pandora aren't really radio. After all, as Gordon Smith said in his keynote at the recent National Association of Broadcasters convention, "Think big: We have what everyone else wants --airwaves, content and a local connection."

On the other hand, Pandora calls itself "Internet Radio" and the streams the users create "stations." And according to a Jacobs Media Research report, 43% of its users think it should be consider "radio."

Do online services offer the same listening experiences as commercial broadcasters? Well, no. But as industry observers Mark Ramsey and Ken Dardis (among others) have continually pointed out, what really matters is not whatever distinction the industry makes, but how the listener perceives the experience.
So I decided to try an informal experiment. I listened to an hour of one of our local commercial radio stations (in this case a classic rock station), taking careful notes of what content I heard (and how much of it). I then went to Pandora and created a radio station using the first three artists aired by the commercial station.

Here's the content breakdown for my test hour:

Classic Rock Station:
10 songs
13 breaks (station IDs, promos, ads)
14 commercials

14 songs
4 breaks

This doesn't tell the whole story, of course. Tomorrow I'll publish a more detailed listing of all the content.

My perception was that I heard more music with fewer interruptions listening to Pandora. And the numbers confirm it. I deliberately chose a mid-day segment. (Morning shows tend to have a higher talk-to-music ratio, so I wanted  to get a more representational segment.)

The Radio Challenge

Part 2- The Details
Part 3 - The Conclusion

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