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Pandora radio: maybe the best thing the ‘net has ever offered

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pandora-radioAfter hearing about Pandora.com for months, I just loaded it on my Blackberry. And then on my laptop.

Pandora is internet radio; you pick an artist or song that you like and it builds a station of music with similar qualities. If it plays a song you don’t like, a click on the thumbs-down icon helps Pandora refine what it plays for you.

I’ve never used an application that loaded any easier or was more intuitive to start up. Over the course of a 45-minute drive in which I was the passenger, I loaded it, got familiar with the controls and set up about 15 stations — all of which play music that I could listen to all day. When I got to my laptop, I loaded the application in less than a minute, then typed in my password, and got to precisely where I’d left off on the Blackberry.

With a $6 cable from Radio Shack, you can plug the Blackberry (or iPhone) into the utility port of a car radio or a set of powered speakers.

Which means that with no learning curve, and for the cost of my cell phone data plan — which I was already paying — I can have the best of all musical worlds (mental note: start a new Pandora station around Candide or Leonard Bernstein).

It’s better than my iPod, because I don’t have to select each song and be my own DJ.

It’s way better than Sirius/XM because the channels I create are better focused than anything satellite radio offers; and I don’t have to pay the $6.99-$12.99/month subscription fee.

I don’t think Pandora is going to hurt the sale of MP3 players; most of them do more now than simply play music files.

But Pandora is everything that Sirius/XM could hope to be — yet easier, better and cheaper. It is the ultimate disruptive technology; it delivers radio at no cost, using technology that lots of people already possess, and it strikes a magical balance between doing all the work and giving the user control.

Last I heard, Sirius/XM was losing more than 100,000 customers a month. I can’t imagine that pace has continued. But I’m guessing the downward trend has. And with its dependence on expensive space-based satellites and human-programmed channels, satellite radio is a precarious business model that has yet to make money.

In Greek mythology, Pandora carried a magical box that contained all things harmful to humans — disease, fear, unhappiness, etc. Zeus instructed her not to open it, but when her curiosity got the best of her, she spilled its contents into the world and upon mankind.

To most of us, this Pandora is a welcome innovation. But to Sirius/XM — and broadcast radio over time — Pandora and the others that will inevitably follow it must look like the thunder from Olympus itself.

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About the Author:

Bob Rosenbaum is founder and principal of The MarketFarm, a content-oriented strategic communications firm.

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