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Westergren thinks Pandora not worth 42 cents per month(?)

Pandora’s numbers don’t make sense to me. Have you done the math? Have I done it correctly?

Users LOVE Pandora, but their CEO Tim Westergren says the outrageous fees being charged by sound exchange will shut them down. If Pandora sold end users licenses, a $5 pack would get you over 10,000 listens.

Take a look a the fees that will shut down the site: the current rate is $0.0014 per song per listener. That’s 14/10,000 of a dollar. A little more than a tenth of a penny per song. If you listened to 10 songs each hour, licensing fees would cost around 1.5 cents per hour. At 20 songs per hour, that’s a killer 2.7 cents! How long would it take you to go broke on those fees?

To spend a whole DOLLAR on license fees, you would need to listen to 2,142 songs. online. streamed to you.

Half gallon of gas = 4000 songs

Raise your hand here, right now, if you think that listening to 2,142 songs isn’t worth a dollar.

If you have your hand raised, do you subscribe to cable TV? What about a Tivo? Have a DVR fee? Put you hand down then. You already pay a lot more for media than sound exchange is asking.

I pay plenty too: in fact, my monthly cable plan would deliver 260,000 songs worth of pandora licensing. But I wouldn’t bother stopping cable due to some notion that it could be free.

So then, the typical argument goes, “Sure, it’s cheap for the user, but expensive for somebody like Pandora, who has to pay that to all their users.”

Well, do they?

Does Pandora have to do it for free? says pandora has 2.7 million users/month and on average, each user logs 12 minutes on the pandora each month.

Let’s round that up to a half hour per day, or 15 hours a month.

2.8 cents per hour* 15 hours = 42 cents per month.
Then say you charge those users…42 cents per month.

Does Pandora (or the blogosphere) really have to complain about the tyranny of sound exchange or labels, or anyone else when Pandora hasn’t even tried charging the users? They also don’t have ads. Their only monetization strategy seems to be, what, amazon referrals?

535 songs per cigarette

While you’re waiting your turn to flame me, pause for a second. Remember that $50 hard drive upgrade you bought “because it was cheap”?

Guess how many licenses could you have bought instead? A: 107,000 listens. And since you won’t have that drive anymore after 3 years, its residual value is also zero.

Do you have .mac or mobile me? That $70/year fee is the same price as listening to 12,500 songs per month on pandora. That’s an awful lot to pay for a digital product google gives you free.

Are you still sure that sound exchange is charging too much?

Lots of us have 42 cents to save net radio

don't be a chump

Save net radio: buy a license!

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks that the service is good enough to pay for. So Tim…why not at least ALLOW people to pay? SINCE you haven’t tried to capture service revenue, you can’t say it won’t work.

Even ARS technica agrees that Pandora isn’t really trying:

“SoundExchange also argues that Internet radio stations could do a lot more to increase their revenue, become profitable, and pay their (arguably high) fees. As much as it pains us to say it, there may be a point here.”

I’m not too cheap, gentle reader. Are you?

“I’m willing to pay a subscription fee to Pandora. After all, we “pay” for radio by listening to ads. Why aren’t more people willing to pay for ad-free, streaming music?”
If anyone knows of a way to donate to Pandora or become a paying customer, please let us know.
Posted by: Justin


I want to pay whatever the price it is… I can’t stop listening to Pandora!Posted by: Grck | August 17, 2008 4:55 PM


Pandora is the best thing to come along on the internet EVER. If it closes up, it will be a tremendous loss.
Posted by: Bonnie Bejma | August 17, 2008 5:43 PM



Tech news is slow today

Married To The Sea

Married To The Sea

Married To The Sea

Married To The Sea

Married To The Sea

Married To The Sea

Married To The Sea

Our Premium Content Service Works! 100K views and growing

Win for achewood

Last night, Achewood’s Fanflow crested 100,000 asset views by paying subscribers. We’re only getting started, but this milestone indicates that the new model works: Fanflows can help artists pay the rent with a new approach to selling digital assets.

