Here are some ads you might hear if you travel cross-country this fall.
Editor's Note: This is one of many stories about politics that our sister magazine, San Francisco, is publishing over the next month, all part of the October 2016 Democracy Issue. To peruse the rest of the issue's contents, and to read stories as they become available online, click here.
Regardless of how the 2016 election plays out—Trumpocalypse included—one of the season’s biggest winners will be Pandora, the Oakland-based streaming radio service. That’s because by using the same data-crunching prowess that helps it to serve listeners music based on their tastes, the company has positioned itself as one of the major players in the fast-growing digital political advertising world—a market expected to rake in over $1 billion this year.
According to Sean Duggan, Pandora’s vice president of advertising, the company is on track to carry political spots for more than 1,000 campaigns this year, from the presidential race to congressional seats and state races all the way down to relatively puny school board and sheriff contests. That’s up from 580 campaigns in 2014 and just 180 in the last presidential election, and it puts Pandora in a class with digital juggernauts like Facebook, Google, and Twitter when it comes to hauling in the political cash runoff.
Pandora’s appeal to media buyers lies in its ability to home in on especially narrow (and hard-to-reach) audience segments. New Hampshire is an example of terrestrial radio and TV’s limitations: Because voters there listen to and watch Boston-based stations and networks, campaigns are forced to buy into a major media market, even though they need to reach only a fraction of that audience. But Pandora can target ads to specific zip codes or districts, and even to specific groups within those areas. For instance, based on the data Pandora collects on users (age, gender, and location; their behavior; their musical tastes), the company can make educated guesses about different groups of people—whether they’re country rebels or granola-eating hippies. Plus, the company claims it reaches 50 percent of Hispanics online nationally. To political advertisers, that’s gold.
So whose ads are you likely to hear interrupting your next workout mix? It all depends on where you are and what you’re listening to. And don’t forget, the easiest way to fend off Trump’s attack ads: Pay the $4.99 a month.
Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco