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Apple announces 20-million iTunes Radio users; fuzzy math abounds

After launching on September 18, simultaneous with the release of iOS 7 and baked into that mobile operating system, iTunes Radio has attracted 20-million users. Apple announced this milestone in a live product event on Tuesday.

Many media outlets are positioning the datum as a comparison with Pandora’s latest audience metrics report, which claimed 72.7-million active users in September. But quick conclusions of impending doom for Pandora, while not without speculative value, often disregard audience measurement realities.

The crucial distinction is between unique users and active users. Pandora does not disclose how it determines a threshold for active usage. But in all traffic and audience statistics, some level of repeat visitation is needed to turn a unique visitor into an active user. By the same token, Apple is not disclosing how many of the 20-million uniques are repeaters.

All repeat visitors are unique within the time period of their activity. But not all uniques are active with more than one visit. There is no industry standard for measuring loyalty, or a level of brand stickiness indicated by active usage. Slightly more than one month after launch, iTunes Radio might and might not have enough history for Apple to develop an internet metric of active usage.

One thing is clear: Apple is not announcing “active usage,” and comparing the “uniqeu” metrics with Pandora’s “active” metric is fuzzy math.

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