Love what you do? Sorry, do something else to get paid

In the past, it had never been easy for artists, musicians or web-comic artists to help pay their rent or mortgage directly from their online content. Instead, the model was to make the online content free, then try to earn a living from selling physical goods.

If you haven’t done that yourself, you might think that selling TShirts or self-published books is a pretty good gig. But you’d be wrong. Dealing with design, production, and manufacturing of physical goods is demanding and time consuming.

Then after making a product, putting it forsale on [semi?]-custom web store that accepts credits cards, you get to write shipping labels by hand, or futz with avery labels, MS Excel and that old injet printer. And do you like making trips to the post office? Shipping anything sucks.

Artists are not supply chain experts

All that is hard enough to manage when you’re trying to be creative, but you’re not quite done yet. Please solve the following simultaneous equations for each tshirt you sell:

“How many of x-sizes of y-colors of z-designs do you stock so you a) don’t upset customers with long lead times and b)don’t tie up your rent money in inventory costs.”

At the very least, selling physical is expensive, tedious, time-consuming and steals from the creative process.

1995 Wants Their Email List Back

Sorry Jason, but they’re right: email blasts are old, one-way technology.

But a Fanflow is something new and shiny. Fanflows easily lets stars create a subscriber-only area to better connect with fans. Subscribers get the star’s messages on their phone, email or web inbox. Fans can interact with each other in the Owners Circle, and vote up the best comments. Stars can include images, mp3’s whatever.

Chris Onstad calls his store “a directory of content available only to subscribers. It’s like iTunes, but without all the Bono Christmas songs! (Or any other songs.)”


screenshot of achewood fanflow

While congratulations to Chris Onstad are in order–someone had to be first to use our new Fanflow product, and be the first with compelling content to reach 100K views–I want to make sure the Achewood fans out there know how much we love them too. In fact, subscribers will soon be seeing a questionnaire thingy where you can tell us what you want from Assetbar next. Stay tuned.

This is going to be a fun ride!

P.S. Which star will be the first to get a million premium subscriber views?

Update: Achewood has been paying his mortagage from assetbar fanflow premium content service. And he’s well over a million views: Check out his premium content store

Is Calacanis Blogging’s First “Star”?

Something very interesting has just happened. After years of vying for attention, signing up people to follow him on his blog, on his twitter, on his facebook, Jason has decided to pull the plug on blogging.

“I’m looking for something more acoustic, something more authentic and something more private. Blogging is simply too big, too impersonal, and lacks the intimacy that drew me to it.”

Now, by bucking the conventional wisdom, and turning against his previous advice of building digg armies, leveraging SEO and such, Jason is now saying that high pageviews and lots of followers are NOT what he’s after.

Jason is unplugging from the faceless one-way conversation of A-list blogging.

CenterNetworks takes the view that quitting just as a publicity stunt to drive traffic to Mahalo. But that position doesn’t add up: a one-time publicity stunt can’t drive as much traffic as Calacanis maintaining his blog for another year.

Steve Hodson correctly calls BS on a few points, and justifiably takes offense that not all bloggers are cut from the same cloth.

But I think Steve is wrong that Jason is being sidelined. Instead, it may be the beginning of Jason Calacanis becoming a star.

What is a star?

A star has a point of view that others care about. This point of view might be a creative talent that is manifested in music, in art, in drawing, or writing. It might be a point of view that has been developed though life experiences, success in taking risks, or being strong leaders. A star might also be a star though some extraordinary talent, or achievement. Stars find that attention naturally gravitates to them.

And stars have one thing in common: Stars have fans.

Are blogger’s stars?

Here’s my simple definition: If attention does not naturally gravitate to a blogger, they are obviously not a star. If a blogger is vying for attention, then they are also not a star.

