Tuesday, November 10, 2009

how to spread HD Radio

It continues to amaze me how radio expects other media and outside companies to help the industry push HD Radio on consumers.

At least this year there have been some HD Radio stations worth listening to in the form of true niche programming which is current. That is a big improvement from the earlier days when many of the channels were merely an extension of a current format, or a place to put a struggling music format that hardly attracted an audience of people that could easily hear it.

Now, the radio honchos continue to push to have HD Radio in MP3 players and now in some of the more advanced phone systems. I just read about a new application for the Ipod Touch to add HD Radio channels. Yet, this application, if I understand right, costs $80.

You have got to be kidding!

Do they really think someone is going to pay $80 for HD Radio channels? Isn't the reason they own an MP3 player to hear the music they WANT? Consumers can each purchase hours and hours of songs for that same $80 and continue to have a choice.

I have also raised the point numerous times that if radio had continued to expand its playlists in the various formats over the years and treat the music like they used to, there wouldn't have been the demand for MP3 players to the point where the majority of people seem to have them now.

Between the 500 song playlists and clusters of commercials every half hour, it's no wonder people shell out for MP3 players. But asking us to shell out for HD Radio is a bit overboard.

The radio stations which are struggling to maintain decent audience levels as it is are, understandably, looking for additional revenue. They see HD channels as eventually being additional opportunities to sell commercial time. Yet, at this time, there is far too small of an HD Radio audience for that to happen.

If the radio stations launching HD channels truly want HD Radio to succeed, they should take matters into their own hands. Give away HD Radios. If I have more and better choices at no additional cost, maybe I won't need my MP3 player as much. Maybe consumers could think twice about paying for satellite radio.

Instead, these radio stations and companies think that consumers will actually shell out $80 to over $100 to sample HD Radio - in today's economy. No wonder they gave a channel and no one heard.

Here is one solution. Radio stations continue to do trade-outs and barter. I have to believe that some electronics store or chain would like to have extensive air time. Suppose that "Joe's Electronics at 1234 Main Street gives a brand new HD Radio to the 10th caller at 555-1111" every hour from 6 AM to 6 PM. Get a chain of stations involved and give out literally hundreds of HD Radios per week.

Here are the likely results. Listeners continue to hear about HD Radio and the channels that are out there, while hearing excited callers "win" them all day long. Now, from a marketing standpoint, consumers can get a "free" item delivering hours and hours of music and information they are not currently getting. Compare that to spending $100 or more for an MP3 player!

The stations are getting hundreds and eventually thousands of HD Radios into the ears of their listeners. They'll be showing and telling their friends, co-workers, and relatives about this new device they got from the station. And they'll have SAVED money vs. buying songs and devices to do the same.

The electronics retailer gets plenty of air time. On some stations the promotion time alone for the giveaway easily would exceed $80 (and that's retail) for giving away the device.

Everybody wins. And for once, radio wouldn't lose.

For that matter, it doesn't have to be only electronics outfits giving away the HD Radios. For example, a university bookstore could be the only commercials heard on an HD channel featuring independent alternative rock bands which appeal to students. The more they give away, the bigger the audience that constantly hears "their" message, while saving money by not having to spend for doing so.

You see, HD Radio actually can happen, and can make a difference. It could save me, and other listeners, money, and hold my interest, by outperforming the programming and music from satellite radio and MP3 players.

However, the radio decision makers continue to sit around wondering when other companies are going to sell enough HD Radios to make what they are doing viable. While the clock is ticking.

Gotta go now. My MP3 player has finished recharging.

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