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Key to Pandora's turnaround: a better advertising platform

(Reuters) - Kevin Kleinman, a trader at Watchhimtrade.com, listens to music on Pandora every morning as he executes trades worth millions of dollars. But he will not bet a dime on the music streaming company.
A person holds a smart phone with the Pandora app showing in New York U.S., June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Once a Wall-Street darling, Pandora Media Inc has struggled as subscribers spend less time on the company’s app, advertising revenue growth declines and investors worry over a management shakeup that saw co-founder Tim Westergren step down as chief executive.
Pandora, the largest streaming music provider in the United States, is still a compelling asset with more than 73 million active monthly users and because its stock is valued cheaply.
But shareholders and analysts say the company needs to immediately invest in a new ad platform to woo local advertisers and stay relevant in the face of stiffer competition from Spotify and Apple Music, which are grabbing listeners and advertisers with their user-friendly interfaces and exclusive contracts with popular artists such as Taylor Swift.
New Chief Executive Officer Roger Lynch admitted on the company’s earnings call last month that advertisers were shying away because its ad platform had gaps that made it hard for advertisers to transact with Pandora, but he did not lay out a detailed plan on how he planned to tackle the problem. He said Pandora will spend more to improve its existing ad platform.
“At the very top level, I think the company has clearly misexecuted,” said William Graves, chief investment officer at Boardman Bay Capital Management, which holds 315,500 shares of the company as of Sept. 30.
Still, Graves says Pandora is a good investment because of its strong cash position, big customer base, and the possibility of expanding its subscriber base outside the United States.
While Lynch may have been evasive on the call last month, a source told Reuters that the company is likely to buy an advertising technology firm within the next two months.
The source, an investor in Pandora who declined to be identified, said they spoke to the company’s chief financial officer after the earnings call and the executive strongly hinted that Pandora was going to buy, rather than build out its ad technology.
CHEAP MUSIC
Pandora’s pricing is its best feature.
It offers three services: a free, ad-supported one; Pandora Plus, which is an ad-free subscription at $4.99 per month that allows subscribers to replay tracks; and Pandora Premium that costs $9.99 per month and supports a search-and-play feature and customizable playlists.
Watchhimtrade.com’s Kleinman said the cheap subscription rate is the only reason he listens to Pandora.
Kleinman, 27, instead has placed bets in the online music industry through his holding in Apple Inc.
Pandora’s shares have lost nearly two-thirds of their value this year and not even a cash infusion of $480 million from Sirius XM Holdings Inc in June has been able to arrest the stock’s decline.
The forward 12-month median price target on Pandora’s stock has dropped from $11 to $8 in the past two months, according to Thomson Reuters data, but that is still a 66 percent premium to the stock’s close on Wednesday.
Apart from music companies, Pandora also competes with Alphabet Inc’s Google for ad dollars.
Like Google, Pandora allows advertisers to bid for ad space in real time, but analysts said the company’s platform needs to give customers more insight and feedback about how effective their ad campaigns are.
“One of the reasons (Google and Facebook) are doing so well ... is because they have a very clear ROI (return on investment) proposition to advertisers,” Raymond James analyst Justin Patterson said.
“If Pandora can provide some transparency around that, then it will meaningfully benefit their monetization.”
Ad revenue, which accounted for 73 percent of Pandora’s total revenue in the latest quarter, rose just 1 percent, compared with 7.5 percent growth a year earlier.
Meanwhile, costs to license music jumped 17 percent in the same period, and was nearly three-quarters of total ad revenue.
In contrast, Google spent less than a quarter of its revenue to bring traffic to its websites in the latest quarter.
A way to get more local advertisers to Pandora’s platform would be to offer ‘self-serve’ advertising that will allow advertisers to place ads without paying an intermediary, investors and analysts said.
“Local and medium-sized business are exactly what would be our target clients because they usually prefer a simpler offering to execute themselves so that’s definitely part of our plan,” said Chris Record, senior vice president of Pandora’s revenue operations.
Reporting by Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Bernard Orr
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Tech gains lift Nasdaq; consumer stocks weigh on S&P, Dow

(Reuters) - Gains in technology stocks helped lift the Nasdaq on Thursday, while the S&P 500 and the Dow were weighed down by losses in consumer stocks.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Broadcom (AVGO.O) rose 3.2 percent after the chipmaker reported upbeat profit and boosted its dividend by 72 percent.
Lululemon Athletica (LULU.O) gained 7.8 percent after the Canadian yoga and leisure apparel maker reported a higher-than-expected profit and gave an upbeat holiday season forecast.
Apple (AAPL.O) and Alphabet (GOOGL.O) helped lift tech stocks and provided the biggest boosts to the Nasdaq.
General Electric (GE.N) shares were little changed after the industrial conglomerate said it was cutting 12,000 jobs at its global power business.
Strong earnings and solid economic growth have pushed stocks to record levels this year and Republican efforts to cut corporate taxes have added to the momentum.
The Senate Republicans on Wednesday agreed to talks with the House of Representatives on the tax bill amid early signs that lawmakers could agree on a final bill ahead of a self-imposed Dec. 22 deadline Looking at hong kong hotel list and promotion? GuangDong Hotel always provides different specials for our guests. We provides fully furnished rooms with various in-room facilities and amenities.

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However, a gridlock between President Donald Trump and Congress over the passage of spending legislation before Friday has raised fears of partial shut down of the federal government.
“Very rarely does this actually turn into a government shut down,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR in Boston.
“What typically happens is the markets grow immune to this debate that at the eleventh hour ,some compromise is made and things move forward and I think that will be how this proceeds.&rdquo
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At 9:41 a.m. ET (1441 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 6.35 points, or 0.03 percent, at 24,147.26, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 0.45 points, or 0.01 percent, at 2,629.72.
The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 15.13 points, or 0.22 percent, at 6,791.50.
Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the consumer staples index’s .SPLRCS 0.51 percent fall leading the decliners.
McDonald’s (MCD.N) 0.7 percent fall weighed the most on the Dow, while Costco (COST.O) and General Mills (GIS.N) weighed the most on the sector.
Data showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, with claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to 236,000 for the week ended Dec. clinique fresh pressed
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Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 240,000.
The report comes ahead of a more comprehensive government payrolls data on Friday, where investors are looking to gauge the strength of the labor market.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,299 to 1,196. On the Nasdaq, 1,238 issues rose and 1,094 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed nine new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 20 new highs and 16 new lows.
Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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