In-vehicle Internet radio has such an air of inevitability about it that I almost wonder why it isn’t common already, but a moment’s thought and a glance at just one aggregation of Internet stations – iTunes, for example – brings the problem into focus. There must be a gazillion Internet radio stations out there, so once the Internet connectivity problem has been solved, how is the tuning going to work?
Pandora has an answer at least for those who want to listen to music. “We’re taking advantage of the promise of the Internet – personalization – to deliver a radio listening experience that gives people the music they love – and this is changing the face of radio,” explains Jessica Steel, Pandora senior VP of business development. “Radio no longer needs to be a broadcast, ‘one-to-many’ experience, (but can now be) a unicast, one-to-one personalization platform.”
Pandora lets users create channels based on a particular artist or song in Pandora’s 850,000-plus catalog. Each tune in the catalog has been analyzed in depth based on 400 musical attributes, so channel selections will include not just music from the artist, but also music with attributes similar to those characteristic of the artist or the song. “People can connect with the music they love, and discover new music that they will love based on what they already know and like,” Steel says.
Pandora has 65 million listeners, which makes it compelling for advertisers and for automakers. Its smart phone application is a big hit. “Eighty percent of all radio listening is music, and more than 50 percent of that happens in the car,” Steel says. “We’re working with automotive OEMs and suppliers to allow people to command and control their Pandora experience, which they are bringing into the car on their mobile phone, from the car’s head unit.”
Alpine and Pioneer both make head units that support Pandora. Ford, GM, and Mercedes-Benz plan to support the service, and more agreements are expected. “Pandora is following broadband connectivity where it goes, and today, the way to reach the most people in the vehicle is clearly through the Internet-connected device they are carrying with them,” Steel says. “If at some time in the future Internet connectivity is directly embedded into the car, Pandora will happily take advantage of that as well.”