Earlier this month, Triton Digital (which publishes Internet radio's monthly Webcast Metrics ratings) released Pandora's Average Quarter Hour and "cume" ratings for 11 top local markets. The move was certainly a shot across the bow of traditional broadcasters, as it highlighted the foothold the webcaster is gaining, even at the local level. But it also served to call out Arbitron, which has yet to deliver its own promised "all radio" ratings.
"The resulting numbers are impressive," Ad Age commented on Pandora's numbers, with "strong penetration" in local markets while nationally Pandora stands as "the largest radio network for listeners age 18 to 49" (more RAIN coverage here).
But are ad buyers impressed with the new numbers? Is unified measurement important to them? Ad Age surveyed several ad agencies, "all of whom already do a good deal of business with Pandora." For most, unified measurement would be helpful but the lack of an "apples to apples" comparison "hasn't been an inhibitor."
"The Triton data is great, but if it was on the Arbitron platform it would make it a lot easier to be handled by a local-market buyer," said a senior VP from Horizon Media. Arbitron data wouldn't result in more being spent on Pandora, she predicted, it would just "streamline" the process. Another ad rep said her company isn't even sure yet if they want to use the ratings from Triton to sell Pandora.
An executive from Starcom agreed that the lack of a single measurement hasn't been a problem. They "continue to buy more with Pandora each year."
He continued, "I've been able to sell Pandora into clients because intuitively they know it's the right thing and know the audience is there." That said, "In a perfect world, all audio would be measured by the same source and the same panel, because then the ratings that we're getting would truly be apples to apples."
That "apples to apples" comparison is being delayed by Arbitron's broadcaster customers, as Arbitron EVP/COO Sean Creamer said in May (RAIN coverage here).