App stores saw record 218 billion downloads in 2020, consumer spend of $143 billion

Mobile adoption continued to grow in 2020, in part due to the market forces of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to App Annie’s annual “State of Mobile” industry report, mobile app downloads grew by 7% year-over-year to a record 218 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, consumer spending grew by 20% to also hit a new milestone of $143 billion, led by markets that included China, the United States, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Consumers also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone, the report found.

In another shift, app usage in the U.S. surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours on their mobile device.

The increase in time spent is a trend that’s not unique to the U.S., but can be seen across several other countries, including both developing mobile markets like Indonesia, Brazil and India, as well as places like China, Japan, South Korea, the U.K., Germany, France and others.

The trend isn’t isolated to any one demographic, either, but is seen across age groups. In the U.S., for example, Gen Z, millennials and Gen X/Baby Boomers spent 16%, 18% and 30% more time in their most-used apps year-over-year, respectively. However, what those favorite apps looked like was very different.

For Gen Z in the U.S., top apps on Android phones included Snapchat, Twitch, TikTok, Roblox and Spotify.

Millennials favored Discord, LinkedIn, PayPal, Pandora and Amazon Music.

And Gen X/Baby Boomers used Ring, Nextdoor, The Weather Channel, Kindle and ColorNote Notepad Notes.

The pandemic didn’t necessarily change how consumers were using apps in 2020, but rather accelerated mobile adoption by two to three years’ time, the report found.

Investors were also eager to fuel mobile businesses as a result, pouring $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year. According to Crunchbase data, 26% of total global funding dollars in 2020 went to businesses that included a mobile solution.

From 2016 to 2020, global funding to mobile technology companies more than doubled compared with the previous five years, and was led by financial services, transportation, commerce and shopping.

Mobile gaming adoption also continued to grow in 2020. Casual games dominated the market in terms of downloads (78%), but Core games accounted for 66% of games’ consumer spend and 55% of the time spent.

With many stuck inside due to COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines, mobile games that offered social interaction boomed. Among Us, for example, became a breakout game in several markets in 2020, including the U.S.

Other app categories saw sizable increases over the past year, as well.

Time spent in Finance apps in 2020 was up 45% worldwide, outside of China, and participation in the stock market grew 55% on mobile, thanks to apps like Robinhood in the U.S. and others worldwide, that democratized investing and trading.

TikTok had a big year, too.

The app saw incredible 325% year-over-year growth, despite a ban in India, and ranked in the top five apps by time spent. The average monthly time spent per user also grew faster than nearly every other app analyzed, including 65% in the U.S. and 80% in the U.K., surpassing Facebook. TikTok is now on track to hit 1.2 billion active users in 2021, App Annie forecasts.

Other video services boomed in 2020, thanks to a combination of new market entrants and a lot of time spent at home. Consumers spent 40% more hours streaming on mobile devices, with time spent in streaming apps peaking in the second quarter in the west as the pandemic forced people inside.

YouTube benefitted from this trend, as it became the No. 1 streaming app by time spent among all markets analyzed except China. The time spent in YouTube is up to 6x that of the next closet app at 38 hours per month.

Of course, another big story for 2020 was the rise of e-commerce amid the pandemic. This made the past year the biggest ever for mobile shopping, with an over 30% increase in time spent in Shopping apps, as measured on Android phones outside of China.

Mobile commerce, however, looked less traditional in 2020.

Social shopping was a big trend, with global downloads of Pinterest and Instagram growing 50% and 20% year-over-year, respectively.

Livestreaming shopping grew, too, led by China. Downloads of live shopping TaoBao Live in China, Grip in South Korea and NTWRK in the U.S. grew 100%, 245% and 85%, respectively. NTWRK doubled in size last year, and now others are entering the space as well — including TikTok, to some extent.

The pandemic also prompted increased usage of mobile ordering apps. In the U.S., Argentina, the U.K., Indonesia and Russia, the app grew by 60%, 65%, 70%, 80% and 105%, respectively, in Q4.

