Per­son­al­iza­tion makes Pan­dora Pre­mium a wor­thy Spo­tify ri­val

The Denver Post - - TECH KNOW - By Troy Wolverton

A Wik­iLeaks doc­u­ment dump last week re­vealed yet more alarm­ing in­for­ma­tion about the CIA’s al­leged hack­ing — in­volv­ing Ap­ple’s iPhones and Macs. But Ap­ple says the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties the CIA sup­pos­edly ex­ploited are old and it has al­ready fixed them. “Based on our ini­tial anal­y­sis, the al­leged iPhone vul­ner­a­bil­ity af­fected iPhone 3G only and was fixed in 2009 when iPhone 3GS was re­leased,” an Ap­ple spokesman said Fri­day. “Ad­di­tion­ally, our pre­lim­i­nary as­sess­ment shows the al­leged Mac vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties were pre­vi­ously fixed in all Macs launched af­ter 2013.”

Levi Su­ma­gaysay, Bay Area News Group

When it comes to sub­scrip­tion mu­sic ser­vices, Spo­tify and Ap­ple dom­i­nate the mar­ket. But a third big player in the mu­sic in­dus­try is about to of­fer con­sumers another choice.

Pan­dora, provider of the pop­u­lar In­ter­net ra­dio ser­vice, is rolling out its own on-de­mand mu­sic of­fer­ing, called Pan­dora Pre­mium. The com­pany is hop­ing that by build­ing on its ra­dio ser­vice, its new sub­scrip­tion mu­sic busi­ness will stand out from its ri­vals.

I like the re­sult. Pan­dora is of­fer­ing an easy-to-use, very per­son­al­ized mu­sic ser­vice.

All sub­scrip­tion stream­ing mu­sic ser­vices of­fer users the same propo­si­tion. Con­sumers pay a monthly fee to ac­cess a uni­verse of mu­sic. Sub­scribers can play any one of mil­lions of songs any time they like and usu­ally can save songs or al­bums to their de­vices for off­line lis­ten­ing. They can also cre­ate playlists or have the ser­vice cre­ate cus­tom ra­dio sta­tions based on their fa­vorite songs.

Spo­tify and Ap­ple Mu­sic of­fer those fea­tures and so does Pan­dora Pre­mium, which the com­pany has be­gun to of­fer to se­lect users and plans to open up more broadly in com­ing weeks.

Where the ser­vices dif­fer is in how they are cus­tom­ized to in­di­vid­ual users. Spo­tify tai­lors its ser­vice to users as it goes along; the more you use the ser­vice, the more it knows about your tastes. Ap­ple Mu­sic tries to jump start the process by hav­ing users se­lect gen­res and artists that they like.

Pan­dora, by con­trast, is build­ing on what it al­ready knows about its 81 mil­lion ra­dio lis­ten­ers.

If you’ve lis­tened to Pan­dora ra­dio in the past, there’s a good Luke Hem­mings of 5 Sec­onds of Sum­mer per­forms at the Pan­dora Sum­mer Crush con­cert in Los An­ge­les in Au­gust. Jonathan Leib­son, Getty Images chance that you’ve tapped its “thumbs up” but­ton. That but­ton al­lows ra­dio lis­ten­ers to in­di­cate that they like a par­tic­u­lar track and would like Pan­dora to play more songs like it. Now Pan­dora is us­ing that in­for­ma­tion for its Pre­mium ser­vice to cre­ate playlists.

Pan­dora sees playlists as a key way to dis­tin­guish its ser­vice from its com­peti­tors. Right now, cre­at­ing playlists can be time con­sum­ing on both Spo­tify and Ap­ple Mu­sic. Pan­dora Pre­mium prom­ises to au­to­mate this te­dious process.

