Pandora debuts a desktop app for Windows – gpgmail


Pandora today is launching a desktop app for Windows users following its debut of a native Mac app earlier this year. On Mac, Pandora offers a variety of features for desktop users, like on-screen notifications, keyboard controls, a way to select listening “modes” and more. It didn’t, however, include support for streaming podcasts. The new Windows app includes a similar feature set.

Update: The Windows Store app description mentions that at higher tiers you can stream podcasts. Pandora tells us this is not actually true of the app itself, however. It plans to support podcasts in the future, it says. We’ve removed references to podcast support from this article.  

Above: Pandora’s Windows 10 app — note references to playing podcasts! 

Like its Mac counterpart, Pandora’s Windows app can be used by both free users and paid subscribers alike.

The free users will have access to Pandora’s ad-supported stations, while Pandora Plus subscribers get ad-free stations, unlimited skips, personalized stations and up to four offline stations. Pandora Premium subscribers, meanwhile, get the same, plus the ability to make and share playlists, play albums and songs on-demand and take advantage of unlimited offline listening.

Also like the Mac app, the Windows version supports keyboard controls for doing things like playing, pausing, replaying, shuffling, thumbs up and down, etc. And it supports the Pandora Modes feature, which lets you refine your personalized stations by asking Pandora to focus more on certain types of songs — like crowd favorites, the discovery of new artists, deep cuts, songs from a select artist only, new releases and more.

Desktop users often prefer to use a native app instead of leaving a service open in a browser tab as it allows them a more seamless and integrated experience. That said, Pandora’s Mac version didn’t have the best reviews from Apple users.

Still, Pandora’s rollout of native desktop apps helps the SiriusXM-owned company better compete with rivals like Apple Music and Spotify, both of which have long offered desktop applications. In Apple’s case, it actually built so much into iTunes that the company decided to finally break it up into parts with the next version of macOS. Pandora doesn’t have the same problem, because it doesn’t include a user library or marketplace.

Windows users can download the Pandora app from the Microsoft Store starting today.

The app works on Windows 10. (Pandora also supports streaming to Xbox via the Microsoft Store app.)


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How Kobalt is simplifying the killer complexities of the music industry – gpgmail


Backed by over $200 million in VC funding, Kobalt is changing the way the music industry does business and putting more money into musicians’ pockets in the process.

In Part I of this series, I walked through the company’s founding story and its overall structure. There are two core theses that Kobalt bet on: 1) that the shift to digital music could transform the way royalties are tracked and paid, and 2) that music streaming will empower a growing middle class of DIY musicians who find success across countless niches.

This article focuses on the complex way royalties flow through the industry and how Kobalt is restructuring that process (while Part III will focus on music’s middle class). The music industry runs on copyright administration and royalty collections. If the system breaks — if people lose track of where songs are being played and who is owed how much in royalties — everything halts.

Kobalt is as much a compliance tech company as it is a music company: it has built a quasi “operating system” to more accurately and quickly handle this using software and a centralized approach to collections, upending a broken, inefficient system so everything can run more smoothly and predictably on top of it. The big question is whether it can maintain its initial lead in doing this, however.

The business of a song

Image via Getty Images / Mykyta Dolmatov


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Pandora now lets you share music and podcasts to your Instagram Stories – gpgmail


Pandora today announced a new integration with Instagram that will allow users to share their favorite music and podcasts to their Instagram Story. The feature comes well over a year after Spotify launched a similar integration with Instagram Stories, and only days after Spotify introduced sharing to Facebook Stories, as well.

In Pandora’s case, accessing the feature is also a quick and easy process — you just tap the “Share” button from the Now Playing screen in the app, then choose “Instagram Stories” as the destination.

A cover art card for the music or podcast will then be generated on your Instagram Story, which you can further decorate with text and stickers, as usual. You can also choose to send the story as a direct message to a friend or a group chat, instead of all your followers.

