Pandora will personalize podcast listings so you can actually find ones you like
Recommendations will be tied to 1,500 attributes, like timely versus evergreen and informal conversations versus scripted stories.
Joan E. SolsmanFormer Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Pandora wants take the recommendations it pioneered for music and apply them to podcasts too.
Streaming music company Pandora is rolling out a new podcast recommendation system, powered by an engine it dubbed the Podcast Genome Project. Similar to Pandora's Music Genome Project, which has underpinned the service's music recommendations for more than a decade, the new podcast system catalogs shows and their episodes by more than 1,500 attributes, like scripted versus informal formats or evergreen topics versus timely ones.
The goal is to recommend podcasts that you could like and might not otherwise uncover.
"It might feel like podcasts are ubiquitous, but 83 percent of Americans aren't yet listening to podcasts on a weekly basis, and a majority of them report that's because they simply don't know where to start," Pandora CEO Roger Lynch said in a statement, citing data from Edison Research.
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Podcasting has been scrutinized in recent months for having passed its peak. True-crime podcast Serial re-energized the format starting in 2014, but some bleak developments more recently raised the specter that it's a bubble starting to deflate. BuzzFeed laid off its in-house audio team in September, for example. Before that, podcast network Panoply eliminating its editorial division, and Amazon-owned audio book company Audible slashed its podcastlike original programming unit.
But podcasting defenders characterize those setbacks as aberrations. Other signs have pointed to podcasts as a durable format, such as streaming music services like Spotify, iHeartRadio and now Pandora deepening their commitment to them. Pandora has hosted podcasts for years; it started by adding the first season of blockbuster Serial three years ago, and it continues to act as the "exclusive streaming partner" for Serial and This American Life.
Pandora's new podcast recommendations will be available in beta test mode for select listeners on mobile devices. You can sign up to request early access. The recommendations will show up in the existing Pandora app, primarily within a new "Recommended Podcasts For You" Browse section. Listeners will be able to find new Podcasts throughout the app — in the now-playing screen, in the podcast backstage pages, and in the episode backstage pages.
The podcast recommendations will be driven both by the Podcast Genome Project's classifications -- on traits like topic, production style, content type and host profile -- and by using signals like thumbs up and down, skips and replays. It also uses machine learning algorithms, natural language processing, and collaborative filtering methods for listener preferences.
At launch, Pandora has partnered with podcast publishers including APM, Gimlet, HeadGum, Libsyn, Maximum Fun, NPR, Parcast, PRX+PRI, reVolver, Slate, The New York Times, The Ramsey Network, The Ringer, WNYC Studios, and Wondery. It will continue to feature podcasts like Serial, This American Life and Pandora's original Questlove Supreme, and it will add more, the company said.