Pandora Adds Audio Ads

Pandora's free Internet streaming radio service just got a little less free. Well, it still doesn't cost you anything, but it is no longer commercial free. Pandora made the following announcements on its Twitter feed today:

"Yes, for those asking, we have implemented a few audio ads. Not to worry, they won't be frequent or long. We gotta pay those bills. :)"

"So you know, we did not take on audio ads lightly. We try to be extremely respectful of your listening experience, & promise to be prudent."

If you are not familiar with Pandora, it is a self-described, "music discovery service designed to help you enjoy music you already know, and to help you discover new music you'll love." It is based on the Music Genome Project, which attempts to link similar songs to each other. You can create your own custom channels, which get better at playing the type of music you like, based on what songs you tell Pandora you like and what songs you don't like. There are also wide variety of pre-existing channels, in genre categories such as Alternative, Classical, Folk, and Christian.

Pandora is Internet-based, and it began originally as a Web browser-based client; but it has also since become available with clients that run on the iPhone, some Windows Mobile-based phones, and some Sprint and AT&T-based phones as well. Pandora's Twitter feed even reports that a Blackberry client is in the works. Similar, free personalized music streaming services are offered by LastFM and Slacker.

Until recently, Pandora's primary source of revenue was from running visual-based ads on its Web browser and mobile clients. It's too soon to know what kind of response Pandora will see from its users now that it is also running audio-based ads. If the ads are infrequent and short as Pandora claims in its Twitter feed, then it is likely that most users won't get upset--especially since they aren't paying anything, as studies have shown that most users are okay with ads in free, streaming media. Diehard Pandora fans who don't want any advertising--either visual or audio--can opt for Pandora's $36 per year subscription.