Business apps, like Zoom and Google Meet among others, grew 275% in Q4, for example, as remote work and sometimes school, continued.

The analysis additionally included lists of the top apps by downloads, spending and monthly active users (MAUs).

Although TikTok had been topping year-end charts, Facebook continued to beat it in terms of MAUs. Facebook-owned apps controlled the top charts by MAUs, with Facebook at No. 1 followed by WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram.

TikTok, however, had more downloads than Facebook and ranked No. 2 by consumer spending, behind Tinder.

The full report is available only as an online interactive experience this year, not a download. The report largely uses data from both the iOS App Store and Google Play, except where otherwise noted.

Stitcher’s podcasts arrive on Pandora with acquisition’s completion

SiriusXM today completed its previously announced $325 million acquisition of podcast platform Stitcher from E.W. Scripps, and has now launched Stitcher’s podcasts on Pandora across all tiers of the streaming service. The deal brings top Stitcher titles to Pandora, including “Freakonomics Radio,” “My Favorite Murder,” “SuperSoul Conversations from the Oprah Winfrey Network,” “Office Ladies,” “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” “Literally! with Rob Lowe,” “LeVar Burton Reads” and “WTF with Marc Maron,” among others.

On Pandora, the podcasts will be indexed using the company’s proprietary Podcast Genome Project technology. This system leverages automated technology — like natural language processing, collaborative filtering and other machine learning approaches — then combines that with human curation to make personalized recommendations to podcast listeners on Pandora’s app.

The podcasts will also continue to be available in the Stitcher app in North America, the company says.

The Stitcher acquisition brought with it several key assets, including its own mobile listening app, which includes a premium tier of exclusives, and the Midroll Media network for podcast advertising. Stitcher also creates its own original programs and runs multiple content networks, via Earwolf.

That means SirusXM gained thousands of top podcasts with the deal’s closure. The company also now claims it has the “largest addressable audience in North America” across all categories of digital audio, including music, sports, talk and podcasts thanks to the combination of satellite radio service SiriusXM, streaming app Pandora and now Stitcher.

The company believes the deal will help it attract more creators to its platform, thanks to the enhanced production, marketing and distribution capabilities it offers, following the deal’s close. Advertisers, meanwhile, will be able to more precisely target podcasts for better ad efficiency, and will gain access to improved measurements, says SiriusXM.

In terms of Stitcher’s execs, CEO Erik Diehn will now report to Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer of SiriusXM, who also oversees content at Pandora. Stitcher’s chief revenue officer, Sarah van Mosel, will report directly to John Trimble, chief advertising revenue officer of SiriusXM.

“We are deepening our position in podcasting, the fastest-growing sector in digital audio, and with completion of this transaction, our vision is taking shape,” said SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer, in a statement about the deal’s completion. “With Stitcher and its varied assets, we are now a one-stop shop able to meet the needs of podcast creators, publishers and advertisers, while also providing listeners with access to great shows, series and programming.”

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted many consumer trends and accelerated others, podcasting still remains one of the fast-growing digital audio industries. Podcast downloads returned to pre-COVID levels this summer, and Spotify reported that podcast consumption more than doubled in Q2, and nearly a quarter (21%) of its active users now listen to podcasts.

Stitcher was not SiriusXM’s first acquisition focused on podcasts or ad technologies. It also bought podcast management platform Simplecast this June, and before that, it acquired AdsWizz for $66.3 million to power Pandora’s advertising efforts.

SiriusXM rises on Q1 earnings beat, but warns of coronavirus impacts to come

SiriusXM’s first-quarter 2020 earnings today painted a picture of what’s ahead for the music and entertainment service in light of the coronavirus outbreak. While the company surprised with both an earnings and revenue beat in the quarter ended March 2020, its satellite radio business also lost net subscribers due to declines in auto shipments, and the company spoke of further declines in ad sales and in customer responses to its marketing campaigns.