True stars find that attention gravitates to them, and they accumulate fans. Stars don’t resort to SEO, or care about traffic, techmeme rankings or linkbaiting, or any of that. Stars are relevant because people care about them. Stars are relevant because they have fans.

Stars have a point of view that they share though one or more mediums of choice. And we, fans subscribe to get more.

Despite the fact he should use a better tool than an email list, is Calacanis becoming blogging’s first star?

Who else is on the list? Who has FANS instead of just followers? Mark Cuban? Dave Winer? Louis Gray?

The Profit Equation of Twitter-style Messages

Nate Westheimer’s piece “How Twitter Could Be Worth A Billion In A Year” got me thinking.

Nate’s idea was that instead of using @Name to indicate a reply, you could p Name $amount. Instead of reply to Joe, Pay Joe some $.

Nate is right: *is* a good idea, but it already exists. It was implemented by TextPayMe , founded in late 05, and acquired by Amazon in 2006. It’s still running, in fact. See it here.

Even with the backing of Amazon, this good idea never came to be worth a billion dollars. Maybe it’s that because that market size of “I-owe-you-$5-but-I-don’t-have-cash-to-pay-you-now” just isn’t that big. Or maybe transaction fees killed the convenience.

There’s Gotta Be a Pony in there Somewhere

Nick O’Neill expanded on the thought

“Micropayments are currently an area of rising importance. While I may not text my friends $0.50, I could easily see an API tying into Twitter to transfer small payments for a virtual gift or obtaining access to a premium blog post.”

Buying something you want? Now we’re getting somewhere! I seldom need to pay you back $5, but I do often spend $5. I buy physical goods via amazon, and digital goods via iTunes.

Money is the new message

Today’s Twitter users are about sending status updates. That’s great, it’s fun, etc., and the mobile + web integration is powerful.

But what if you could somehow sell those “messages”?

Wait a minute: iTunes has already sold more than 4B songs. Could a twitter-style service enable people to buy and sell all types of digital goods from each other? A sort of distributed iTunes store where you can sell what you want?

+ [all types of files] >

Since d (direct) messages are private and only visible to the direct recipient, it’s not a far leap to imagine a $ (premium) message type that requires payment to access.

In other words, don’t just send a message that you’d like some money (i.e. tipit), but put access controls on the messages so that they are only available to paying subscribers.

Now, what if these ($) premium messages could be a bit more flexible? What if they even supported attachments, so people could send –and thereby sell–pictures, videos, even mp3s or pdfs, directly. Talk about a lightweight model to sell and buy content!

And then, to extend the messaging “platform” even further, users should be able to publish or subscribe via SMS, web and EMAIL. Email?? Sure, it’s the easiest way attach a picture and send via your iphone. For security purposes, perhaps the email don’t contain all the content, but is used as a notification + publication channel.

Messaging + Commerce + Community = Profitability

I could also imagine artists setting up whole streams or flows where most or all the messages are premium. It becomes, in a sense, a fan club. Instead of buying messages in an a-la-carte fashion, just subscribe by the month. Commerce comes on the heels of value and is closely followed by profitability. If there’s no real value, there won’t be any commerce.

What kind of person has the value to attract large numbers of fans willing to pay them money for messages and photos?

  • Celebrities are one obvious market.
  • Let Lindey snap her own pics of herself in the club and scoop all the tabloids. Get it direct and in real time.

  • Sports personalities are also interesting.
  • Imagine a bad call on your favorite player. He hits the bench, and busts out a short message on his phone. A few moments later, all his subscribing fans erupt in unison with a chant. Who wouldn’t pay a few bucks a month to be part of that?

  • And what about musicians?
  • Maybe their music is freely included to subscribers of their messages . And while few musicians can manage to faithfully write blog posts,it’s easy to bang out an SMS to your fans and show some love! Attach a pic from the tour bus, of today’s rehearsal, or alternate album cover art.

