SanDisk Outselling iPod Among MP3 Savvy?

By Richard Menta 12/6/06

Those little pictures of MP3 players with links to Amazon that we place on this site are how we pay the bills. As the press tries to sort out if Zune is selling enough digital media portables to qualify as a success or not, we noticed something curious when reviewing the portables sold on MP3 Newswire so far this holiday quarter. Despite having more ad links on these pages the Apple iPod was not number one in sales.

That honor went to SanDisk's line of MP3 players. Needless to say it caught our attention. But why such a different result from what everyone else is reporting? Before we jump to any conclusions let's think about what we have and what we haven't.

These results are not culled from a large balanced cross-section of American life nor were there any statistical methodology employed in analyzing the results. There was just simple observation based on a modest number of sales. SanDisk made up 35.5% of the sales here, while the iPod managed just under 18%.

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The people who read MP3 Newswire's are not necessarily the average consumer, at least when purchasing consumer electronics. They are a particularly digital savvy bunch who digest our lengthy product reviews. They are people who try to sort out for themselves the vageries of copyright law in the Internet age and who follow the conflict as major media conglomerates struggle with the changes brought about by disruptive technologies. Not exactly a description of somebody's mom.

The data suggests that MP3 Newswire's digital savvy audience is displaying different shopping patterns based on the added insights they have. Just a few years back the digitally savvy were the only ones buying MP3 players. It was the digitally savvy who put the first generation iPod through its paces and declared it a winner. But no one can say what percentage of today's total DAP purchasing audience is digitally savvy nor do we try to separate saavy individuals from the less-than-savvy from the non-savvy.

But if MP3 Newswire's sales results are not an anomaly then maybe they should start to identify these groups, especially when it suggests that product savvy rather than brand loyalty is the main sales driver. For example, the top-of-the-line 8GB e280 made up 69% of the total SanDisk sales. Presently, the 8GB Sansa e280 is selling for about $40 less on Amazon than the 8GB iPod nano. Considering the Sansa has more features, on the surface it is a better value. Of course, value is subjective to the individual buyer and the Apple logo has value to digitally savvy folk too. Yet, over 80% of the consumers who recently purchased an MP3 player from this site went with something other than an iPod.

The figures below represent sales between October 1 and Nov 30. While we felt these results were worth mentioning, take them with a grain of salt as it would be a mistake to draw conclusions from them. The implications may be dramatic, but there is simply not enough data to say anything conclusive. Furthermore, even though the reasonable man can make some fair statements regarding the makeup of MP3 Newswire's audience, no study has been ever made to confirm this makeup.

So how do we take this information? Just take it as a first sign that the audience for digital media may be growing more complex as the market matures and then file it under "subjects for further study". In the meantime, we'll wait until the end of the quarter to see if these observations remain consistent throughout the holiday sales season.

Top Selling digital media players on MP3 Newswire:

Pos Brand Percent of total player sales
1 SanDisk 35.5%
2 Apple 17.7%
3 Sony 8.9%
4 Creative 8.9%
5 Zune 6.6%

Other MP3 stories:
Crayola Launches MP3 Player
iPod Killers for Christmas 2006
Review: Blue Snowball USB Microphone for Podcasters

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