Pandora’s new CEO Roger Lynch has big plans for podcasts: Lynch told Variety on the sidelines of CES in Las Vegas Thursday that he wants to create “the equivalent of the podcast genome project” as the company plans to add many more podcasts to its catalog.
Lynch, who joined Pandora as president and CEO in September, said that the company is working on a deep integration of podcasts that will allow users of the service to easily browse and discover new shows. Describing these efforts as a kind of podcast genome project is a nod to Pandora’s Music Genome Project — a massive database of dozens of musical attributes for every single song in the company’s music library that is being used to compile stations and aid discovery.
Pandora is also looking to offer podcasters monetization options that will be superior to the current state of podcast advertising. Currently, many podcasters still rely on ads that they read themselves on air, Lynch said. “It is not the most effective advertising model.”
That being said, Pandora isn’t pivoting to podcasts. “Music will continue to be the core of Pandora,” Lynch said. The company is instead looking to broaden its offering to retain existing users and regain the trust of those who have left in the past.
Pandora is still a music industry juggernaut with close to 74 million monthly active users, but the company has been bleeding users at a steady pace, to the tune of 4 million year-over-year in Q3 of 2017. Part of the reason why users were leaving was that Pandora didn’t offer them the ability to play single songs on demand, argued Lynch.
The company aimed to address some of that issue with the launch of its premium service last year, but Lynch said that Pandora wouldn’t be wise to see paid music subscriptions as the solution to all of its problems. “We have to be mindful of where our real competitive advantage is,” he said, arguing that Pandora is first and foremost about ad-supported music. “There’s no one who is as focused on this as us as a business opportunity,” Lynch said.
That’s why Lynch is very hopeful about a new feature launched in December that gives listeners free access to Pandora’s premium service for 30 or so minutes after watching a video ad. Not only does this make the service better for ad-supported users, it also allows artists to get involved, argued Lynch.
Previously, artists could only link to their station on Pandora. Now, they can directly link to their latest single — which could be a big step towards getting some of those past uses who haven’t been on Pandora for a while back onto the platform.
Lynch painted this as one way Pandora is going to make better use of all the things it already has going for it, including its data, content and brand recognition. Ultimately, Pandora simply had to execute better to be successful, Lynch argued. “We have the best collection of assets in the business. We under-leveraged them in the past.”