HD Excitement

Rich Hansen’s DJ blog, here, posted a scathing bit about HD radio called “Why is HD Radio a colossal failure?” His experiences would seem to contradict iBiquity assertions that HD is sweeping the country:

We’ve heard the clever ads on radio for over two years now. Stations across the country have pledged to provide massive dollars to promote this new radio revelation: HD. More advertising time has been afforded the hype on HD radio than any other product in the history of modern marketing. Yet. Walk up to any of your friends, or anyone on the street and ask if they have an HD radio, with a blank stare, they’ll respond with HUH?  Not only don’t they have one, they don’t even know what it is.

My techno son finally asked about it, wondering what they were talking about. So we went on a quest to find, investigate  and buy an HD radio. Went to Radio Shack (after all radio is, or was, in their name) the clerk was clueless…. same at Fred Meyer electronics, and at Target. Finally, decided to go to the mother of all electronics stores (in fact I think an ad had mentioned them) Best Buy. Assuming with all the radio promotion there would be a cool end-aisle display with a few models and styles of HD radios to pick from. Roamed the store once with no luck, and with more intensity took a second walk through. Hmm. Finally asked a “hard to find” clerk to help us out. He even seemed mystified, but agreed to help, thinking he had seen them somewhere. With us in tow he scanned the racks and shelves and at one time mumbled, “I think they were here a while ago.”  Finally on a rack of miscellaneous crap hanging with curling irons in a hidden part of the store were TWO walkman style strap-on-your-wrist HD radios. There it was the HD display. Two radios with beat up packaging that looked like they had been without a real home in the store, likely shuffled around to get them out of the way of the real merchandise.  The clerk left us quickly alone to investigate, I was guessing if we asked a question about the product he would be at a loss.

Totally flabbergasted and unbelieving we read the box. It’s generic patter about HD was unconvincing. After a couple minutes both my son and I assumed that the clerk was wrong. He must have been new and unaware of where the complete HD display was. A second clerk took us on a store search and we wound up at the exact same spot, glaring, unbelieving at the same TWO radios hiding shamelessly with the curling irons. We weren’t about to suck up and pay $50 bucks for cheesy looking toy and left the store. Feeling defeated in our quest we jumped in the car heading for home. Song ends on the car radio, and what should blair out of the speakers: The amazing new technology now available that gives you better sound and lots more stations. HD.

I suggest the radio industry quit embarrassing themselves and their medium. This constant HD hype only makes a case  for how ineffective radio advertising can be. It all goes back to Marketing 101. The Market creates the product, the product does not create the market. The market sees no real need for better radio clarity and a lot more station choices.

In the comments section, one DeelyStan adds this:

HD is a solution in search of a problem. No one is unhappy with FM radio’s sound quality and HD sounds only marginally better. It’s not like the 70′s when FM appeared and countered listener objections to the sound quality on AM with overwhelmingly superior sound. But that wasn’t the only reason FM eclipsed AM. What was happening then that is not happening now with the HD rollout is the willingness to experiment. In the late 60s and early 70s, FM owners turned their stations over to music fans who exposed music that wasn’t getting any exposure and created new formats and new boudaries of programming. The willingness to experiment with new formats was there, and those experiments paid off by not only reflecting the culture of the day, but attracting listeners to the new medium. Later of course, that was successfully monetized.

If today’s owners would allow some creativity to occur on the HD channels, perhaps some newfound excitement for radio would emerge. But, why should they? How does developing HD territory help the main signal if all it does is further fragment the audience.

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One Response

  1. I don’t really trust this guy. I posted a comment addressing IBOC’s technical failures that can’t be fixed, but he never posted my comment. He only addressed the lousy programming, like improving that would make any difference. Marketing 101: consumers are only aware of what they care about (Mark Ramsey).

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