The company did manage to beat expectations in the quarter, reporting revenues of $1.95 billion, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 2.63%. And it saw earnings per share of $0.07 (a profit of $293 million), beating the estimate of $0.05 per share, and up from the earnings of $0.03 per share a year ago.

But the earnings beat comes at a time when even SiriusXM isn’t sure of what the future holds for its business — it withdrew its full-year 2020 guidance, citing the still unknown potential impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

Already there were hints of how that future may look, however. The declines in shipments from automakers offering paid trial subscriptions with a vehicle purchase led the company’s satellite radio business to lose 143,000 net subscribers in the first quarter. This is despite the addition of 69,000 self-paying subscribers, and saw SiriusXM ending the quarter with 34.8 million total subscribers.

The Pandora streaming music service, which SiriusXM owns, added 51,000 net new self-pay subscribers to its paid tiers, Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium. Pandora ended the quarter with over 6.2 million self-pay subscribers and 6.3 million total paying subscribers, including those who came in through other promotions.

Pandora ad revenue grew 4% year-over-year to reach $241 million in the quarter, which the company attributed to video programmatic and engagement-based video, its expansion of off-platform efforts and the fees from its AdsWizz platform — a 2018 acquisition.

But Pandora’s gross profit was down 5% year-over-year, to $105 million, as total costs of services grew, including those related to higher revenue share and royalties, customer service, billing expenses and more.

Then there were the expected declines related to the coronavirus’ early impact.

Though much of those troubles didn’t hit until March, SiriusXM warned that “auto sales, advertising, and customer responses to marketing campaigns all fell swiftly in the second half of March.”

That’s only a couple of weeks, mind you, which makes it seem like the company hasn’t really felt the full force of the pandemic on its subscriber growth, ad sales or total revenues.

“Automakers have idled plants, and dealers have closed their retail operations. New and used vehicle sales have declined sharply in recent weeks,” the company said in its earnings announcement.

Beyond that, the overall economy has taken a hit, with rising unemployment and other declines that could touch on SiriusXM’s business in other ways — including the cancellation of sporting events, postponing of concerts, travel declines and more.

“Unemployment is rising at historic rates as non-essential businesses have been closed and workers have been furloughed. Media spending by businesses has dropped sharply. To add to the uncertainty, it is unclear when an economic recovery could start and what a recovery will look like after this historic shutdown of the economy,” SiriusXM also warned.

The company says it expects to see declines in ad revenues at both SiriusXM and Pandora due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as declines in its satellite radio and accessory sales.

Despite all these issues, there are areas where SiriusXM could succeed, as the coronavirus quarantine stretches on — specifically, its exclusive entertainment offerings.

Today, there are already signs that people are looking for other options to keep themselves entertained in quarantine beyond just streaming Netflix endlessly. Nintendo is struggling to keep the Nintendo Switch in stock, thanks to hit games like Animal Crossing, for example, and even podcast listening is starting to recover from the initial coronavirus hit.

SiriusXM could easily cater to the growing demand for virtual events, where music and entertainment reaches consumers stuck at home.

The company has already done this to some extent — with its Ultra Music Festival, home performance from Garth Brooks, Home DJ series kicked off by Taylor Swift, broadcasts of nationwide events like the Jersey 4 Jersey benefit and more. The company also began streaming a COVID-19 news channel 24/7, in conjunction with NYU Langone Health. Plus, it still has Howard Stern…for now.

Plus, as quarantined consumers dig further into non-screen-based activities — like gardening, arts and crafts and cooking, among others — SiriusXM could establish itself as a service offering more than just your usual tunes and podcasts if it strikes the right tone with regard to its marketing efforts.

“Since the start of the global pandemic, our top priorities have been ensuring our employees’ safety and well-being, and continuing to support our subscribers and listeners by providing them the best entertainment, news, and information in the audio space. On both fronts, I’m pleased by our response,” said SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer, in a statement. “We are streaming SiriusXM for free, and we have been in overdrive introducing new shows, channels and special virtual moments,” he said.

