Toe the Mark

On Mark Ramsey’s blog, he makes some good points about the recent Consumer Electronics Show in a post entitled “The Most Important Takeaway for Broadcasters from CES,” leading off this way:

I’m struck by reading the post-mortems about the Consumer Electronics Show in the radio trades – the gist seems to sum up to this: Faster, HD Radio, faster!  Radio must fight ever-harder to maintain the “share of dashboard” in the cars!

These arguments miss the point altogether.

The issue is not “HD radio or not.” Nor is it “share of dashboard.” The issue is share of consumer. And share of consumer requires being in the traffic path each and every consumer wants to travel in, not building specialized detours and off-ramps that suit the industry at large but are indifferent to the interests and passions of consumers themselves.

The important point Mark makes is this: “to think we can force consumers down a proprietary path (unless our name is ‘Apple’) is arrogant, naive, and blind to the history and trajectory of technology.” He points out in a separate post that Pandora now has 75 million registered users, saying, “And with its introduction into Detroit’s auto cycle the obvious question is: How high is up?”

The fact is this: The benefits that HD radio crows about are too subtle or too irrelevant to capture the attention of consumers. That’s why in the time that HD radio has been around, tech stars like iPads and iPhones and Facebook and Groupon have exploded onto the scene and are worth billions, while HD radio remains worth virtually nothing.

Unless, of course, you consider the millions of taxpayer dollars that have gone into setting up HD channels on public radio stations, plus the many more millions the stations themselves spend populating them with canned programs from NPR and the like, playing to the dozens of people who may actually own HD radios and put up with them. That’s a whole lot of high-tech hoopla pouring down the drain.

And it’s being championed by the big money in radio, the Clear Channels and other mega consolidators and industry bigwigs with a stake in the iBiquity debacle — and, sadly, sanctioned by their lapdog, the FCC. If you have any doubt about that, you should check out this post on the Radio Guide, which details the hoops an aggrieved station has to go through at the FCC if one of the mega monster’s IBOC hash infringes upon its legal broadcast pattern. The article, called “Transmitter Site: The Dark Side of IBOC FM,” goes into the labyrinthine steps a station must take to substantiate its claim, detailing two such instances and the roadblocks thrown up by the aggressor stations that shifted the burden of proof — and cost — to the afflicted stations. And the FCC is the great enabler in all this.

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One Response

  1. Struble has definitely lost with stand-alone HD radios, as few have sold, and return rates are high. No word this year on his “fantastic” sales figures. But, Struble is winning on the automaker-side. It’s looking like a mini Satellite Radio more every day. The only hope in stopping him will be the continued bring-backs of automobiles to dealerships, and progress with Keefe Bartels and Galax Wolf.

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