Pandora Revamps Mobile App With New Discovery Section, Customizable Stations

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Shutterstock / Ricky Of The World

Pandora is unveiling a major refresh to its mobile app that puts a bigger emphasis on discovery, while also giving users an easy way to fine-tune their favorite stations. The new app is launching for both iOS and Android devices, and will be available to all mobile users in the coming weeks.

The revamp of the mobile app is meant to help people more easily browse Pandora’s catalog, and discover songs, albums and playlists they may be interested in. That’s especially true for all those folks who still primarily turn to Pandora for lean-back listening, said Pandora’s chief product officer and SiriusXM head of technology Chris Phillips. “People still don’t know that you can search and play any song on demand.”

Pandora added Spotify-like on-demand listening to its app in early 2017. At the end of that year, Pandora added a “free premium” feature that allows users of its free tier to listen to individual songs as well as whole albums and playlists on demand after watching a video ad. However, Phillips said that the previous design of the app was still primarily focused on continuous lean-back listening of Pandora stations, meaning that many users never actually searched for songs or albums.

The new app now features a dedicated “For You” section that includes easy access to the entire Pandora catalog by genre, mood, playlist, decade and more. It also features about a dozen rotating modules that recommend playlists, albums, podcasts and more based on the time of day, past listening habits and more.

Listeners may find a selection uplifting music to get over their afternoon slump, the latest album of their favorite artist, and a section of personalized playlists, as well as a variety of charts to find the top artists and stations across the service’s entire user base. Altogether, Pandora has developed 35 such modules, and is updating as well as rotating them multiple times a day to keep things fresh. “Everyone’s app will look different,” said Pandora vice president of design and creative Tony Calzaretta.

Throughout the “For You” section, Pandora is also highlighting podcasts, which the service has been recommending to its listeners through its so-called “Podcast Genome Project” since late last year. “We are doing recommendations at the episode level,” said Phillips.

Pandora screenshots

In addition to “For You,” Pandora has also added a way to easily tweak any station. Every station now features a “My Station” button above the album art. Tap it, and you’ll be able to instead switch to different versions of the station, including “crowd faves,” a new “discovery mode” that broadens the horizon, an “artist only” mode and a “deep cuts” mode, among others. “This is where you go into the B sides,” Phillips said about the “deep cuts” mode.

Ultimately, both the new “For you” section and the additional station modes are about giving listeners ways to interact more with Pandora’s catalog. Calzaretta said that both users of the paid and ad-supported subscription tier tended to oscillate back and forth between passive listening and active discovery.

“Everybody’s listening is split,” he said. “There is lean-in and lean-back listening happening everywhere.” Except, previously, much of that active discovery wasn’t happening on Pandora, which users firing up other apps whenever they wanted to listen to a certain song or album, ultimately leading to a decline of Pandora’s usage numbers.

Pandora’s monthly active users were just shy of 65 million during the most recent reported quarter; that’s down 16 million from 3 years ago. The bigger emphasis of lean-in and on-demand listening is one part of Pandora’s strategy to win back some of those listeners, with Philips suggesting that exclusives will be the another key aspect. “We’re going to have more and more exclusive content on Pandora and Sirius,” he said.