Where Pandora’s experience differs from Spotify’s is what happens when that story is viewed.

When a friend taps the “Play on Pandora” button from the Instagram story, they can gain direct access to that content — even if they don’t have a Premium account. Those who aren’t paid subscribers will be able to view a short ad then gain access to both the shared content as well as a session of free, unlimited, on-demand music.

This is made possible through Pandora’s Premium Access ad solution, which rewards users for watching video ads with free, on-demand sessions.

That means Pandora’s take on Instagram sharing won’t just be useful to artists looking to promote their music, or fans looking to engage their friends — it will also potentially serve as a way to convert free users to paid subscribers after they get a free taste of what Pandora has to offer.

The feature can also be used to promote podcasts, which a newer battleground between Spotify and Pandora these days. The former has spent on acquisitions and hosts a number of exclusive shows while Pandora is now benefitting from new owner’s SiriusXM’s talk radio programming and its own “Genome” classification technology. 

Pandora says the Instagram Story sharing feature is launching today for select users, and will support sharing songs, albums, podcasts, and playlists.

It’s rolling out to a limited number of Pandora users to start, and will gradually reach the rest of the user base in the weeks ahead.


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After a breakout year, looking ahead to the future of podcasting – gpgmail


2019 has been a breakout year for podcasting. According to Edison Research’s Infinite Dial report, more than half of Americans have now listened to a podcast, and an estimated 32% listen monthly (up from 26% last year). This is the largest yearly increase since this data started being tracked in 2008. Podcast creation also continues to grow, with more than 700,000 podcasts and 29 million podcast episodes, up 27% from last year.

Thanks to this growing listener base, big companies are finally starting to pay attention to the space — Spotify plans to spend $500M on acquisitions this year, and already acquired content studio Gimlet, tech platform Anchor, and true crime network Parcast for a combined $400M. In the past week, Google added playable podcasts to search results, Spotify released an analytics dashboard for podcasters, and Pandora launched a tool for podcasters to submit their shows.

We’ve been going to Podcast Movement, the largest annual industry conference, for three years, and have watched the conference grow along with the industry — reaching 3,000 attendees in 2019. Given the increased buzz around the space, we were expecting this year’s conference to have a new level of energy and professionalism, and we weren’t disappointed. We’ve summarized five top takeaways from the conference, from why podcast ads are hard to scale to why so many celebrities are launching their own shows.

Rise of celebrity podcasters boosts listenership

We’ve officially entered the age of celebrity podcasters. After early successes like WTF with Marc Maron (2009), Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The Thing (2011), and Anna Faris’ Unqualified (2015), top talent is flooding into the space. In 2017, 15% of Apple’s href=””https://www.allaccess.com/net-news/archive/story/172268/apple-podcasts-charts-top-20-most-downloaded-podca”> top 20 most-downloaded podcasts of the year were hosted by celebrities or influencers — this jumped to 32% of the top 25 in 2018. And of all the new shows that launched in 2018, 48% of the top 25 were celebrity-hosted.

Screen Shot 2019 08 21 at 1.21.50 PMThough podcasts are undermonetized compared to other forms of media, talent agents now consider them to be an important part of a well-rounded content strategy. Dan Ferris from CAA tells his clients to think of podcasting as a way of connecting with fans that is “much more intimate than social media.” Podcasts also help celebrities find a new audience. Ben Davis from WME said that while his client David Dobrik has a smaller audience on his podcast than on YouTube (1.5M downloads per episode versus 6M views per video), the podcast helps him reach a new group of listeners who stumble upon his show on the Apple Podcast charts.