This casual / personal / raw message format couldn’t be easier for the stars to do, and holds great value to fans.

Bring Fans Together

After you get a coveted message from a star, what do you want to do next? You want to tell other people!

So give the subscribers–the fans–private rooms, aka “Owners Circles” where they can discuss and share with each other. Give them a robust commenting solution–something with threaded comments, and spam protection and ignore-this-annoying-user controls, and give them an inbox where they can see replies to their comments.

The stars will want to hang out in these subscriber’s room, too, since it’s a concentration of their true fans.

Someone has to be First

Bringing payments and commerce to twitter-style messaging is too large to ignore. You just can’t have mobile + web this close together and ignore the great potent for fans and stars with lightweight commerce.

There’s zero doubt that a secure commerce solution would enhance the value of Twitter and chart a path to profitability. But will one of the big web properties (Myspace, Facebook , Amazon, Microsoft) get into this new messaging plus commerce plus community space before Twitter?

I don’t know what those other guys are doing, but I do know Assetbar is going to that party, and we’re rolling with Chris Onstad’s Achewood Web Comic, TIME’s Magazines No. 1 Graphic Novel for 2007.

Connecting Fans and Stars? Oh yeah. It’s time to turn this motha OUT.

Sweet Failover and a Chicken Sandwich

How much data do YOU have?

How do you get massive amounts of live data from publishers around the world? We kicked off our social feed reader beta (aka our v 1.5 release).

That was our tool we used to validate the performance and flexibility of our architecture at scale. We had a number of issues, but quickly got to the place where we could do instant personalized views of 20 million unique assets from 100.000 publishers. At that point, we figured scale was solid enough, so we could beef up the fail.

I’d like a chicken sandwich, to go please

I’m lazy at monitoring systems, so we wanted the software to be as automatic as possible. Sort of like ordering the hot and spicy chicken sandwich when it’s too late at night.

  • automatic multi-box data replication
  • automatic host fail over
  • automatic re-mastering assets to newly introduced machines
  • automatically rebuilding and syncing those distributed, replicated databases behind the scenes
  • and bringing them back into the fold
  • and maybe some ranch dressing on the side

Let’s just say the start of v1.5 wasn’t exactly seamless or automatic, but we battled on and seemed to have beaten the system into submission. WIN!

Then we unceremoniously kicked the reader to our “labs” section until we clean up the severely overloaded UI. Anyway, I might be the only one who wants a million features in my web app.

That’s what we learned with the 1.5. What have you been up to? We’re about to take our next release out for a spin.

What’s the way to say it?

How about “Solving the revenue equation by helping others make money”. Yeah, I think RWW was all over that.

Free? Why Not Better?

that poor bird
Twitter’s down again. Oh, duh.

This time when twitter went down, Dare and Om were kind enough to link to an earlier post I had made where I guessed about Twitter’s messaging trouble and floated an idea for a twitter proxy. Thanks for mentioning us guys.

But, what about this proxy idea? it’s so easy for us to do, where is it??

Why don’t you guys release the twitter proxy?

As I wrote to Louis Gray some time ago, we started to. Actually we ripped out the messaging functions in our over-zealous feed reader and first built a twitter clone with a few more features.

But something happened: I got tired of free services.

I’m bored of free

That’s why our reader isn’t out of the shop yet, either.

When we made the feed reader, everybody who signed up created an increased marginal cost: our little bots were crawling all these feeds and creating millions of assets, and we had no clear way to recoup a dime. Sure, servers are cheap, and our infrastructure is cheaper, but still. Down the road we ought to figure out a Freemium approach, but the potential seems less than enormous.

Twitter has the same problem, as does FriendFeed and Google Reader. These are all are wonderful services, with some of the most enthusiastic and supportive user bases around. They make users happy. But today they are cost centers. Ads? Meh. Even Techcrunch wants to stop paying half his revenue to FM media and the ad sales networks.

