Pandora: Consumers Are Not Listening To Radio Ads


It was less than two weeks ago many of you were part of a very lively discussion about how many commercials you should be playing on your radio station. We also debated just how successful an ad campaign could really be when a commercial is 6th or 7th in a long commercial pod. It appears Pandora has just been handed a wealth of data that contributes to the very real belief that you’re playing way too many commercials.

The folks at Pandora have quickly jumped all over Edison Research’s latest data about AM/FM listeners that change stations about 22 times per commute. Pandora has already published a white paper with Edison’s logo and data all over it. In the presentation (READ IT HERE) Pandora states “by a significant margin, the top two reasons for switching AM/FM are the commercials and to skip disliked songs.”

Pandora also claims that 7 out of 10 drivers report that they change the station when they are in the car and listening to AM/FM when commercials come on. If true, that would certainly be bad. After all, everyone knows that most listening is done in the vehicle and the radio industry often touts how important it is to connect with the consumer as he or she gets close to making a purchase. Pandora claims that 7-out-of-10 number was part of the Edison Research study, however we were not provided that data from Edison.

pandora chart

Hitting You Where It Hurts
Pandora asks what all this AM/FM channel changing means for your advertisers? In its presentation, Pandora says drivers know that radio stations often play 10 or more commercials in a row. “They also know they can avoid them with a simple push of a preset. Seven out of 10 commuters report they don’t listen to the full commercial break, and nearly half of them claim they don’t even last through the first commercial. But it’s not just the ads that are causing them to switch—it’s equally due to repetitive, unpersonalized playlists. And what happens when you combine repetitive playlists with a seemingly endless run of commercials? You get drivers who switch stations a lot—22 times in each direction of their daily commute. That’s 44 switches just going to and from work.”

Pandora, quoting the research from Edison, says commuters who listen to other forms of audio (such as streaming, satellite, or a personal music collection) only switch a fraction as much—just 9 times per commute. “Personalized audio in a low-clutter environment simply results in more driver attention.”

The final page of the presentation says, “When Pandora Plays Your Message Works.”

Read the full Pandora White Paper HERE and the latest Pandora blog on the subject HERE. Check out the Edison press release HERE. We requested the entire Edison report but were told it was proprietary and for clients only.


  1. There seem to be more bad radio commercials these days. Loud, bombastic, bully spots for offensive products like IRS and Credit Card debt. Who wants to hear “If you owe money to the IRS” every 20 minutes? We also don’t need to hear the same spot 7 times an hour. “You can’t bore people into buying your product,” said ad guru David Ogilvy. Charge 10x more for the spots cut spots per hour from 22 to 6 minutes. And get rid of the stupid self-promos — they’re worse than the ads. Like other media, radio has become just a platform for commercials where the program is the “interruption.”

  2. I’m so sick of how Pandora plays the same few commercials over and over and over again! And then they play them every ten minutes or less!!! Free prints and simply safe commercials are played so much that I have started to complain. I have taken a stand to never ever support either one of these companies no matter what! Now their relentless advertising strategy is doing the exact opposite of what they want it to do! I blame Pandora for not having enough common sense to know that playing the same commercials over and over again is a bad idea. I also blame the companies for the same reason. If you absolutely hate hearing a commercial so much that you quickly grab your phone to silence it then there is no way I could do anything to support their company. Recently I switched to Jango and I am so happy that I did. Pandora sucks!!! I can’t bear to hear any more of simply safes stupid ass commercials!!! And free prints, GTFOOML!!!! And the winner of the dumbest idea ever goes to Pandora for playing Spanish commercials with songs that are being played in English!!!

    • You cannot expect to receive the service for nothing. Pandora still has to pay for the music rights, employees, overhead, and bandwidth. It’s only $3.99 a month if you don’t want to hear commercials and unlimited hours of play. They don’t owe you anything at all unless you pay for it.

