Pandora starts using audio ads

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radio21.jpgADOTAS — I’ve become a big fan of Pandora Internet radio and have been listening for a while, so I was taken aback a few days ago when I heard audio ads for the first time.

Pandora has been around since 2000 and has been through its share of ups and downs. It was started as part of the Music Genome Project, ran out of money, raised a ton in March of 2004 and then became a radio service. Now it has become a popular iPhone app.

The company had experimented with audio ads in 2007, with apparently bad reviews. But the ad I heard about the television program Lie to Me wasn’ that bad. It was short enough for me not to get annoyed. The company says, “we try to be extremely respectful of your listening experience, & promise to be prudent, adding, “please keep in mind that you can subscribe for $36 a year to get Pandora ad-free.”

Their listeners, incidentally, are the stuff of marketers’ dreams: between the ages of 18 and 34, tuned-in, savvy and with money to burn. Their advertisers include Procter & Gamble, Microsoft and Anheuser Busch. But though the company has raised about $20 million in venture capital so far, its ad revenue hasn’t kept up with its growth rate. Let’s hope this new wrinkle keeps it going.

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