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Pandora helps political campaigns conduct market research

NOVEMBER 23, 2011 – A popular online, personalized radio service recently announced that it would be capable of facilitating market research for political campaigns, allowing organizers to better target voters based on the state, county or congressional district in which they live.

Pandora said the service would give campaign strategists a competitive edge when it comes to communicating with voters.

“With the 2012 political campaign season in full swing, advertisers realize that personalized, internet radio is a powerful platform to reach a desired set of voters,” the company’s chief revenue officer, John Trimble, said in a statement. “Pandora’s new targeting features maximize effectiveness of ad spend that has historically been wasted reaching voters outside of election districts.”

Trimble added that targeting and personalizing campaigns would be helpful to election and commercial initiatives at the local and national levels. The service will allow political groups to create display, audio and video ads that can be viewed on computers, mobile phones, electronic devices and tablets. Political targeting is the newest feature in the radio website’s suite of tools that measure audience age, zip code, gender, music genre, interaction, time of day, first impression and whether the music is streaming on a mobile device.

As Brian Edwards writes on his company’s blog, conducting market research can be a good political practice after the elections are over, too. He points to the New Zealand Labour party’s Capital Gains Tax and plans to raise the retirement age as examples of policies that are unpopular, and which will require a lot work to win voters’ support.

Instead, the politicians should research what their constituents want, Edwards argues, and then try to implement those projects and programs – what he calls “followship.”

“The ‘followship’ approach to policy making has been greatly assisted by the use of focus groups to find out just what it is that people want or don’t want,” he says. “It’s a fairly broad brush type of information-gathering but reliable enough in identifying what’s popular and what isn’t.”

Edwards is quick to acknowledge that popular opinion may not always align with what’s best for the country, and sometimes it can conflict with societal values and what’s “right.” However, focus groups and online panels are conducted solely for being able to give consumers what they want, he points out, and in politics, the polls and surveys should be used more for guidance and then put in context. They should not be allowed to dictate policy making, he says.

He concludes that it’s mostly likely a blessing that the best politicians and idealists in world history did not fall victim to “the tyranny of focus group research.”