Pandora…..Its not all about Free

Pandora, another technology and service that has changed my life.  A couple of years ago I stumbled across some mention of Pandora and pushed it aside.  A while later I went looking for a better way of getting music.  I tried Yahoo, Google, iTunes and started listening to internet radio but didn’t like what I found, even for free.  Then I ran across Pandora again and read the blurb on the Music DNA project that the company was based on. 

I started to use Pandora, a little at first, then more and more, finally running into the hours per month limit.  I did that for a couple of months, then had a look at the premium service.  I almost quite because I hated paying for something I’d been getting free. 

Then I had a bit of an epiphany, I cannot expect to always get good to great services for free, and the ones coming closest irritated me with their commercials.  Pandora had already introduced me to multiple new artists and completely new genre and I liked how it worked…

I paid up and have never regretted it.

There are always a lot of words flying about how Free has killed the web, and how so many magazines and papers started providing free services and could not sustain it or get the readers they had to start paying. There were the ones who tried to start charging from the beginning, which generally died out.

But there are more and more places where people will pay for content.  In particular in cases where, like me with Pandora, they really come to love the application and want more and can get it for a modest investment.  The Economist essentially does this, (I was an addict long before the web version, but their current model has gotten me re hooked several times) and there are others out there.

The secret is providing the customer with a compelling experience and charging a fair price.  Providing a me too experience with nothing special is not going to get customers.  Newspapers in particular have yet to develop the right combination of experiences via the web.  Local papers survive in the paper form because/when they have local value and because many of us love the crinkle of the paper in the morning.  But its the value/content that does not transfer to the web. 

I have to say as much as I love my iPad for most other forms of reading I still like the morning paper and its combination of format and topics….and by the way the funnies….the web-crowd always seem to miss how important the morning funnies are to folks.  And its not just  the ones I like.

And maybe that’s a secret someone needs to ponder.  Like Pandora (and the Economist and WSJ etc) the paper pushes content at me that I would not necessarily choose to (or know to) go searching for on my own, I trust the paper to do a reasonably unbiased job of putting out content that is of local importance (even if that importance is in others eyes) making me an informed/understanding local citizen. 

 I cannot know what I should be paying attention to outside of a small set of things that are central to my life.  The newspaper helps me pay attention to secondary stuff, I will not always agree with what is written but it does point it out.  And that is important.

And to receive that daily packet of local color I pay, I would pay for it online if the layout and the presentation were compelling.  But right now I go out to the mailbox every morning, rain or shine, snow and Ice, etc, for that few minute scan of my local environs and a few chuckles or groans at the comics.

By the way I live in Indianapolis and get the Indianapolis Star.  A very good local paper that I hope has many more successful years ahead of it.