Pandora vs. Radio: There’s a Clear Winner

For years, AM/FM radio advertising has been the only option for businesses that wanted to market themselves over the air. With the advent of digital media and streaming sites like Pandora, reaching your prospects over the airwaves isn’t as straightforward as it once was. This leads many business owners to now question which method of advertising is best. We’ve compared radio across several major categories and identified a clear winner for those looking to advertise in this space. We think you’ll agree.

Audience Targeting

Many businesses pride themselves on creating a very loyal following and/or targeting a very specific audience. Pandora offers specific advertising options on individual channels, focused on an artist or a narrowly defined style of music. Before choosing Pandora, consider if you’re comfortable limiting your audience to listeners of one specific artist or song title. Also, Pandora’s connection to their listeners is based on the data such as mobile number and location entered when the customer signs up.  If this user moves off to college or to another state, this can mean delivery of your messages are being heard in the wrong geography.  And, you’ll still pay for it.

Broadcast radio stations provide formats that attract certain types of people, or specific demographics.  Because radio is built to attract demographics, advertisers have the ability to target specific audiences by time of day. Radio’s variety of narrow and broad targeting options can be used to reach a more reliable target audience, creating a more well-rounded campaign. While both mediums provide advertisers with targeting capabilities, local radio stations possess a deeper understanding of their local market and listener trends, helping business owners reach a more qualified audience.

Listener Engagement

AM/FM radio’s loyal following gives it a clear advantage over Pandora. Radio stations use information and entertaining on-air personalities to engage and retain listeners, especially morning and evening commuter traffic. Radio stations know that daily commuters are creatures of habit, and they cultivate habitual listening by playing their most popular segments during peak travel times. Local news, weather, traffic and entertainment and even contesting creates a bond between listeners and “their station”. Pandora does not offer local content for listeners, has few personalities, and engagement is limited. It may be able to be “personalized”, but Pandora is not “personal”.


How many people will your business’ ad reach on AM/FM radio vs. Pandora Radio?  We looked to a study conducted by Edison Research on how Americans consume audio. The research shows that AM/FM radio reaches an audience 10 times the size of ad-supported Pandora. Radio claims 51% of audio time spent by persons 18 and older, compared to Pandora’s 5%.  And country-wide, radio reaches 93% of the adult population weekly.

Edison Research


The Results

While traditional radio and Pandora both have their pros and cons, FM radio is clearly the winner of this contest. FM radio’s audience targeting capabilities range from broad to narrow, allowing advertisers to have more control over who their marketing messages are reaching. When it comes to listener engagement, FM radio has mastered the art of cultivating and retaining listeners through the use of radio shows, on-air personalities, and contests. Finally, FM radio’s reach is far beyond that of Pandora, claiming 51% of audio time spend by adults. If you’re interested in learning more about radio advertising, our experienced team of professionals is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.