While some podcast veterans grumble about the rise of celebrity talk shows, famous podcasters are good for the industry as a whole. Advertisers are drawn to the space by the opportunity to get to access A-list talent at lower prices. One recent example is Endeavor Audio’s fiction show Blackout, which starred Rami Malek, who was fresh off an Oscar win. Endeavor’s head of sales Charlie Emerson said brands might have to sign a “seven or eight figure deal” to advertise alongside Malek’s content in other forms of media. Other podcasters also benefit from new listeners brought into the medium by their favorite stars — a Westwood One survey in fall 2018 found that 60% of podcast listeners report discovering shows via social media, where celebrities and influencers have huge existing audiences to push content to.

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Creator backlash against “walled garden” apps

Paid listening apps represent a fairly small percentage of podcast listenership, with production platform Anchor estimating that Apple Podcasts and Spotify control more than 70% of listenership. A venture-backed company called Luminary is trying to change this — it raised $100M to launch a “Netflix for podcasts” this spring. Consumers pay $7.99/month to access Luminary-exclusive shows alongside podcasts that are free on other apps. Because podcasts have RSS feeds, distributors like Luminary can easily grab free content and put it behind a paywall. The platform, not the creator, benefits from this monetization.

Within days of Luminary’s launch, prominent podcasters and media companies (The New York Times, Gimlet, and more) requested their shows be removed from the app. It’s interesting to note that YouTube has a similar premium plan — for $11.99/month, users can access and download ad-free videos. Unlike Luminary, however, YouTube, pays creators a cut of the revenue from these subscriptions based on how frequently their content is viewed.

Unsurprisingly, creator sentiment is more positive toward platforms like Spotify and Pandora . Though these companies do make money from premium subscribers who listen to podcasts, creators can choose whether or not to submit their shows. And podcasters benefit from making their shows discoverable to the existing user base of these platforms, which already dominate “earshare.” Spotify alone has 232 million MAUs, which dwarfs the 90 million people in the U.S. who listen to a podcast monthly.

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Industry anxiety around maintaining quality at scale

Podcast ad revenue has been scaling quickly, with $480M in spend last year and a projected $680M this year. Over the past four years, ad revenue has scaled at a 65% CAGR, and this growth is expected to continue. In its early days, the podcast ad market was largely been driven by D2C brands — you’ve probably heard hundreds of Casper, Blue Apron, and Madison Reed ads. However, bigger brands are also starting to enter podcasting (Geico, Capital One, and Progressive made the top 10 list for June 2019) due to the growing audience scale and increased precision around targeting and attribution.

Screen Shot 2019 08 21 at 1.48.00 PM

While many attendees were excited by the massive growth in ad revenue, others worried that it may kill what makes podcasting special. They’re particularly concerned that podcasts may go the way of online video, with annoying, generic, low CPM ads. Podcast hosts typically read their own ads, and are often true fans of the product — they share personal stories instead of reciting brand talking points. This results in premium CPMs compared to most digital media — AdvertiseCast’s 2019 survey found an average CPM of $18 for a 30-second podcast ad and $25 for a 60-second ad, more than 2x the average CPM on other digital platforms.

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While these ads are effective, they’re time-consuming and expensive to produce. Big brands interested in podcast ads often expect to reuse radio spots — they aren’t used to the process of crafting and approving a host-read ad that may only reach 10,000 listeners. Podcasters, meanwhile, value their trust with listeners and don’t want to spam them with loud, unoriginal radio ads. The tension between maintaining the quality of ads while scaling quantity was an underlying theme of most monetization discussions, and industry veterans disagree on how it will play out.

Despite the growth in ad revenue and relatively high CPMs, the industry is significantly undermonetized. Using data from Nielsen, IAB, and Edison, we calculated that podcasts monetize through advertisements at only $0.01 per listener hour — less than ten times the rate of radio. Podcast monetization per listener hour has increased over the past year, up 25% by our calculations, but still substantially lags all other forms of media.