SiriusXM also invested $75 million in SoundCloud in the quarter, in the weeks before the pandemic hit, which allows the company to reach 140 million North American listeners across SiriusXM, Pandora and SoundCloud combined.

SiriusXM’s stock is up 2.58% following its Q1 results.

Pandora’s new Apple Watch app lets you leave your iPhone behind

Support for standalone streaming has come to Pandora’s Apple Watch app. The company today announced the official launch of its new standalone app for Apple Watch that lets you listen to music and podcasts on the go, even without your iPhone. The launch makes Pandora the first major third-party — meaning, first besides Apple Music — to offer a standalone app for Apple Watch.

To be clear, Pandora is not the first non-Apple music service to offer an Apple Watch app. Spotify notably debuted its own Watch app in 2018. Others, including SoundCloud, Napster, Deezer and more, also have Apple Watch experiences.

However, Spotify’s app still needs to be tethered to the iPhone in order to work. This has been a sore subject with a core group of Spotify’s customers — particularly those who want to enjoy music on their Apple Watch while exercising, for example, when carrying around an iPhone is more cumbersome. In some cases, these users have even defected to Apple Music, calling Spotify’s watch app a mere “remote control,” as it still hasn’t even implemented offline support. 

Pandora’s new app, on the other hand, lets users leave their phone behind as it supports both streaming and offline downloads.

The app notably takes advantage of the new streaming APIs Apple introduced last year at its annual developer conference. With watchOS 6, app developers can now create independent audio consumption experiences that no longer need to lean on the iPhone.

For Pandora, this change means users can go directly to the App Store on the Apple Watch to download the watch app to log in and start streaming. Even without an iPhone, users can play, pause and skip songs; pick up where they left off on podcasts; thumbs-up their favorite music; adjust the volume; and more.

Pandora Premium subscribers also can search and play specific songs, artists and albums on-demand, right from their wrist.

Meanwhile, offline listening is available to Pandora Plus or Premium paying subscribers, which lets you save tracks for offline play. This is helpful if you’re in an area where you have a poor connection or none at all, like on an airplane or underground train, for instance.

The new Pandora Apple Watch app will roll out to all users who already had the older version installed, as well as to those who updated to the latest version of Pandora’s iPhone app.

Because the app relies on Apple’s new streaming APIs to offer standalone streaming, it requires watchOS 6 to work. This version of Apple Watch software is available to Apple Watch Series 1 and higher users, but only those on Apple Watch Series 3 and higher will have access to standalone streaming, per Apple’s requirements. In addition, both streaming music and downloading require an internet connection, either Wi-Fi or cellular.

News of Pandora’s updated Watch app actually broke last week. But after a number of news reports announced its arrival, the company clarified it was only then rolled out to a small group (1%) of users at that time. Earlier this year, Pandora also rolled out a redesign of its Watch app that included offline playback.

As of today, the updated Apple Watch app should be available to all in the U.S.

SiriusXM and Pandora test bundle discounts

It’s been less than a year since SiriusXM completed its $3.5 billion acquisition of streaming music service Pandora, but the two companies have already leveraged their collective assets to boost each other’s services. For example, SiriusXM talk shows arrived on Pandora as podcasts, while a Pandora-powered station now streams popular songs for both sets of listeners. Now, the company is considering tying the two services together in a different way — by packaging them as a discounted bundle.

What that bundle deal will look like isn’t yet known.

Pandora today offers four tiers of service: a free ad-supported version, the $4.99/month Pandora Plus service, and the $9.99/month Spotify rival Pandora Premium. It also offers a multi-user Pandora Premium Family plan for $14.99/month.

SiriusXM, meanwhile, also offers its own set of packages, with the most popular being a $5/month plan for the car and home (via an Echo device), an $8.25/month plan for in and out of the car, and an $8/month plan for streaming outside the car only.

Before rolling out a bundle deal, the company wanted to know what sorts of package price points and features customers would respond to best.

The company confirmed it’s been testing different cross-promotions, including those aimed at both Pandora and SiriusXM subscribers that offered discounts if you sign up for the other service. Essentially, the company wants to know what price point makes sense for consumers when it comes to subscribing to both services.

