Standing in the large and dimly-lit winter wonderland-themed Pier 36 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Pandora president and CEO Roger Lynch has a huge smile on his face. In another hour or so, chart-topping acts and 2018 Grammy nominees Post Malone and SZA will take the stage for the fifth installment of Pandora’s Sounds Like You event, and Lynch has reason to be optimistic.
“It’s a way for us to connect and give back to our listeners,” Lynch says of the event, before quickly adding, “and get some more advertisers to participate in it, too.” (The event space is sprinkled with on-site promotions from Mentos, Audio-Technica, Spectrum and others.)
As 2018 nears, Lynch, who joined Pandora in September of this year — “The three companies I ran were companies I built, so I had to get up a quick learning curve,” he says — is thinking about how the digital music platform will continue to engage with its user base and also appeal to potential investors. That will be achieved, he believes, via his “two big priorities” — improvements to Pandora’s advertising technology and marketing.
“Within digital audio advertising, we are the big 800-pound gorilla,” Lynch explains. “We have the most effective monetization machine for digital audio, but when you look at what advertisers expect, their expectations are driven more by what they get from Google and Facebook — not for audio, but for display and video, which means there are investments we have to make to bridge that gap.”
He continues to say one of the things that first struck him about Pandora is its “really, really strong data science, artificial intelligence capabilities that we do a really good job of powering our product with,” which helps Pandora’s engagement; Lynch says the average Pandora user listens 55 percent longer than on Spotify. But, although the company uses that data to drive its advertising division, it hardly uses it for digital marketing.
“To me, as someone coming in who has done a lot of digital marketing, I look at that and say, ‘This is a treasure trove,'” he says. “We just need to connect the plumbing and really hire a team that knows how to do this, so the marketing area will be a big area of focus [next year], and [will] really change the trajectory of our listeners.”