Sub­scribers ac­cess Pan­dora Pre­mium through the same Pan­dora app they use to get to the com­pany’s ra­dio of­fer­ing. Af­ter sign­ing up for the on-de­mand ser­vice, con­sumers who have lis­tened to Pan­dora ra­dio in the past will see a playlist dubbed “My Thumbs Up” promi­nently dis­played. That playlist con­tains all the songs users have ever given a thumbs-up to while lis­ten­ing to Pan­dora Ra­dio.

For some peo­ple who have used Pan­dora Ra­dio for years, that playlist might be un­wieldy. I’ve been lis­ten­ing to Pan­dora for about a decade, so mine con­sists

Pan­dora Pre­mium on-de­mand sub­scrip­tion mu­sic ser­vice

Troy’s rat­ing: 8 out of 10 Likes: Per­son­al­ized, au­to­mated and easyto-cre­ate playlists; tai­lored song and al­bum rec­om­men­da­tions. Dis­likes: Only works on smart­phones and smart­phone con­nected de­vices for now; doesn’t yet of­fer fam­ily or stu­dent rates; doesn’t of­fer a way to up­load and store per­son­ally owned songs. Price: $10 per month Web: pan­ of 974 songs.

Pan­dora has ways to eas­ily cre­ate more tai­lored playlists. If you start lis­ten­ing to one of Pan­dora’s ra­dio sta­tions and press the thumbs up but­ton a few times, Pan­dora Pre­mium will au­to­mat­i­cally of­fer to cre­ate a playlist based on all the songs you’ve given a thumbs up to within that sta­tion. If you’ve “liked” a lot of songs in that sta­tion in the past, you’ll in­stantly have a large col­lec­tion of tracks that likely go to­gether bet­ter than those in your “My Thumbs Up” playlist.

Al­ter­na­tively, Pan­dora will help you cre­ate a playlist from an in­di­vid­ual song. Spo­tify and Ap­ple Mu­sic give you a sim­i­lar op­tion. But they gen­er­ally ex­pect you to add songs to that playlist your­self. By con­trast, when Pan­dora Pre­mium shows you the new playlist you’ve cre­ated from that song, it gives you the op­tion to “add sim­i­lar songs.”

Tap on that but­ton, and the ser­vice will add another five or so songs to your playlist, typ­i­cally a com­bi­na­tion of tracks from both the same artist and from other artists in the same genre.

With the fea­ture on Pan­dora, you can man­u­ally delete or add songs or keep tap­ping the “add sim­i­lar songs” but­ton to fill it out.

Pan­dora is us­ing the data it’s col­lected about its users to per­son­al­ize its ser­vice in other ways. From the app’s home page, users can choose to “browse” mu­sic. From the re­sult­ing page, they’ll see a list of new al­bums Pan­dora is rec­om­mend­ing based on what it knows about their tastes.

And the app will do a cool trick, au­to­mat­i­cally down­load­ing a se­lec­tion of songs based on your re­cent lis­ten­ing his­tory so that you can con­tinue to lis­ten to mu­sic when you are off­line. Pan­dora will re­fresh that down­load mu­sic the next you go back on­line.

Un­like Spo­tify and Ap­ple Mu­sic, you can’t use Pan­dora Pre­mium on a tablet or on your com­puter. For now, it only works on a smart­phone or through de­vices that con­nect to a smart­phone, like Google’s Chrome­cast or some cars that of­fer Ap­ple’s CarPlay. Pan­dora plans to add sup­port for other prod­ucts — in­clud­ing tablets, com­put­ers and some dig­i­tal set-top boxes.

You can’t yet get a fam­ily mem­ber­ship or a stu­dent dis­count, although the com­pany says it will of­fer both in com­ing months.

Like the other ser­vices, there are some songs, like those on Tay­lor Swift’s “1989” al­bum, that Pan­dora doesn’t have the rights to stream on de­mand. But if you hap­pen to own that or sim­i­lar al­bums, Pan­dora, un­like Ap­ple Mu­sic, doesn’t of­fer users a way to up­load it to the com­pany’s servers so you can ac­cess it from the cloud.

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