Bouvard: Pandora Has a Fake Listening Problem


In his latest blog on the Westwood One website, Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard says, “Since two-thirds of Pandora’s listening occurs at home, Pandora suffers from “empty room syndrome.” The ads are on, but no one is there to hear them. Pandora has no idea if anyone is actually listening. They can send a message: “Are you still listening?” Bouvard says radio is more accountable since Nielsen Dairies and PPM’s report actual radio listening. AM/FM radio audiences are based on actual people that actually hear radio.

Bouvard writes that Nomura | Instinet Wall Street media analyst Anthony DiClemente commented, “The company plans to continue actively controlling listener hours (-5.6% YoY in 1Q to 5.21bn), as it optimizes timeouts for the least profitable audience cohorts.” Bouvard adds to that: “Super awesome. Pandora has a knob that controls listener hours! How much fake listening do we want? Optimize timeouts” means Pandora’s sends that, “Are you still listening?” message more often to demos they cannot sell to shut off and “timeout” listening. They cannot make a lot of money from demos no one wants (Boomers), so they dial down that fake listening.”


  1. I’ve gotten to where each time Pierre Bouvard gives his insight I hear Trump-speak. Now he’s reciting “fake” listening. Like the radio industry, it appears Mr. Bouvard lacks a creative ability to approach boasting with fresh communicative ideas.

    “Are you still listening?” messages are an item he needs to understand. They are called “nag screens,” and are there because online radio pays for each active stream. Efficacy demands you check to make sure royalty payments are not being made for a person who has left their audio on. When broadcasters are finally held to account on this royalty payment issue we’ll hear talk of how playing to empty rooms is inefficient.

    To even suggest Pandora is “actively controlling listener hours” takes paranoia to a new level. Please, Mr. Bouvard, supply proof of your accusations as all you’ve given are unsupported opinions, and stop comparing one company (Pandora) with an industry (radio).

    As for “Bouvard says radio is more accountable…” It’s well known that he’s a spin-doctor trying to revive a hyperventilating patient – and it’s not working.

  2. PPM keeps track of the audio from radio stations it hears around the person carrying the unit and makes the assumption that if the participant can hear the audio from a radio station, then that is what they are listening to.
    Sounds like radio has a fake listening problem too.

  3. There is a huge difference. PPM AM/FM tuning involves a real person exposed to real listening. That in turn can be connected to credit card spending and grocery shopper card data to determine sales lift and ROI. With Pandora, no one knows how real listening is occurring and how much “empty room” fake listening there is. Per Nomura, Pandora will “continue actively controlling listener hours, as it optimizes timeouts for the least profitable audience cohorts.”

  4. Bouvard makes a good point. When you’re not in the room at all, you don’t hear anything. And as you say, “tuned out”, you at least have a chance to hear the radio. Does a tree make noise when nobody is around to hear? Nobody knows that answer. Does a tree make noise when somebody is around to hear it? Absolutely yes!

  5. We agree with Dave Sanders, that many in radio are kidding themselves. Attacking Pandora does absolutely nothing to advance radio. And radio has a fake listening problem too… that is, when an FM music station goes to a cluster break of 6, 8, 10, or more commercials in a row… the listening is also “fake” because most listeners have tuned out and the advertiser’s message is not heard. So let’s address radio’s fake listening problem first. Putting down the competition may feel good to some isolated owners and managers, but it only makes us look very bad in the customer’s eyes.

  6. How does this really differ over terrestrial radio where people “listen” at work or in the car? Are we claiming that work listeners are more “engaged” than home Pandora listeners? Even in the car, most listeners are only marginally engaged. Ask the listeners the last three spots they heard on their way to work or at work and I bet they would be hard pressed to name one.

    Let’s stop kidding ourselves about how the streamers are to be scoffed at while we puff out our chest and claim we are the biggest and best still. It’s sounding like IBM in the late eighties and early nineties.


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