      • True, James C…but the Pandora has a real issue with repitition and has clearly increased the number of commercial breaks. As a result of hearing the same commercial multiple times within a half hour (Disney Guardians of the Galaxy) this monty, I’ve tuned out Pandora and now listen almost exclusively to 10 minutes of over-the-air newsradio and my own collection of music during each half hour commute.

  3. I hate commercials and inappropriate songs on the radio!
    It takes an lot of money to pay for subscription on Pandora, that it is eating much of my wallet!
    If no one can make internet radio advertisement blocked and have only the liked songs,
    then what the heck is going on with Pandora’s contract?! Where is the fair deal with that?

  4. Audiences and advertisers make claims to the effect that radio is becoming irrelevant.
    But, somehow ,billions of ad dollars are invested in radio and those advertisers find their tills still ringing up sales.
    My position, however, has always been that radio has become stagnant – and requires some serious upgrading.
    Assuming, also, that listeners have any totally conscious idea of when and/or if radio ads are influencing them, would be an error.
    Obviously, even shoddy ads have some effect – enough for advertisers to stick with the medium.
    Getting mo’ better is radio’s internal matter – and, I suggest, responsibility.

  5. The uninformed rhetoric being thrown around here recently by people who (I only suspect) should know better is quite sobering.
    “….said a thousand times before…”? I think not.
    What I have been proposing has not been said by anyone else except me – to my knowledge. That’s what makes me so unique and cuddly.
    But again, the phrase “on deaf ears” has been proposed a number of times – and for good reason.

  6. All subjective mush that has been said a thousand times and more. These last three demonstrate their infancy on business matters. Radio is in the advertising business..and business is not bad. It’s not great but it’s better than the newspaper business, the magazine business. People love broadcast radio-the numbers are there from Nielsen. Ronnie and the doomsday bunch will be at room temperature and in a dark place before that changes.
    Give it up. It’s all been said before, kids.

  7. I know this will fall on deaf ears, but radio stations don’t make the commercials. They sell the time, and the advertiser is responsible for the ad. They paid for the time, and they can do anything they want with it. If it’s bad, blame the advertiser. Don’t buy their product. Send the advertiser a letter or email. But those ads pay for the rest of the programming you hear on the station. Because of those annoying ads, you get to listen to music for free. That’s the tradeoff.

  8. Audiences will respond to catchy, song related back ground track commercials, relating to the mood that was set by the last heard song, also.. on air talent testimonials help if its not oversell.the familiar voice saying,” this is joe cook for arbys, and have you tried the new (arby double decker avalanche sandwich availiable for a limited time participating arbys…… (or something like that gets the sell, and with the music bed, 8 to ten seconds, and on to female voice testimonial, or vice versa… then immediately back to the music..jingle-(sunny- 923) song…. as part of continuity…like a live party on the radio. without condescending monotones like most ads will have are when the commercial spot buyer insists on putting his/her own voice as the 15/30 second spot. its radio suicide when the advertiser themselves have a go at voice overs..(eg; hi this is pam at the flower pot and spring has sprung…time to plant flowers and we have all you need for spring on over to the ……. -forget it!!! .boring…..?keep it familiar…pure talent driven and you will make the hard sells before the audience tunes out…and exactly who are your target audience? millenials/ millenials…and wanna-be millenials….no more lost revenue..and no more sleepy button pushing public..missing YOUR point of sale…in short…ha… pick up the pace….

  9. Mike’s thoughtful and adroit comments could be cut and pasted to emails – and sent to every radio station on the planet.
    Not that anybody would be paying much attention – never mind taking action.
    Ownership is only interested in the income and to hell with audiences and retail advertisers.
    This is a dangerously myopic position which takes nothing else, like audiences, advertisers and staff into account.