Today, these cross-promotions are aimed only at people who already subscribe to one or the other service, so it’s not really being marketed as a “bundle” deal yet. It’s just a promotion, if you want to get technical about the terminology.

“We would email our Pandora listener base or the SiriusXM listener base — we would test it with different user bases as a promotion,” Chris Phillips, SiriusXM/Pandora Chief Product Officer & Head of Technology, told TechCrunch. “We actually have a formal study going on to do it,” he said.

SiriusXM and Pandora haven’t yet settled on what a potential bundle deal will look like, but it aims to make a decision based on its tests this year.

“The power of the Sirius brand and power of the Pandora brand are very distinct. And people see unique value in the two,” Phillips added.

One challenge, however, is that people don’t understand that SiriusXM and Pandora are now one company, so the promotional emails confused them.

Similarly, people often find the language around “Pandora-powered” stations in SiriusXM confusing, as well.

One potential solution is to pick one consumer-facing brand and merge assets, including both programming and apps.

When asked if the two apps may merge into one in the future, Phillips said the company is “looking at what those opportunities might be.”

In the meantime, the company continues to explore how it can enhance both products using assets it has from the respective products.

“We are cross-pollinating content and features…into the distinct [user interfaces],” he said.

A recent example of this includes a new button within the SiriusXM app that allows you to launch a Pandora station based on what you’re currently streaming. And this new Pandora-powered station can then play right in the SiriusXM app — you don’t have to launch Pandora separately to hear it.

Efforts like this are aided by the fact that SiriusXM immediately put the two companies’ development groups together following the acquisition.

“We’re giving listeners choice. But when we give them choice, we want them to be able to have the best of what we offer in many places,” noted Phillips, of these sorts of integrations. “In the future, the idea that there’s a single opportunity — we’re looking at what that might be,” he said.

Nothing is yet determined, so all these plans could change, of course.

SiriusXM ended 2019 with around 30 million self-pay satellite radio and a record high of 34.9 million total paid subscribers. In 2020, SiriusXM forecasts revenue of $8.1 billion and earnings of $2.5 billion (adjusted EBITA).

Combined, Pandora and SiriusXM reach 100 million U.S. listeners per month.

Instreamatic signs deals to allow people to talk to adverts on streaming services like an Alexa

Most in tech would agree that following the launch of Alexa and Google Home devices the ‘Voice Era’ is here. Voice assistant usage is at 3.3 billion right now; by 2020 half of all searches are expected to be done via voice. And with younger generations growing up on voice (55% of teens use voice search daily now), there’s no turning back.

As we’ve reported, the voice-based ad market will grow to $19 billion in the U.S. by 2022, growing the market share from the $17 billion audio ad market and the $57 billion programmatic ad market.

That means that voice shopping is also set to explode, with the volume of voice-based spending growing twenty-fold over the next few years due to voice-based virtual assistant penetration, as well as the rapid consumer adoption of home-based smart speakers, the expansion of smart homes and the growing integration of virtual assistants into cars.

That, combined with the popularity of digital media – streaming music, podcasts, etc – has created greenfield opportunities for better brand engagement through audio. But brands have struggled to catch up, and there has not been many ways to capitalise on this.

So a team of people who co-founded and worked at Zvuk, a leading music streaming service in Eastern Europe, quickly understood why there is not a single profitable music streaming company in the world: subscription rates are low and advertisers are not excited about audio ads, due to the measurement challenges and intrusive ad experience.

So, they decided to create SF-based company Instreamatic, a startup which allows people to talk at adverts they see and get an AI-driven voice response, just as you might talk to an Alexa device. 

Thus, the AI powering Instreamatic’s voice-driven ads can interpret and anticipate the intent of a user’s words (and do so in the user’s natural language, so robotic “yes” and “no” responses aren’t needed). That means Instreamatic enables brands which advertise through digital audio channels (streaming music apps, podcasts, etc) to now have interactive (and continuous) voice dialogues with consumers.

