Last Updated May 4, 2011 4:29 PM EDT
Pandora has been using music ethnologists to curate music, and now it is applying the same strategy to comedy. As it shared with the New York Times:
As with music, Pandora has developed a system to predict what its listeners will like. With the help of professional comedians, the company identified more than 100 traits common in jokes, from basic themes (ethnicity, family) and styles of delivery (dry, self-deprecating) to broader categorizations of how comedians toy with logic and language (spoonerisms, juxtaposition, misdirection).
If you think about it, the same basic concept can be applied to many different audio archives -- including news.
A Zite for radio listeners
The Apple (APPL) iPad has become ground zero for curated news, including the popular (and addictive) article recommender Zite. The app asks for your favorite topic areas -- say, "science and technology" -- and then gives a handful of articles in those areas. Give your thumbs up or thumbs down on an article and Zite will adjust recommendations. Sound familiar? It's virtually the same like-and-dislike system Pandora created in 2005.
Pandora has a huge advantage in one area: audio. While curated apps are focused on reading, Pandora could expand to highlight sound-based journalism. Not breaking news -- as licensing content from, say, CNN and curating it on the spot could be a legal and logistical nightmare -- but longform journalism, evergreen pieces, and timeless articles. In other words, it would expand what Pandora is already doing with comedy: Digging into the archives and offering the best of the past.
Appealing to the niches
Depending on how comedy is received, Pandora could spread out to niches beyond news, too. Imagine a cocktail channel, curated by mixologists, that recommends drinks for foodies to make at home, or a craft channel, assembled by mini-Martha Stewarts, that gives creative tips.
Music can only take Pandora so far. The comedy channel is a harbinger of things to come.