May 07 2011

Netflix and Pandora Scratch Your Most Basic Itch

Why settle for filling a niche when you can cater to consumers’ instincts and take it much further?  Streaming media services Netflix and Pandora help sell themselves by scratching a basic human itch.


Your project barely made deadline (only thanks to your unpaid overtime), and traffic crawled all the way home.  You kick off your shoes, heat up the left-overs, and settle into the couch for some mindless entertainment.  Or maybe the guy you’ve been dating has been “crazy busy” at work for a while now and suddenly won’t return your calls.  You shoot a dirty look at your phone, change into PJs, and collapse onto the couch with a bowl of Rocky Road ice cream.

You want to feel a certain way, and you want to feel it now.

You might check your DVR queue or channel-surf with your fingers crossed, but more and more people are turning to Netflix.  Currently, 23.6 million people subscribe to the service, and Citi forecasts 50 million subscribers by 2013.  By current estimates, that’s one-in-five rising to one in every two households having a Netflix subscription.  That’s because when we really want to feel, we want something new.

You probably stopped crying through The Notebook after the third or fourth view, and the jokes in Hot Tub Time Machine likely get a lot less laughter now.  Music works much the same way.  The same song that turns you into a shower-time karaoke master or a car-dancing commuter now will have you shouting, “Next!” in a couple weeks.

Netflix and Pandora circumvent this natural media immunity by analyzing what you like or dislike and suggesting something in a custom genre that will carve new paths through your brain and satisfy your immediate need to laugh, cry, chill, scream, or sit on the edge of your seat.

In addition, it requires very little effort to find the desired content.  Movies on Netflix are sorted by genre and suggested by modifiers like “with a strong female lead” or “dark and cerebral.”  Songs on Pandora are generated per-station, each station being seeded by a song or artist that gives you the right feel.  No need to search titles, no need to think – just state how you’re feeling, and let them do the work.


This basic human instinct to continually find new ways to feel the way we need to feel is no longer limited to home entertainment, either.  Both Netflix and Pandora offer smartphone/tablet apps for mobile streaming, and each are wildly popular.  Pandora, for instance, sees more than 50% of its total listener hours streamed mobilely.  With 800,000 songs to choose from and 3.9 billion hours of music streamed last year alone, that’s a lot of traveling new music.

The bottom line: Humans always want something new, and feelings turn wants into needs.  Netflix and Pandora offer instant gratification of these emotional needs and help us to avoid the diminishing returns of permanent media ownership.

Do you agree?  What other products or services really scratch your itch?

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Photo credits: Sleepless Night by Herlifewithin
dancing to the beat by generationexe


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