Yes, it means you can talk to an advert like it was an Alexa.
 
Instead of an audio ad playing to a listener as a one-way communication (like every T.V. and radio ad before it), brands can now reach and engage with consumers by having voice-interactive conversations. Brands using Instreamatic can also continue conversations with consumers across channels and audio publishers – so fresh ad content is tailored to the full history of each listener’s past engagements and responses.

An advantage of the platform is that people can use their voice to set their advertising preferences. So, when a person says ‘I don’t want to hear about it ever again,’ brands can optimize their marketing strategy either by stopping all remarketing campaigns across all digital media channels targeted to that person, or by optimizing the communication strategy to offer something else instead of the product that was rejected. If the listener expressed interest or no interest, Instreamatic would know that and tailor future ads to match past engagement – providing a continuous dialogue with the user.

Its competitor is AdsWizz which allows users to shake their phones when they are interested in an ad. This effectively allows users to “click” when the audio ad is playing in the background. One of their recent case studies reported that shaking provided 3.95% interaction rates.
 
By contrast, Instreamatic’s voice dialogue marketing platform allows people to talk to audio advertising, skipping irrelevant ads and engaging in interesting ones. Their recent case study claimed a much higher 13.2% voice engagement rate this way.
 
The business model is thus: when advertisers buy voice dialogue ads on its ad exchange, it takes a commission from that ad spend. Publishers, brands and adtech companies can license the technology and Instreamatic charges them a licensing fee based on usage.

Instreamatic has now partnered with Gaana, India’s largest music and content streaming service, to integrate Instreamatic into Gaana’s platform. It’s also partnered with Triton Digital, a service provider to the audio streaming and podcast industry.

This follows similar deals with Pandora, Jacapps, Airkast,
and SurferNETWORK.

All these partnerships means the company can now reach 120 million monthly active users in the United States, 30M in Europe and 150 million in Asia.

Thet company is headquartered in San Francisco and London with a development team in Moscow and features Stas Tushinskiy as CEO and co-founder. Tushinskiy reated the digital audio advertising market in Russia prior to relocating to the U.S. with Instreamatic. International Business Development head and co-founder Simon Dunlop previously founded Bookmate, a subscription-based reading and audiobook platform, and DITelegraph Moscow Tech Hub, and Zvuk.

Pandora launches interactive voice ads

Pandora has begun to test a new type of advertising format that allows listeners to respond to the ad by speaking aloud. In the new ads, listeners are prompted to say “yes” after the ad asks a question and a tone plays. The ads will then offer more information about the product or brand in question.

Debut advertisers testing the new format include Doritos, Ashley HomeStores, Unilever, Wendy’s, Turner Broadcasting, Comcast, and Nestle.

The ads begin by explaining what they are and how they’ll work. They then play a short and simple message followed by a question that listeners are supposed to respond to.

For example, the Wendy’s ad asks listeners if they’re hungry, and if they say “yes” the ad continues by offering a recommendation about what to eat. The DiGiorno’s pizza ad asks listeners to say “yes” to hear the punchline of a pizza-themed joke. The Ashely HomeStores ad engages listeners by offering tips on getting a better night’s sleep. And so on.

The new format capitalizes on Pandora’s underlying voice technology which also powers the app’s smart voice assistant, Voice Mode, launched earlier this year. While Voice Mode lets Pandora users control their music hands-free, the voice ads aim to get users to engage with the advertiser’s content hands-free, as opposed to tapping the on the screen or visiting a link to get more information.

The company believes these types of ads will be more meaningful as they force listeners to pay attention. For the brand advertisers, voice ads offer a way to more directly measure how many people an ad reached — something that’s not possible with traditional audio ads, which by their nature aren’t clickable.

Pandora announced its plans to test interactive voice ads back in April of this year, initially with San Francisco-based adtech company, Instreamatic. At the time, it said it would launch the new format into beta testing by Q4, as it now has.

