Sponsored Listening

Users of Pandora’s ad-supported service might soon get the option for an hour of commercial-free music, but there’s a catch.

In an expansion of an existing program, Pandora will give people the option to view an ad in exchange for 60 minutes of ad-free 80s pop, jazz, or whatever you prefer. Users will opt to see a video or other rich-media (a photo gallery, perhaps) ad unit at the beginning of their listening session to get access to an hour free of ad interruptions. Users must interact with the ads for at least 15 seconds to earn this, with Pandora’s end goal being uninterrupted consumer attention for these advertisements. It’s certainly more impactful when the ads are tied to some kind of reward, as standard ad breaks don’t typically offer much in the way of interactivity.

Available only via the mobile app, Pandora reports that Sponsored Listening has shown a 12% increase in brand awareness for the ad sponsors, and a 30% lift in purchase intent. And in limited testing, over 4 million unique Pandora listeners elected to see the ads, though there was no comment on how many did so on a regular basis. Now that the product is out of beta, it’s open to all advertisers across Pandora’s 80 million active listeners.

The ads are mobile-only, which makes sense given that 80% of Pandora’s traffic is mobile in nature. With early signs pointing to success for these kinds of ad units, it remains to be seen how consumers will employ them long-term, or how availability of these ads might affect their standard in-session units.