  10. Here’s a thought from a consumer of commercial radio, Sirius XM, Pandora, CD’s, and sometimes the wind with the windows down. I listen to less radio now than I ever have. Most commercial breaks are too long. I know you have to pay the bills. However, the content of commercials in large part is so dumbed-down its a bit of an insult to my intelligence. When listening to radio, I am a flipper. It’s not because I hate the stations. It’s because I am in a one sided argument where I repeat, “:#$% you must think I’m stupid!” or, “Who writes this $%^??!!” as I change the station again, and again, and…. then I realize its the definition of insanity. I switch to Sirius XM and continue to flip, as IMHO, they have Sirius limits and many poor quality commercials as well. While at work, the office plays FM, I plug in my earbuds and crank Pandora. I pull my buds at commercials. (note; when I pull the buds, I am forced to listen to country FM. On a related note, this has gone on for a year. And I just watched the entire CMA’s, while on my laptop working. Of special concern; I knew all the songs :-/) (yea, I’ve got a girl crush). Here’s my point to be taken, discarded, or simply ignored; I love music and owe that to radio from my early years of falling asleep to KFRC in the SF Bay Area every night back in the 70’s. Radio was cool back then and it could be cool now. Get some better writers and feed commercials throughout the blocks of music… like (for example) one per every two songs; short, well written, smart commercials. Figure out how to do a car or mortgage ad without having to do the “guy on crank; fast talking, chopped word disclaimers” that make me want to drive off a cliff. Say more with less. Shape the conversation. You have us as a captive audience. Make us better for listening. Case in point; I recently acted on a call to action to order a book off a Sirius XM commercial. This ad comes on regularly, usually first in the line which is why I’ll listen to all / part of it while searching for the next station. The ad is short, sweet simple; “wanna learn this, order this book.” It didn’t repeat the number eight times, say the same thing ten times, and there was no guy on crank making disclaimers. I acted on it. Please take my thoughts in the spirit given, in support of the Radio Renaissance. I would love my grand kids to be able to proudly say, one day many years from now, that they too were raised on radio. Cheers!

  11. Why would I want an outfit to fail?
    To the contrary, I want radio to improve – drastically – and for all the right reasons.
    But, as I read these litanies of extraordinary weak justifications and tolerate the snide slanders, I am compelled to wonder which of the scenarios will arrive, first.
    Adapt – or decompose?

  12. Ronnie’s run out of answers so he’s gone Biblical. Fun to read the Robinson Book of Revelations. Ronnie-these owners are a lot smarter than you. You’re in pretty bad shape when all you have is a desire for someone else to fail.

  13. Might I caution the “ex programmer” and owner that days of reckoning approach.
    Those days will reveal audiences and advertisers who will have reached their tolerance thresholds. (“That’s all I can stands – I can’t stands no more.”)
    I understand, however, that no owner is going to throw away any percentage of their income – just because of these issues.
    These, meanwhile, would also be the owners that have no other arrows in their quivers.
    What else could they do?
    Nothing. Just hang on.

  14. Mr. Robinson,
    I guess you should have taken my suggestion and mulled it over the weekend. You did not, so permit me, as an owner to educate you. No business owner in his right mind would tamper with a business that was throwing off 30-40% cash flow even during “a poor economy.” As you mull whether there are too many ads or not, the owners think a 60 minute ad hour is the goal. You would too, if you owned one. Now, move on, educated.

  15. All comments post automatically. I do not delete any, even though Shelly thought his comment would be deleted.

    Ed Ryan
    Radio Ink Magazine

  16. My big comment had a link in it to Jacob’s blog about another survey where radio was NOT referenced at all. I spoke to them but the upshot is that it’s probably Pandora sponsoring these “surveys” and making sure they are in the media just in time to use them at the NAB as proof that they are better than radio.

  17. The “ex programmer” makes a valid observation.
    The reason however, for not taking remedial action is simple – and stupifying.
    It is as follows: They have no idea what else to do. This, in spite of overwhelming evidence that demands they Do Something – Anything.