The ad format arrives at a time when consumers have become more comfortable talking to digital voice assistants, like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. There’s also an increased expectation that services we interact with will support voice commands — like when we’re speaking to Fire TV or Apple TV to find something to watch or asking Pandora or Spotify to play our favorite music.

But consumers’ appetite for interactive voice advertisements is still largely untested. Even Amazon limited voice ads on its Alexa platform for fear of alienating users who would find them disruptive to the core experience.

In Pandora’s case, however, users don’t have to play along. The company says if the user doesn’t respond within a couple of seconds or if they say no, the music resumes playback.

Pandora says the ads will begin running for a small subset of listeners using its app starting today.

 

Pandora puts its personalization powers to work in a revamped app

Pandora is doubling down on personalization and revamping its app in order to better compete with rivals like Spotify and Apple Music. Today, the company is introducing a new mobile experience which includes a dedicated “For You” tab where a continually updated feed of content is presented to users, including both music and podcast recommendations and more. This content is personalized to the individual, based on factors like the day of the week, the time of day, and Pandora’s predictions about your mood, among other things.

The new personalized feed will also help the company to better showcase more of its exclusive content — like its music-and-podcast combos, called “Pandora Stories,” for example. Or the dozens of SiriusXM talk shows that became Pandora podcasts, following its acquisition.

“Our listeners have told us that they love the utility of Pandora — it’s drop-dead easy, it works, it knows me, It’s really simple,” explains Pandora’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Phillips. “But what they haven’t been able to understand and have easy enough access to is all the content and programming that we have available on Pandora — the new content, new programming, and the unique content that you can’t get other places,” he says.

The For You tab aims to change that by turning Pandora’s personalization capabilities onto its broader catalog and exclusives, then crafting a scrollable feed with dozens of ways to listen.

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Here, you’ll be able to tap into Pandora Modes,  for example, which is a new way to listen to Pandora Stations. The feature was previously available on the web, and has now come to mobile for the first time with today’s launch.

Pandora Modes let you toggle between ways to customize your stations. You can opt for modes that will tweak the station to play things like the most popular songs (“crowd faves”), the deep cuts, new releases, artist-only tracks, and more.  You can also opt for a “discovery” mode to have Pandora introduce you to new artists you may like, as related to the station in question.

Another section in the For You tab lets you browse by categories, including by genre, by new music, podcasts, moods, playlists, decades and by trending.

The “Moods & Activities” section, meanwhile, will present collections of music based on current trends — for example, one of the available “moods” is “fall” and another could be “rainy day,” matched up with the day’s weather. You can also dig into this section for moods to match your activity, like workout, gaming, studying, family time, and more.

As you scroll down the For You page, you’ll come across your podcast recommendations and personalized playlists. And Pandora can create some 80 different versions of the latter, which include playlists by moods, activities, genres, and more all powered by its Music Genome.

Plus, the combined Pandora and SiriusXM editorial team of around 25 creates hundreds of human-curated playlists, too.

PandoraModes BlogImage

In total, there are some 35 different modules in Pandora’s new For You feed, some of which are shown to every user while others appear dynamically based on time of day and day of week. Its suggestions will also be tailored to your own likes and interests, thanks to your own listening behavior and explicit signals, like thumbs up and thumbs down.

That means your For You tab will be unique to you, and you can later be targeted with specific promotions — like the content to emerge from that deal between SiriusXM/Pandora and Drake, for example, if relevant to your interests. (Hey, it’s better than that time when Spotify put Drake’s face on every playlist.)

Despite the personalization, the feed will still include some insights powered by the larger Pandora population, so you can see what’s popular and trending more broadly across the service.

In time, Pandora plans to roll out even more modules to build out the experience further.

100 billion thumbs are what’s powering all this,” adds Phillips, speaking of Pandora’s recent milestone, which measured the number of thumbs up and down clicks from users. Until now, he says, Pandora “hadn’t really brought together the community…and the power of our personalization, but not just for stations — for all the playlists, albums, songs, and artists,” Phillips continues. “And then the idea that we lay on top of all of this…the idea of what time of day it is, and what might be interesting based on what we predict your mood is right now,” he says.

