Native advertising in 8tracks: Conversation with founder David Porter

david porter 02 250wWhen we read that Feature.FM would be supplying sponsored music to 8tracks, we took the opportunity to catch up with David Porter, 8tracks founder and CEO, to discuss that deal and native advertising generally. Our conversatijon also went into data science and user personalization.

Feature.FM is an artist-support service that provides pay-for-play track insertions into music services. That might sound like payola, but the crucial difference is that the featured songs are labeled as sponsored placements.

We asked David Porter how the partnership fits into the 8tracks ecosystem, which is all about crowdsourced playlists created by users. His answer harkened back to an early 8tracks decision about playlist length.

8tracks featured in android 250w“The notion of having shorter playlists, as few as eight songs, was a differentiating point for 8tracks. There were a few reasons. First, to make it easier for users to create playlists. Also, each short playlist is easier to consume — about 30 minutes long, a unit of listening time people are familiar with. Another reason for short playlists is the advertiser value proposition. It gives a natural breaking point between playlists, and we thought we’d run audio ads between playlists. Feature.FM is a great fit for us, because we can place one promoted song between playlists, and run that song in a targeted way, looking at the content of the prior playlist. You’re not going to hear death metal right after an instrumental piano playlist.”

Porter noted that Feature.FM adds a second track of native advertising. 8tracks has hosted sponsored playlists, and is currently running one such campaign for the james Brown biopic Get On Up. Another movie, Moonshine Kingdom (2013) reached the 8tracks audience the same way.

8tracks has 7-million active monthly listeners, streams 32-million listener hours each month, and has been profitable since 2012.

When the conversation turned to user data, david Porter described the challenge of personalizing the unique 8tracks service model.

“One of the our big initiatives is personalization. For us, that’s about how we guide a listener to playlists of highest relevancy. We’ve seen that people who invest the time to understand how 8tracks work have a great experience. Some people who come across 8tracks don’t spend the time to find a great playlists; using [8tracks user-created] tags can be a blunt instrument. People might be accustomed to typing in the name of an artist on Pandora, and it starts streaming, which is more streamlined. Our opportunity is to get better at the matchmaking of listener to playlist. The data science work we’re focused on addresses that. That same type of work can also be used to make the song-as-advertising feature more compelling, with more granular targeting.”

Brad Hill