Pandora assaulted 35m listeners with ads to see just how much they’re willing to put up with and found that young listeners just switched platforms instead of paying — while older listeners opt to pay a subscription fee instead of taking their streaming business elsewhere.
The study, published in the Social Science Research Network with Pandora’s blessing, blitzed users with 3 to 12 ads per hour to measure ad-related audience decline.
Hold up: So were the researchers academics or tech workers?
The answer is: yes. The study’s authors were David Reiley, a UC Berkeley professor who works in ad-science at Pandora, and two Pandora interns named Jason Huang (Stanford Ph.D. researcher/ Uber data scientist) and Nickolai Riabov (Brown Ph.D. researcher/ Netflix senior research scientist).
The report wasn’t peer-reviewed like most academic articles, but it was undertaken by academics over 21 months among 35m users in 3 countries.
The age-old digital debate: ads vs. subscriptions
The publication of the paper comes at a time when many ad revenue-based internet companies debate the merits of subscription models, especially as companies struggle with privacy concerns associated with advertising.
The main takeaway? Using ads to force users to upgrade to a subscription only works when they don’t have many other options. Or when they’re old.