What’s better than free? Better

I happen to agree with most of what Kevin Kelly says. I already know that charging on the interwebs is crazy talk! I also already know that no one will pay for crappy content, for derivative blogs posts, or for LOL cats.

Go ahead and say I’m nuts: “No one has ever been, or will ever be, successful by charging for digital assets. Everything on the Internet should be free free free. You should just run adwords and be happy with whatever Google decides they should give you.”

That’s all true, except applesomehowmanagedtosell4billionsongsonitunes and is now the largest retailer of music. Not bad. But what would happen if they were more open, more flexible and less retail focused? What if they offered new types of digital products? I dunno, but it could be interesting.

We do happen to have this nifty infrastructure for a digital sales system. And after all that work with the reader, we have our backend fairly sorted. We also have some ideas for some new products, and new takes on old products.

It would be a shame to not take a shot at this beast and try for something better than free. I would rather try–and fail hard– than to not try.

If we fail, who knows? Maybe Twitter will still be down and won’t be too late to fire up that proxy service. Update: changed title and removed a rant.

Lil gmail truhbble

Update May 15: Thanks to udim who references an arstechnica article:

“Gmail is susceptible to a man-in-the-middle attack that allows a spammer to send thousands of bulk e-mails through Google’s SMTP service without fear of detection. This attack bypasses both Google’s identity fraud protection mechanisms and the current 500-address limit on bulk e-mail. ”

The ortinal article points out: “As of 3:00 PM today 5/12/2008, the flaw we have reported remains unpatched and exploitable. We have ran a new experiment where we were able to use our attack to send 2,000 messages using one Gmail account.

We would like to clarify to the security community that we have contacted Google about the issue more than a week ago and no response was provided despite our clear intent of cooperation regarding this matter.”

——— and are scams. Both somehow hijacked my gmail account, but Gmail removes the Sender’s Origin IP, which makes tracking the breach difficult.

Sorry guys. All my gmail contacts just got spammed again, courtesy of something calling itself It’s the same thing that happened January 1, but that time the company was using They’re the same vile organization, and I still don’t know how they perpetrate their crimes.

In both cases the message actually was sent via my gmail account. Not a forged header, but really sent via my account. That means that either

  1. the jerks have a trojan app running on one of my machines, or
  2. the jerks have hacked into my gmail account.

I’m guessing it’s (2) because (I think) the only machine on the network with gmail credentials is a new laptop. But then (1) is also a candidate since I’ve changed my password since the last bomb.

But, I can’t tell because gmail stripping off the senders’ origin IP. Boo, gmail


Received: by with HTTP; Wed, 14 May 2008 09:58:15 -0700 (PDT)
Date: Thu, 15 May 2008 00:58:15 +0800
From: "Israel LHeureux"

Yahoo includes “Received: from IP”

This makes it easy to see where the message originated. Yea! yahoo!

From Bessie Wilkes Mon Jan 18 19:14:07 2038
Authentication-Results:; domainkeys=neutral (no sig)
Received: from  (HELO (
  by with SMTP; Mon, 21 Apr 2008 02:43:31 -0700
Received: from by ; Mon, 21 Apr 2008 06:34:04 -0300
From: "Bessie Wilkes"
Reply-To: "Bessie Wilkes"
Subject: Top high-quality meds- Cialis,Viagra Online
Date: Tue, 19 Jan 38 03:14:07 GMT

With Yahoo mail, I can see that the sender’s origin IP ( and use whois to trace that IP back to Hanaro telcom in Seoul, Korea.

With Gmail, I see that mail was originated…by HTTP.

k thx bye.

Change my password again. Look for trojans again. I just wish gmail would give me satisfaction.

In the spirit of Derek Trotter (411Eater) I’ve also contacted the gentlemen at the site “tomtom” He’s currently helping me with a DVD player, but I suspect the transaction won’t actually go though.

