Pandora today announced the Podcast Genome Project, a cataloging system and discovery algorithm that uses a combination of technology and human curation to deliver personalized content recommendations. In short, it is similar to the Music Genome recommendations the service pioneered in the last decade.
Beginning today, Pandora will roll out beta access to select listeners on mobile devices. Those interested in early access to the offering can sign-up here, with general availability in the coming weeks.
“It might feel like podcasts are ubiquitous, but, eighty-three percent of Americans aren’t yet listening to podcasts on a weekly basis, and a majority of them report that’s because they simply don’t know where to start,” said Pandora CEO Roger Lynch. “Making podcasts – both individual episodes and series – easy to discover and simple to experience is how we plan to greatly grow podcast listening while simultaneously creating new and more sustainable ways to monetize them.”
According to the announcement, the project works in a similar way to Pandora’s Music Genome Project, recommending podcasts to listeners at specific times. It evaluates content based on more than 1500 attributes — spanning MPAA ratings, timely and evergreen topics, production style, content type, host profile, etc. — and listener signals including thumbs, skips and replays. It also utilizes machine learning algorithms, natural language processing, and collaborative filtering methods for listener preferences. Also similar to the Music Genome Project, the Podcast Genome Project combines those techniques with in-house curation.
“With the introduction of podcasts, listeners can now easily enjoy all of their audio interests — music, comedy, news, sports, or politics — on Pandora, the streaming service that knows their individual listening habits the best,” said Pandora chief product officer Chris Phillips. “The Podcast Genome Project’s unique episode-level understanding of content knows exactly what podcast you’ll want to discover next, and will serve it up through a seamless in-product experience that is uniquely personalized to each listener and will continue to grow with their tastes over time.”
At launch, Pandora has partnered with publishers including APM, Gimlet, HeadGum, Libsyn, Maximum Fun, NPR, Parcast, PRX+PRI, reVolver, Slate, The New York Times, The Ramsey Network, The Ringer, WNYC Studios, and Wondery, and will continue to feature existing podcast content including Serial, This American Life and Pandora’s original Questlove Supreme, with many more to come in the future. These partnerships introduce hundreds of popular podcasts across a wide variety of genres including News, Sports, Comedy, Music, Business, Technology, Entertainment, True Crime, Kids, Health and Science.
After a rough few years, Lynch has been leading a gradual turnaround in the company’s fortunes. During its third-quarter earnings report last week, Pandora revealed that it generated close to 30 percent of its revenue for the quarter with paid subscriptions.
Altogether, Pandora brought in some $417.6 million in revenue for the quarter, with non-adjusted net losses coming in at $15.5 million, or $0.06 per share. Last year around, the company ended the same quarter with revenues of $378.64, and losses of $0.06 as well. Wall Street watchers had expected revenue of $401.29 million, and losses of $0.11 per share.
But the bigger story for Pandora may be the significant growth of its subscription business. The company’s paid products are still dwarfed by competitors like Spotify and Apple Music, with Pandora servicing just 6.8 million paying subscribers. However, the company significantly grew its subscription revenue, to the tune of 49 percent year-over-year, totaling $125.77 million for the quarter.