Friday, February 14, 2014

Report: Pandora Builds Profiles of Its Audience

Next time you listen to a Bob Marley channel on Pandora Media Inc. the Internet radio service may peg you as likely to vote for a Democrat, according to The Wall Street Jrounal.

The Oakland, Calif., company plans to roll out a new advertising service next week that would enable candidates and political organizations to target the majority of its 73 million active monthly Pandora listeners based on its sense of their political leanings.

How can it do this? The company matches election results with subscribers' musical preferences by ZIP Code. Then, it labels individual users based on their musical tastes and whether those artists are more frequently listened to in Democratic or Republican areas. Users don't divulge their political affiliations when they sign up for Pandora.

Pandora's effort to pinpoint voter preferences highlights how digital media companies are finding new ways to tap information that users share freely to target advertising. These go beyond the traditional tracking of Web-browsing habits. Pandora, locked in a battle for advertising revenue with Internet radio services such as Spotify, sees political advertising as a way to boost revenue.

Pandora's inferences start with a user's ZIP Code, supplied at registration. Pandora then reviews election results for that county. So if 80% of citizens in a certain county voted for President Obama in 2012, Pandora assumes that 80% of people in the ZIP Codes in that county "lean Democrat." If the county voted twice for Obama, the algorithm pegs users in those ZIP Codes as likely to be "strong Democrats."

Pandora has allowed political advertisers to target users based on their ZIP Code since 2011. Now, it is adding information about users' musical tastes and other attributes in the hope of creating a more valuable profile.

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