Hey tools, knock it off: is registered by wei li ( . No address is registered by wang le ( +299.1087625690 West Century Boulevard Inglewood, CA 16783 Los Angeles, MI 85052-8119 is registerd by wang tao ( +1.12017752711 washington, WA 07322

updated: title

Last post before…

Coming up for air here just to let everyone know how excited I am about our progress. We’re getting ready to bust out some amazing action.

Our first beta products demonstrated our scalable database technology. Next we showed off a two week implementation of twitter–on the same distributed db platform with built-in scaling. (BTW, I do hope the Twitter folks can fix their site soon. Rip out the guts and start over with a good architecture. We have an existence proof that approach works.)

But now it’s getting really , really exciting, because we’re about to show off our platform as it was initially conceived.

Getting our progress on

The architecture and design discussions from 2 years ago are still crystal clear in my head, as are the struggles we had with packaging the technology. “How can we do this in a way that isn’t too complicated? How can it be easy and make sense for users?”

Along the way, we’ve seen other efforts to attack this monster; none with success. This is a beast. From our position, their short comings (and ours) were apparent, and we knew we weren’t ready to win.

Even a year ago, we still were unsure exactly how to package, or productize our technology, so we experimented in some other areas to gain experience.

That experience (and our own knocks) has certainly paid off, because now we are finding a way to package, to productize our initial ideas. And I’m super excited because this time feels different. It feels like it will work.

We learned our lesson about over-featurizing, for sure, so our plan is to start with a modest release.

It’s been another wonderfully productive day, so it’s time to hit the sack.


dropping science dropping it all over

As they say, March is a funny old month, isn’t it? Everything is changing, renewing and starting afresh. Before we embarked on the Great Simplification Makeover in our feature-laden reader, we decided to take a quick detour and see what we could learn in the name of science, exploration and discovery.

Like bumping around the town like when you’re driving a range rover

Q: Can we disaggregate our features have them stand on their own?

Our first stop was messaging. We have wonderful messaging components built into our architecture. We had previously asked if there was any interest in us making a twitter-proxy and the post garnered quite a bit of interest. But somehow a direct clone didn’t seem interesting enough to persue. How would you grow the user base?

Ben franklin with the kite getting over with the key

Then opensocial came along and we raised our eyebrows. There was much fear and trembling that myspace OS apps would be just useless widgets. But, do they have to be? We decided that it would be fun to learn the OpenSocial API and see if we could adapt part of our core to make a useful OpenSocial messaging app, a la twitter.

Rock well to tell dispel all of the old fables

Twitter’s bare-bones app seem to successful enough, so we tried to de-featurize our app as much as possible. Although, since we DO allow inline pics, and any-type-of-file attachements up to 7MB, and public or private messages, I guess it’s more pownce than twitter.

The hard part was not exposing the Assetbar native features such as comment threading, search, view counts, “messages new to me”, more robust ACLs, etc. Sigh. But score a win for keeping with our goal to make something really, really simple. We threw those advanced features on the ground and curb stomped ’em.

…and kicking the new knowledge

A: In about 15 man days of developing, including dealing with myspace’s OpenSocial container (which, ahem, could be better), we disaggregated an Assetbar feature and made it a standalone app. I’m pretty proud of that. We didn’t just make a “cute puppy of the day” widget either, but we still made it quickly. And we learned a ton.

The power of OpenSocial or rather, NOT being a destination site is that i-chitchat users should be find and message with their friends no matter WHAT social network they’re on, with no distinct i-chitchat login. Grab your old myspace credentials and hit up to take a look.

It will be interesting to see what it actually takes to make it run on bebo | hi5 | orcutt and soon Yahoo. Heck with a little FBML, I suppose it could be on facebook, too. No separate login, just a some casual group TXT with attachments, and maybe more.

Ponce de leon constantly on,

The fountain of youth not robotron

So hooray to OpenSocial and myspace.

This was a fun break that should ultimately benefit our reader… There’s already something very cool crystallizing.