Post #18 – Pandora buys a radio station. Now the fun begins.

Pandora has announced it’s buying KXMZ-FM in Rapid City, South Dakota. Their reasons are primarily to do with music licensing as explained by Pandora General Counsel Christopher Harrison (link to story). But the end of the article is the part that’s most interesting to me: “Pandora excels in personalizing discovery and terrestrial radio is experienced in integrating with a local community. We look forward to broadcasting our personalized experience to the community in Rapid City, an area where over 42,000 residents already use Pandora.”

As I mentioned in a previous post, I think the integration of Pandora (and maybe the coming Apple Radio or Spotify), with local radio personalities, news and information is the future of radio. Added to that will be smartphone, mapping and in-car integration to give listeners a complete experience that’s geo-aware and inherently social.

Sound like a lot? It’s all well within the reach of current technology and programming. Here in Boston, it could offer Matty in the Morning on KIIS-FM with whatever music you like and commercials targeted for the individual listener. Information like weather and news would be on-demand and traffic could be geo-aware so you’re only alerted to situations that relate to where you are driving.

It does require listening over an Internet stream, but that obviously hasn’t been an impediment to Pandora’s 70 million users. Car makers are falling over themselves to put wifi cellular Internet into their newest models. Mobile carriers are equally excited by an extra cell device in every car. You can see the benefits of connecting mobile users if you drive with Waze (which might get bought by Google if Apple or Yahoo! don’t wake up).

Waze tracks the speed and location of its users to produce increasingly accurate traffic condition reports. It also allows them to input things like accidents, construction and speed traps, which instantly show up on everyone else’s maps.

Connecting cars like this will raise the hackles of privacy advocates, but the flip side is the possibility of tremendous benefits in traffic management. How many times have you sat at a traffic light that wasn’t smart enough to know the no cars were coming the other way? Collectively, millions of times a day.

Pandora is also important because it does a really good job of exposing listeners to new artists and music, based on their existing favorites. This is not something radio does a good job at and hasn’t for decades.

All in all, the reinvention of radio will be good for everybody except those stations which don’t do it.

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