For Pandora, a frivolous feature is all it takes to win some users back from iTunes Radio

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on December 9, 2013

From The News Desk

I am a devoted fan of Pandora. Consider me a member of the cult. I drank the Internet radio Kool Aid and never looked back. I haven't been swayed by the iTunes Radio or Spotify or iHeart or any lesser competitor that's come along.

Today, Pandora only further cemented my loyalty by coming out with a new feature: an alarm that wakes people up with their Pandora station of choice. So long, irritating alarm noise.

Brilliant. I hate waking up. I'm really bad at it. In fact, I think it makes the list of my ten worst skills. Every morning, I have to hit the snooze switch on my alarm at least once or twice. I answer email with my face in my pillow for a chunk of time. It's not until I've gotten that first cup of coffee in me that I can truly call myself awake. The new Pandora should add to my morning quality of life.

But I also recognize I am not the user Pandora was targeting when it released this latest feature. It's not trying to please its rabid fan base -- it's trying to win back users that have become disillusioned with Pandora.

You've probably skimmed the headlines. Pandora is in the battle of its life. The company is still fighting record labels to reduce the royalties it has to pay. It's getting a ton of bad press from artists who make a pittance on their stuff playing through Pandora. And it's facing competitors from all sides -- Spotify, iHeartRadio, and since September, iTunes Radio.

"I am utterly baffled by Pandora's steady share-price appreciation," wrote Sam Mattera for the Motley Fool a few days ago. "It's an unprofitable company with an unproven business model whose major competitors include Apple and Google, two of the largest and most powerful tech companies in the world."

Pandora's new alarm clock feature may not sound like much but at least it's something. Sure, people could have gotten the same functionality by downloading Nightstand Central or Wakeify or another such app. In fact, you could even get it directly through a Pandora competitor: iHeartRadio. But people are lazy. Familiarity and inertia carry great weight, and the more a person uses Pandora the more likely he will be to default to that option.

It's not these people that Pandora was wooing. On the Verge's synopsis of the Pandora alarm feature, which ran a few hours ago, commenters were already declaring that they would be re-downloading the Pandora mobile app in light of the news.

Although they had forsaken Pandora for iTunes Radio, this alarm clock would bring them back.

As for me, it didn't have to. I never left.