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Why are podcasts so undermonetized? Unlike many other forms of media, the dominant distribution platform (Apple Podcasts) has no ad marketplace. Creators have historically had to approach brands themselves or sign with podcast networks to construct custom ad deals, and the “long tail” of podcasters were unable to monetize. This is finally changing. Anchor, which reported in January that it powers 40% of new podcasts, has an ad marketplace that has doubled the number of podcasts that are running ads. Other popular platforms like Radio Public have launched programs for small podcasters to opt-in to ad placements.

The second major hurdle in monetization is attribution. Podcasts have historically monetized through direct response campaigns — a podcaster provides a special URL or promo code for listeners to use when making a purchase. However, many people listen to podcasts when exercising or driving, and can’t write down the promo code or visit the URL immediately. These listeners might remember the product and make a purchase later, but the podcaster won’t get the attribution. Thomas Mancusi of Audioboom estimated that this happens in 50–60% of purchases driven by podcast ads.

Startups are trying to bring better adtech into podcasting to fix this issue.Chartable is one example — the company installs trackers to match a listener’s IP address with a purchaser’s IP address, allowing podcasters to claim attribution for listeners who don’t use their URL or promo code. Chartable currently runs on 10,000 shows, and the early results are so promising that ad agencies expect to see higher CPMs and significantly more spend in the space.

Podcast fans of the future ≠ podcast fans today

As podcasting grows, the listener base is diversifying. Edison Research looked into data on “rookie” listeners (listening for six months or less) and “veteran” listeners (listening for 3+ years), and found significant demographic differences. Only 37% of veterans are female, compared to 53% of rookies. While the plurality of veterans (43%) are age 35–54, 54% of rookies are age 12–34. Rookies are also 1.6x more likely to say they most often listen to podcasts on Spotify, Pandora, or SoundCloud (43% versus 27% of veterans). And social media is an important way that rookies discover podcasts — 52% have found a podcast from video and 46% from audio on social media, compared to 41% and 37% for veterans.

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These new listeners will have a profound impact on the future of podcasting, in both the type of content produced and the way it’s distributed. Industry experts are already noting significant new demand for female-hosted podcasts, as well as audio dramas that appeal to young people looking for a fast-paced, suspenseful story. They’re advising podcasters to share clips of their content on social media, and to leverage broader listening platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud for distribution.

International markets also represent an enormous opportunity for growth. Most podcast listeners today live in the U.S. or China, but content producers are starting to see significant demand elsewhere. Castbox’s Valentina Kaledina said that many fans abroad have resorted to listening in their non-native language, with the top 100 shows in each country comprising a mix of English and local language. Adonde Media’s Martina Castro, who recently conducted the first listener survey on Spanish-language podcast fans, said that 53% of the survey’s 2100 respondents reported listening to podcasts in English — and only 20% of them use Apple Podcasts.

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Larger podcast producers are beginning to translate shows for non-English-speaking markets. Wondery CEO Hernan Lopez announced at the conference that the company’s hit show Dr. Death is now available in seven languages. Lopez noted that it was an expensive process, and he doesn’t expect the shows to generate profit in the near future. However, he believes that Wondery will eventually see a significant return from investing in the development of new podcast markets — and if they do, other podcast companies will likely follow in their footsteps.




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SiriusXM undercuts rivals with a $4 per month student subscription – gpgmail


SiriusXM is making its streaming service more affordable for younger consumers with the launch of a new subscription package for college students. While SiriusXM’s Premier package is $12.99 per month, the new streaming-only student offering will be just $4 per month — a 69% discount. This comes in a dollar less than competitors’ student plans, including the $4.99 per month packages from Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited, YouTube Music, and even SiriusXM-owned Pandora.

The move represents a big grab for a growing user base who prefers to subscribe to streaming music services rather than make purchases on digital marketplaces, like iTunes or Amazon.

Though the SiriusXM brand has for a long time been associated with being an upgrade option for vehicles, the service has been working to establish itself as a viable option outside the car. In April, it launched a streaming-only subscription for listeners without cars.