  18. Funny watching programmers talk spot-load….the same way they did in 1967. Have you guys ever wondered why station owners have no interest in decreasing their only source of income?
    I know these are tough questions, but think about it over the weekend.

  19. Did Pandora sponsor this “study”? Could be. Another study came out recently did you see it referenced on Jacob’s blog?
    I even wrote to BI to ask about why radio wasn’t included and the BI rep told me (from the survey’s Sponsor’s rep) that the sponsors just wanted respondents to consider internet-delivered only entertainment. When I wrote back informing her/them that Iheart and tune-in were internet delivered, she wrote back but didn’t give me much more info about this privately funded study (that no one can buy just like this Edison one) and she never addressed my point but I do think she passed it on. Her final line was to thee effect that in future studies, the sponsor’s would take my concern under advisement and include radio.
    Something very fishy is going on here. It seems that an anti-radio entity sponsored it and wanted everybody to know about it through the media but to have no one to see the it study. Sounds exactly like Pandora sponsored both studies for their own, pre-NAB presentations. That’s my guess. Hell, even Mark Ramsey works for Pandora. Money is Money and they have it and radio doesn’t.

    • It’s “the,” not “thee,” and “sponsors,” not “sponsor’s,” except in referring to “sponsor’s rep,@ which was capitalized for some odd (and incorrect reason).

      Oh just forget it. Peoples jes dont talk good no more.

  20. I am one who believes there are too many spawts – most of them written by the janitor.
    As “Roger” mentions, something between the tunes is required. But not more droll babble. Time & temp wouldn’t be wrong as the practice does give the illusion that there is another human in there somewhere. But it’s no fix-it strategy.
    Meanwhile, does anybody deny that listeners have a threshold for the number of spots in a phustercluck?
    This is not a “one issue” circumstance.
    Most (repeat: most) on-air and spawt-presentations are horrible – embarraskinly so. :).
    Add the waiting for the longest commercial-trains ever at the crossings and we have an industry in serious crisis.
    Lead, by the way, by people in serious crisis.

  21. Here’s Ed Ryan proving that he knows little about the industry for which he edits a trade-mag. Now we know why he keeps Robinson around. Two idiots of a feather. Read this quick-Ed will be deleting it.

  22. Well-written Radio Ads (it’s the message!) are NOT bad and I am sick and tired of programmers and wannabes going around saying that. Can you tell me the name of a Radio Station that went under because they sold too many ads? Certainly there is a necessary balance, but ads are as important to content as news and music.

    DJs say ads are bad because it cuts into their “talking time”. Pandora says ads are bad because they can’t sell them.

    And let’s start doing surveys correctly. Don’t ask why people DON’T listen or Tune Out; ask why they DO Listen!

  23. That these conditions are even up for discussion or argument is simply staggering.
    Radio ownership and management bin hypNO-tized.
    We really do have to snap out of it.
    And we have to learn what to do about it immediately following.
    Otherwise, it’s right back into another trance.
    Most importantly, that the business doesn’t actually know what to do about it? Equally staggering.
    (See: Snap out of it.)

  24. Roger…Your math is obviously correct, if that were to happen. But do you honestly believe radio does not play too many commercials? Even Dan Mason says that number should be about 8. Not many radio stations are even near that number.

    Ed Ryan
    Radio Ink
    [email protected]

    • Yes I honestly believe radio does not play too many commercials. I believe however many radio stations play too many commercials in a row! Programmers should study how it was done in the 60’s and 70’s. More breaks, less commercials per break, and give the listener something they want between the commercials. Time and temp, traffic, gossip, I don’t care…you should know your audience and give them what they want. It works and so does radio! Now get your shoe horn out and let’s squeeze in a few more commercials!

      • This is lunacy. No one is listening to a station to hear commercials. They are something that if they aren’t completely offensive you might sit through. More often than not you’ll change the station and in part because there are too many. Way, way, way too many.

