Pandora's loss is ARN's gain, network's artist playlists see tenfold spike

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 9 January 2018
ARN CEO Rob Atkinson says iHeartRadio's artist playlists (above) are the real reason why people are moving across from Pandora.

Australian Radio Network's (ARN) podcast platform iHeartRadio has seen a huge spike in listeners, following the demise of Pandora in July last year.

ARN CEO Rob Atkinson tells AdNews the dramatic increase it is seeing in users is no doubt attributed to the closure of Pandora as peaks are visible in its curated music and artist playlists – something Pandora once offered.

IHeart Radio, which offers access to stations such as ABC and SBS as well as local stations and podcasts, not only allows users to build their own playlists from music genres and varying artists, but also lets you mark songs with a thumbs up or down. The rating of songs helps the platform's algorithm work out what you want and, in turn, can create curated playlists for you.

It also offers 'artist' playlists, which Atkinson says is the real reason why people are moving across from Pandora.

“Our listening has gone up tenfold on the basis that it's the closest thing to Pandora,” Atkinson says.

“People who were listeners of Pandora wanted to go on, wanted to listen to their favourite artist like Lady Gaga or Bruno Mars, and then of course they want the algorithm to do all the work for them rather than customise their own playlist.

“So, we're probably closer to the Pandora offering than anything else in the market and that's what is driving registration.”

In terms on monetising its offering iHeart Radio uses dynamic ad insertion “on a personalised level”, which sits over the top of the platform. Atkinson says here lies the opportunity to give a specialised and personalised ad insertion.

Speaking to AdNews late last year about its 2018 plans, Atkinson says iHeartRadio is the “light that's been hiding under a bushel”.

He says the clear purpose of that product is to support the transition of ARN audiences and different revenue to the digital audio world.

“More and more of our listeners are seeking and trying to discover our content on multiple channels, multiple devices and we have got to give them that option. And we are the only player in the market with a ready-made audio platform in iHeartRadio,” he says.

“You can imagine the amount of access to data rich information we get on that platform, which is going to obviously enhance our audience targeting and increase our accountability.”

Users can vote with the thumb, or/and use an artist playlist

The move to voice activation

Since launching on Google Home last year Atkinson says listeners from the smart speaker move are also up by a healthy 350%.

“When you start to look at the hours of listeners, no one else will be able to tell you that information, but we are embedded and fully integrated on Google Home and Amazon Alexa and obviously the new Apple device when it comes out as well,” Atkinson says.

Last year, HT&E-owned ARN rivals Nova Entertainment and Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) upped their podcast offering. And in November SCA also launched a Hit Network and Triple M news and sports service on Google’s Home.

See: It's no phase; podcasts on same trajectory as SVODs says SCA CEO

In addition to the ad formats above, radio networks are increasingly holding bespoke music events which are ripe for sponsorship and brand activations.

Just two weeks into January and Nova's Red Room events arm is already touting its bespoke gigs, including legendary Oasis front man Liam Gallagher at the Metro and international music artist Sam Smith, who will perform at Sydney Opera House. In the past, Nova has scooped major brand backers such as Qantas, Mazda, Optus and more.

Speaking to AdNews last year about the success of Red Room, Nova Entertainment’s chief digital and marketing officer Tony Thomas said: “That’s exactly the sweet spot; matching the right audience with the right brand and then leveraging that partnership at scale – as we can with the global Red Room tour.”

Nova Red Room

Too much choice for marketers?

From ads on broadcast radio, smart speakers, digital assets, apps and podcasts, when it comes to where marketers should be spending money, ARN's national content director Duncan Campbell says there's no simple answer.

“That's really down to the skills of the commercial position that pick the products for the audience that they're looking to satisfy,” he says.

“Everyone at ARN, right across all of our products, understand the clarification around what they stand for, what they deliver and now it is time for them to go out and find the right mix.

“What we won't do is go out with a blanket coverage of, 'these are all of our products, which one do you want?' We'll look to obviously find the right mix of products and the right mix of shows to ensure that we deliver a better - and are applying to an individual client.”

Want more? See: Smart speakers, podcasts and branded audio – radio predictions 2018

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