Today, SiriusXM streams across phones and tablets, on the web, and at home on connected devices including Amazon Alexa, Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, smart TVs, Sonos speakers, Xbox, and Sony PlayStation.

Like other student packages, SiriusXM’s student plan isn’t a watered-down subscription. It offers access to SiriusXM’s full lineup of music, including its over 200 commercial-free channels, which feature both music and talk radio-style programming as well as sports, entertainment, comedy, lifestyle, news and more.

This also includes some of SiriusXM’s more recent additions, following its $3.5 billion Pandora acquisition last year, which bring Pandora -powered content to its service. For example, the companies this spring launched Pandora NOW, a station that streams on both services that used Pandora listener data to pull in the most listened-to and the fastest-trending new tracks across Pop, Hip Hop, R&B, Dance and Latin.

Plus, students will have access to the over 100 SiriusXM Xtra channels which allow you to skip through songs, the company says.

The service does not include the ability to stream to cars, however — it’s a student version of SiriusXM’s streaming-only plan.

To join the service, students will have to verify their status as a registered student by providing their university or college name upon sign-up. The verification process is handled by SheerID, which also powers verification for others in the space, like YouTube, Spotify and more.

“Today’s college students grew up listening to SiriusXM in their parent’s car, and now we have a package built just for them,” said Matt Epstein, Vice President, SiriusXM Outside the Car, in a statement. “Our Student Premier Package enables students to have their own subscription and continue to enjoy the SiriusXM programming they love in their dorm room, at home or on the go,” he said.

 

 


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Pandora opens up podcast submissions to all creators – gpgmail


The battle for podcasters among music streaming services continues. A day after Spotify announced the launch of its podcast analytics dashboard, Pandora is today expanding its own podcasting efforts with the arrival of a self-service online hub for creators. The new Pandora for Podcasters will allow creators to submit their shows for inclusion on the streaming service, where they can be discovered through Pandora’s show and episode-level recommendation system.

Pandora’s entry into the podcast market began late last year, when it brought its “Genome” technology to podcast recommendations. Similar to how Pandora’s Music Genome is capable of classifying songs across hundreds of different attributes, the new Podcast Genome Project does the same for audio programs.

The system uses more than 1,500 attributes — like MPAA ratings, production style, content type, host profile and more, as well as listener signals, like thumbs, skips, replays and more — combined with machine learning algorithms, natural language processing and collaborative filtering methods to help determine user preferences.

An additional layer of human curation is also involved in making the final recommendations.

The result is a system that is able to suggest not just shows a listener may like, but also individual episodes, based on their likes, dislikes and other insights gained from their listening history.

When podcasts launched on Pandora in December 2018, the service offered hundreds of shows and more than 100,000 episodes. There are now thousands of shows and over 500,000 episodes, the company claims.

Pandora parent SiriusXM has also played a role in expanding the streamer’s podcast offerings by bringing dozens of SiriusXM talk shows to Pandora as podcasts, and leveraging SiriusXM’s guests to narrate for Pandora’s music-and-audio product called Pandora Stories.

Now, podcast creators both large and small will be able to submit their own shows for inclusion in Pandora’s catalog. To do so, they’ll submit their show’s RSS feed URL to Pandora directly and answer a few questions about the podcast.

Based on a test from gpgmail editor (and podcaster) Brian Heater, Pandora asked for download numbers, social media links, and provided a time frame of 4-6 weeks for processing.

If approved, the show will be available to Pandora’s 65 million monthly active listeners and their future episodes will be added automatically.

This self-serve hub’s launch follows a similar move by Spotify nearly a year ago, when it opened up podcast submissions to all creators. Today, Spotify’s pitch to podcasters is to submit their shows in exchange for robust listener data. The company says it now has more than 450,000 shows on its platform, with around 100,000 signing up for inclusion through its own self-submission process.

Interested podcast creators can now submit their shows to Pandora here after first registering for a Pandora account.


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