The “For You” tab and other features are arriving today on Pandora for iOS and Android.

How Kobalt is betting on music’s middle class and DIY stars

Streaming services have made music ubiquitous, driving more exploration by consumers who don’t have to pay for each song or album individually. Musicians are correspondingly able to find their own niche of fans scattered around the world.

(This is the third installment of our EC-1 series on Kobalt Music Group and changes in the music industry. Read Part I and Part II.)

As Spotify gained rapid adoption in his native Sweden in 2006, class="crunchbase-link" href="https://crunchbase.com/organization/kobalt-music-group" target="_blank" data-type="organization" data-entity="kobalt-music-group">Kobalt’s founder & CEO Willard Ahdritz predicted music streaming and the rise of social media would increasingly undercut the gatekeeping power of the major label groups and realign the market to center more on a vast landscape of niche musicians than a handful of traditional superstars.

Both of these predictions have proven directionally true. The question is to what extent and how are industry players actually realigning as a result?

What musicians need in addition to the administrative collection of their royalties (explained in Part II) is a menu of creative services they can tap for support. Kobalt’s AWAL and Kobalt Music Publishing divisions provide such services to recording artists and songwriters, respectively, and do so on purely a services basis (getting paid a commission but not taking ownership of copyrights like traditional labels and publishers do).

Niche middle class vs. Global superstars

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Image via Getty Images / rolfo eclaire

The whole music industry is growing substantially due to streaming music’s mainstream penetration in wealthier countries and increased penetration in emerging markets.

As the overall pie is growing, the non-superstar segment of the market is indeed growing faster than the superstar segment, taking over a larger portion of industry royalties.

According to data from BuzzAngle, the top 500 songs in the US in 2018 accounted for 10% of on-demand audio streams — a dramatic decline in market share compared to 2017 when the top 500 songs accounted for 14% of streams. Stepping back, the top 50,000 songs made up 73.2% of all US streams in 2017 but that declined to 70.5% in 2018.

Pandora debuts a desktop app for Windows with support for music & podcasts

Pandora today is launching a desktop app for Windows users following its debut of a native Mac app earlier this year. On Mac, Pandora offers a variety of features for desktop users like on-screen notifications, keyboard controls, and a way to select listening “modes” and more. It didn’t, however, include support for streaming podcasts. The new Windows app includes a similar feature set, and adds support for podcast streaming.

Like its Mac counterpart, Pandora’s Windows app can be used by both free users and paid subscribers alike.

The free users will have access to Pandora’s ad-supported stations, while Pandora Plus subscribers get ad-free stations, unlimited skips, personalized stations, and up to four offline stations. Pandora Premium subscribers, meanwhile, get the same, plus the ability to make and share playlists, play albums and songs on-demand, and take advantage of unlimited offline listening.

Both of the paid subscription tiers can also stream podcasts via the Windows app.

Also like the Mac app, the Windows version supports keyboard controls for doing things like playing, pausing, replaying, shuffling, thumbs up and down, etc. And it supports the Pandora Modes feature which lets you refine your personalized stations by asking Pandora to focus more on certain types of songs — like crowd favorites, the discovery of new artists, deep cuts, songs from a select artist only, new releases, and more.

Desktop users often prefer to use a native app instead of leaving a service open in a browser tab as it allows them a more seamless and integrated experience. That said, Pandora’s Mac version didn’t have the best reviews from Apple users.

Still, Pandora’s rollout of native desktop apps helps the SiriusXM-owned company better compete with rivals like Apple Music and Spotify, both of which have long offered desktop applications. In Apple’s case, it actually built so much into iTunes, that the company decided to finally break it up into parts with the next version of macOS. Pandora doesn’t have the same problem because it doesn’t include a user library or marketplace.

Windows users can download the Pandora app from the Microsoft Store starting today.

The app works on Windows 10. (Pandora also supports streaming to Xbox via the Microsoft Store app.)