Pandora Radio — I Love You, But You’re Cheating Your Advertisers

Pandora Radio has always been my go-to spot when I want to listen to streaming music at work or when I’m getting ready for a night out.  When Spotify came into the mix last year, I briefly switched, but since I had perfected my personal Pandora station so well, Spotify just couldn’t compete.  Sure it’s great for a song or two, but if I wanted all day music, Pandora was my jam…except for those damn ads.

Yes, I’m too cheap to pay for the premium version, so I put up with the ads and the snarky…”Are you still listening?” page.

Pandora Radio Are You Still Listening

One day, shortly after I moved from Columbus, Ohio, I was listening and an ad came on which began with “Hey Columbus…”  Since I’m in California now, shouldn’t they know that I’ve moved based on something, like my IP address maybe?  I gave them the benefit of the doubt, maybe it just takes some time, I thought.

Well, it’s been over a year now and I’m still getting ads that are geo-targeted to Columbus, Ohio.   And having an Ohio zip code on Pandora during an election year was a nightmare!

To Pandora’s credit, they’re not taking a shot in the dark — when I signed up for Pandora, they asked for my zip code (which at the time was in Ohio). But according to the U.S Census Bureau, 40 million people in the U.S. moved between 2010 and 2011, alone.  A majority of those being between 18-34, part of Pandora’s key demographic.  That makes me wonder, how many other people are getting these mis-targeted ads.

Maybe as a user it’s nothing than a minor annoyance, but as an advertiser, I’d be a little upset.

Advertisers pay big bucks for these types of ads.  Remember, these ads (along with premium account that I’m too cheap to buy) help keep Pandora profitable.  If I were a local business, pumping $10,000 and up into Pandora Radio ads, I’d want to feel confident that my ads were geo-targeted based on something other than possibly outdated sign-up information.

From what I can gather, Pandora doesn’t offer a pay-per-click model, which would make the geo-targeting issue somewhat palatable since the advertiser wouldn’t have to pay for a possibly mis-targeted ad that a listener didn’t click on.  Instead it appears as they run as a traditional media buy would, where the advertiser would pay a set fee for their ads to appear for a particular amount of time or number of times to their target demographic.

Since Pandora only asks for email address, birth year, zip code and gender, there’s not much to go on to determine if someone has moved. But hidden deep within Pandora’s Privacy Policy, you’ll find the following gem:

Information about your computer or device: We may also collect information about the computer, mobile or other devices you use to access and listen to the Service. For example, our servers receive and record information about your computer and browser, including potentially your IP address, browser type, and other software or hardware information. If you access the Service from a mobile or other device, we may collect a unique device identifier assigned to that device or other transactional information for that device.

So if Pandora can potentially receive and record your IP address (you know, the thing that can tell you the city and state where your computer is located), why can’t they use it for more accurate geo-targeting?

Maybe I’m oversimplifying this, and I welcome anyone to help me better understand, but until then, I’m sorry Pandora, you’re cheating your advertisers.

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2 responses to “Pandora Radio — I Love You, But You’re Cheating Your Advertisers

  1. I had the same issues…couldn’t stand the Augusta, GA ads I was receiving once I moved to LA. You can actually change your settings here: http :// http://www.pandora.com/account/info from a desktop machine.

    I think it’s fair to maintain your account geo-location because as we all know we listen to pandora as we travel and we may not need an advertisement about an insurance company when we are out of town…

    • Thanks for reading, Bridget. I agree, it’s easy to change your setting, but how many of us actually take the time to do it! I think the bigger issue is that those GA advertisers are paying big bucks for those ads and they’re being wasted on people who no longer live there. As it stands now, the best way for Pandora to mitigate that issue, is by prompting its users to update their zip code every few months.

      Good point on the traveling — think about it, though…that could actually be an opportunity for advertisers. For instance, if you’re in San Diego for the day, and looking for somewhere to eat, and then Pandora plays an ad for a San Diego restaurant, maybe you’d be more apt to go.

      I think that Pandora is missing the mark on a lot of things, but since I love them as a service, I’m hoping that they make some improvements.

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