Why HD Radio may never make it


A loyal reader of RBR/TVBR has been contemplating the hurdles facing HD Radio and submitted this analysis to Publisher Jim Carnegie. For business reasons, this reader cannot be identified by name, but we’re sure you’ll find their points to be worth a read.

Why HD Radio may never make it

Millions of words have been written, pro and con on whether HD Radio is an idea with a future (OK, mostly, con). With probably 606 reasons for the failure so far, I thought I’d boil those down to six wooden stakes driven into the heart of HD Radio. No heavyweight detail here, no arguments, just six very large boulders in the road.

1) The name is wrong. Pretty basic, don’t you think? George Carlin: "…if Wham-O made an airplane, nobody would fly in it." Brands and Logos create expectations. Long before HD Radio, HDTV created the promise of better pictures, DVD quality, perfect for a bigger screen, and so forth. Why on earth pick a name that was already taken? Why unnecessarily create the impression of a brand extension, one of the toughest marketing stunts to pull off even in the best of circumstances?

Rookie mistake.

2) HD Radio is not listener/consumer-driven. The fax machine, iPod, iPhone, Blackberry, transistor radio, e-mail, cell phone: all had Content plus Convenience. HD Radio has neither compelling Content nor is it Convenient to use or understand. Spend an afternoon getting from 101.5hd2 to 92.7hd2 and you’ll see what I mean.

Connecting the sub-programming to an existing brand on the dial makes no sense to the audience. We spend decades building a brand we willingly dilute with HD-2. Worse, the Radio listeners do not have faith in the rank-and-file operators inventing or giving them the persuasive programming they want.

3) Your introduction to this new thing is almost always a disappointment. Whether at Best Buy, a friend’s house, or at a radio remote, more often than not HD Radio does not make a good enough first impression for a consumer/listener to want more. There are thousands of real life stories on the Web.

4) It was designed to solve a non-problem. To paraphrase magician Jamy Swiss, "…radio guys were running when they weren’t being chased." Satellite Radio and its many channels has never been Radio’s bugaboo. Pogo is right again: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

5) Hillary Derangement Syndrome. HD Radio is the Sheridan Whiteside of the Media; the Man Who Came To Dinner. Each new announcement, development, promotion of Alliance "research" and jolly news feels like Sen. Clinton defiantly staying in a race she has most likely lost.

Even Radio people have lost faith. Enough, already.  "…to every thing there is a season." 

6) The commercials don’t work. What would you conclude if… America’s billboard companies combined in an alliance to run gratis showings for Belly Washers and Tummy Ticklers soft drinks and – after two years of those boards ranking #1 or #2 in impressions – both beverages still sat dusty on store shelves?  THAT is the real story we have been telling Radio’s advertisers: either HD Radio itself is a dud or Radio spots don’t work. The longer we keep advertising this non-starter, the more it becomes obvious the radio advertising must be the villain.

Next…   But, can HD Radio be saved?

Got a different take? Or is something else on your mind? If you have 300 words or so of commentary on a topic of interest to broadcasters, send it to [email protected]. If possible, also send a photo of yourself.