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If you happen to be single on Valentine’s Day and in need of a personalized mix tape with no strings attached, Pandora is here for you. Next week, though, there might be a couple of obligations.
The 14-year-old online radio service known for crafting virtual radio stations based on a user’s music preference plans to premiere a new advertising service. And the new feature will allow candidates and political organizations to target the majority of its 73 million users based on their political leanings, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Unlike social media sites that have compiled demographic profile for online advertisers, Pandora doesn’t petition users for their political affiliations. In fact, the only customization encouraged is around music taste. Armed with users’ favorite artists and genres, Pandora plays matchmaker with past election results and subscriber’s musical tastes sorted by ZIP code. Pandora can then code its users as either Republican, Democrat or Independent.
Does Pandora read you well? According to the company, if you like Yanni, or other New-Age music, you are likely to lean slightly right. But if you have a Daft Punk-themed station, you’re likely to lean strongly left. The Wall Street Journal created a quiz with some of Pandora’s other findings.
“Targeting users is basically the currency in data right now,” Pandora’s director of project management Jack Krawczyk said to the Wall Street Journal.
Pandora is certainly not the only website politicians have tapped for potential voter information. In 2012, ProPublica reported that Microsoft and Yahoo partnered with political campaigns to target users based on name, ZIP code and other registration information. Social media sites like Facebook have also sold politicians the ability to target to their users.
If you’d rather Pandora didn’t scrutinize your Destiny’s Child station for some hidden political meaning, your only in-house option is to subscribe for the ad-free premium service for $3.99 each month.
Increased focus on consumer privacy has caused a shift in practices among many companies that collect data, and more options for consumers to opt out. But many users eagerly click off on the “I have read the Terms & Conditions” box, and remain in the dark about how their data is collected and served to advertisers.
For now, Pandora is following the trend of other like-minded sites that require ads to continue their free services. So far, they have found clients in digital media companies Precision Network and Bully Pulpit Interactive, who headed online campaigning for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Online Editorial Production Assistant at the PBS NewsHour.
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