What's not to love about radio? It's keeps you updated on news and information, it's entertaining, and it enables users to discover new artists and songs. According to Tom Conrad, the CTO and Head of Product at Pandora, almost 70 percent of all music listening happens on the radio.
He told us that radio is currently undergoing a shift as people are transitioning from traditional radio with DJs picking songs, to Internet radio options with personalized listening experiences.
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As the leader in the music streaming space, Pandora believes that it is playing a key role in this shift since it strives to offer users a valuable radio experience.
"We like to set the challenge for ourselves to ensure that Pandora is the future of radio," said Conrad.
As part of Pandora's ambitious effort, the company is currently revamping its service to provide a faster, easier, and more social experience for users. Conrad told us that the company started this mission around a year ago with these very goals in mind.
To make the service faster, Pandora switched from Flash to HTML5. Conrad told us that this change has made a significant difference in the performance of the site.
"For the first time, I think, Pandora feels really native to the Web," he said. "It's a subtle detail, but it underlies the whole new experience."
For an easier user experience, Conrad explained that he wanted the site to operate with the same ease and simplicity that their mobile apps did. As a result, the "New Pandora" includes better search functions, improved user control, more information about the music and the artists, among other features.
The revamp also integrates social networking capabilities. Although user profiles have existed for some time, they were not widely utilized. Now, they become extremely relevant since they can be used to see a friend's recent activity. This activity will also appear in the new Music Feed stream, which will allow users to discover new music and share it.
"We've been incredibly focused on solving the problem of how to create a really personalized music experience," said Conrad. "It's entirely about you when you come to Pandora."
Although the "New Pandora" is only available to paid users at this time, it will be rolled out all users over next few weeks.
To continue to personalize its service, Pandora also released 12 new stations that are specifically designed for users when they workout. The stations range from 80's Cardio to Pop Fitness to Classic Rock Power Workout, and users can further personalize each station by voting songs up or down.
While some of these features are a result of what users attempt to do on Pandora, Conrad told us that the company also has a vision for the future of radio and incorporates features based upon this vision.
"We have to lead the market," he said. "We have to create products that do things that people didn't even know they wanted."
He went on to say that, even with all the hype around Clear Channel's iHeartRadio service and Spotify, the revamp and Pandora's continued vision would help the company maintain its leadership position. He cites Spotify's CEO labeling Spotify as the future of record stores and Pandora as the future of radio, which he thinks is a "perfect distinction."
"We're nice complements to one another, and there is certainly room in the market for both," said Conrad.
As for Clear Channel, he believes that its iHeartRadio service is further validation that the future of radio is personalized.