        Again, no one tunes into a station to hear the commercials. It is simply delusional to think your audience is enjoying them!

  25. We are not PBS. We are not Pandora. We are COMMERCIAL Radio. That is how we are licensed. Commercials pay the bills. If you run too few commercials you have to charge too much for your inventory. If you charge to much for inventory your clients will not use enough frequency. Without frequency their campaigns will fail. When they fail they will cancel future buys. Then you will have no commercials to run and now you can make all the egg heads happy for all you will have left is music and programming. Wow – – – I wonder who is going to pay the salaries and the electrical bill. I’m sure my engineer will come in for free!
    Now quit studying your navel and go sell some commercials and make sure people like them!

  26. I along with all listeners have been conditioned to turn off the radio when the commercials come on because I know that the station is going to play 10 minutes of commercials. I can handle a couple of minutes, but 10?
    And most of them are so noisy and poorly produced. It’s like it is still the early 80’s. It is really sad to see radio people that think the number of commercials is open to discussion. 30 years ago when radio was the only game in town, if you even suggested the concept of playing 10 commercials in a row, you would be considered insane. Now today with so many choices that can draw listeners away, radio chooses to do the insane. Charge less money, and run 10 minutes of commercials in a row. What’s wrong with this business? I will be in the car this afternoon for two hours and will mostly listen to CBS-FM. Every time that they go to commercials I will shut the radio off. Not because they are going to play commercials. But because they are going to play 10 minutes of commercials.

  27. But of course Pandora doesn’t look at context. Radio has been around 100 years and consumers expect and accept commercials as part of that experience. How many and what quality is still up for debate. A listener listening to Pandora doesn’t want or accept a commercial. That’s why they are there. It’s similar to watching a Youtube video. Youtube spends billions on servers and delivering free video to consumers, but if they dare put a commercial in front of one of them, you’ll wear out the “skip video” button hitting it to pass.

    So I don’t think their argument that THEIR ads are better is valid.

    Maybe because Pandora is free from the mundane task of actually having to MAKE money, they can be arrogant.

    • a Pandora listener doesn’t want or accept a commercial? well, they won’t accept ten in a row that’s for sure… but they get almost all of their revenue from commercials, like radio. so i would say, yes, they do in fact accept commercials. the commercial free version is a very small part of Pandora’s revenue

      • No, Pandora makes money on a web ad that happens to have audio associated with it. Trying to compare what Pandora does to what radio does is like comparing apples to oranges. Pandora can sit in their corner and beat their chest about the death of radio all they want… our industry should worry about doing what we do best and that’s entertaining our listeners and delivering a quality broadcast. Engaging and local content will always keep listeners coming back to radio. Make your station a part of the community it serves and you won’t have to worry about how many commercials you’re playing.

        • Ha! The number of commercials is exactly what’s driving listened elsewhere no matter how local and amazing your content is. Unfortunately “local” content is hardly that any longer. More and more local content gets cut everyday for voice tracked DJ’s to save money.

  28. Pandora needs to look at more research. I don’t put much stock into a service that relies on people subscribing to avoid commercials. Pandora is not in the radio business, they are the new 8 track, cassette or CD. When Pandora & other paid services only reach than 8% of adults, I’d say they are not marketing specialists. It’ll be interesting to see where they are in a few years, bankrupt perhaps?!

    • this was Edison Research info, the same company that does the Infinite Dial. If you are in radio and have been using some of that info to your advantage (as you should, there is good info in there), you have to take the good with the bad… this is the same research company.

  29. Even if the (supplied) research was only partially correct, the lessons for radio are readily available – and obvious.
    But radio refuses to put anything of value between the tunes and radio refuses to increase the quality of the commercials. Plus, radio refuses to adjust the phusterclucks of spawts/
    It doesn’t take a quantum stem-cell scientist to figure out the Rx for all of that. Or does it?


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