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Friday, October 26, 2007
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A Significant Sign in the Death of HD Radio

When my father was on his death bed my sister, who is a practicing nurse, told me he didn't have long. She knew because of being able to read the signs his body gave off before the lungs reached their last breath. Dad died sixteen hours later.

The analogy to my father dying and that of HD Radio's demise is not that different. Look for the signs indicating the body is giving out, then start counting the time until you call it a grievous day. Those with the schooling know the signs. Whether they relay them to those who don't know is what's keeping HD Radio alive, so far.

"...there's little evidence that the radio industry is taking anything seriously." The radio industry is giving off signs that HD Radio is dead, even though we keep hearing bright comments being uttered by iBiquity execs. A recent quote from HD Radio Alliance President/CEO Peter Ferrara "predicts by 2011 (model year 2012) HD Radio will be optional in every car and standard in most." (Radio World "Let the 'Monetizing' of HD2s Begin" by Leslie Stimson). Mr. Ferrara is either being overly optimistic, or does not understand the business side of getting inside a vehicle's dashboard.

Another set of words quoted to Mr. Ferrara: "?We?ve lost sight of the fact that FM took 10 years? to become standard." He's not pointing out, though, that FM was building an audience based on programming which related to their lifestyle of the day, and AM was not serving this group. (Kind of sounds like the flight from regular broadcast to new media. But, that's another article.) Use your own ears and sample HD Radio at Clear Channel, Cox, or iBiquity's own site. Do you hear anything that "relates" in the same way FM did in its early years?

While the public's pulse on HD isn't beating, the latest glaze over this problem is in a rebuilt HD Radio Alliance web site to educate retailers and sales personnel on the benefits of HD Radio. Please, visit this site. Register. See what information the HD Radio Alliance is giving the retail industry to sell HD Radio. See if it differs from anything in past publicity releases. See if it contains the "deal closer" concept, or anything the excites the audience (clerks and retail management). This is death sign #1.

Next sign, and this is all the more you need to digest on this topic: HD Radio is not being promoted on radio station web sites. The radio industry has given up with "extra" promotion, over that huge commitment made by the HD Radio Alliance that's forced all member stations to comply.

Despite $230 million committed to promoting HD over the airwaves in 2008, and a few hundred million more spent over the past two years, a recent visit to thirty radio station web sites found only four that had any mention of HD Radio on the home page - and one did not link that mention to anything HD.

Here's a chart of station web sites visited from six major groups, featuring five stations each. Click on the station name to see what I saw. (Note: These are random selections, with no visited site left out because it did not reflect the above comments. These are the only station sites I traveled to for this experiment.)

Station Group Station Format Location Mention HD Radio
Clear Channel KDFO-FM Classic Rock Bakersfield, CA No
Clear Channel WTKG-AM Talk Grand Rapids, MI No
Clear Channel WWSW-FM Oldies Pittsburgh, PA medium sized HD link
Clear Channel KVET-FM Country Austin, TX hard-to-read banner
Clear Channel KISC-FM AC Spokane, WA No
Cumulus 99X Alternative Rock Atlanta, GA No
Cumulus WFMS-FM 95.5 Country Indianapolis, IN No
Cumulus KMJJ-FM 99.7 Urban Shreveport, LA No
Cumulus WZNN-FM 106.7 Alternative Green Bay, WI No
Cumulus KMAJ-AM 1440 News/Talk/Sports Topeka, KS No
Emmis The Loop 97.9 Rock Chicago, IL small HD link
Emmis WWVR-FM The River Classic Rock Terre Haute, IN No
Emmis HOT 97 WQHT Hip Hop and R&B New York, NY small HD banner/no link
Emmis Movin 93.9, KMVN-FM Rhythmic Pop Contemporary Los Angeles, CA No
Emmis 107.1, KGSR-FM Adult Album Alternative Austin, TX No
Greater Media MAGIC 106.7 (WMJX) adult contemporary Boston, MA No
Greater Media WRIF 101.1 FM mainstream rock Detroit, MI No
Greater Media 97.5 FM/WJJZ Smooth Jazz Philadelphia, PA No
Greater Media 105.5 WDHA Classic Rock Cedar knolls, NJ No
Greater Media WJRZ 100.1 FM Hits of the 60's and 70' Manahawkin, NJ No
Entercom Kiss 98.5 FM ĄC Buffalo, NY No
Entercom KQMT The Mountain Timeless Classics Denver, CO No
Entercom Charlie Variety Hits Madison, WI No
Entercom The Buzz KRSK Hot AC Portland, OR No
Entercom WROQ Classic Rock Greenville, SC No
CBS Radio 101.9 WLIF-FM AC Baltimore, MD No
CBS Radio WZMX-FM Rhythmic CHR Hartford, CT No
CBS Radio O-Rock 105.9 Alternative Rock Orlando, FL No
CBS Radio KVFG-FM Country Riverside, CA No
CBS Radio 94.7 The Globe Triple A Washington D.C. No

As you're breezing through this list also keep your eyes open for indicators that the radio industry still has a lot to learn about web site design. Few of these sites refrain from what I call the auto dealer approach: Scream as loud as you can, flash as many bright colors as you can think of, and fill your 60 second commercial with 75 seconds of copy.

The whole lot of 30 web sites visited reflect similar design (except for a few, as mentioned).

The radio industry may be talking up good stories about its intent to compete online, and how HD Radio is being embraced by the audience. But, so far, there's little evidence that the radio industry is taking anything seriously.

As for the absence of mentioning HD Radio on any of these web sites home pages... that either comes from radio not believing in the power of the internet to sell product (which it can never admit to clients), or its lack of mentioning HD Radio comes from the beginning of the radio industry distancing itself from what's turning out to be a Huge Disaster!

HD Radio's death is imminent. It's only a matter of time, if you read the signs.

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