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hdradiolarge
08/28

The Nail in HD Radio’s Coffin – And What It Means For You

hdradiosmall

From Tom Taylor Now:

A site named GMAuthority says among the changes for the [Chevrolet] Traverse, “HD Radio [is] removed.” There’s more. For the 2015 Silverado truck, GMAuthority says “HD radio feature removed from all radios.” Same for the 2015 GMC Sierra truck, here. For the high-end Buick Enclave, the previous “Color Touch AM/FM/SiriusXM/HD Radio with CD player” is replaced by “AM/FM/SiriusXM radio with CD player.” No mention of HD. As for the Chevy Impala, no HD, and SiriusXM also appears to be missing. So is GM’s in-house OnStar – but there’s a visible reason for that. The GMAuthority Impala page says “On the new features front, Impala adds OnStar Generation 10 Hardware with 4G LTE and Wi-Fi hot-spot capability.”

Ah, Wi-Fi and 4G LTE. This is something I have written about before. And as Tom reports…

…that’s where GM’s really headed [and] GM’s not the only carmaker who’s thinking that way. But to have HD Radio out of the dashboard for at least some 2015 models is a step backward for over-the-air radio. Pandora’s been aggressively courting the automakers and getting its icon on dashboard screens. It’s also frequently mentioned in some new advertising. HD Radio hasn’t had the same prominence in car ads, despite its head-start.

First, understand that HD radio always has been a crappy experience for consumers: A digital solution grafted onto an analog expectation with a jumble of unpredictably random Frankenstein products indifferent to consumer tastes built by and for the broadcasters which finance it.

What could possibly go wrong?

It’s not about being first out of the gate, it’s about solving problems for consumers in ways that resonate. It’s not about prominence in car ads, it’s about being worthy of that prominence.

But beyond all that, what is “a step backward for over-the-air radio?”

From the consumer’s perspective, there is no such thing as “over-the-air radio” per se. Ask a listener tuning in your station via iHeartRadio whether they listen online or to the radio and they will wrinkle their brow: “What do you mean?” they’ll ask. “I’m listening to radio – online!”

“Over-the-air radio” is a slice of a channel of distribution in a sea of distribution channels battling for the nexus of content and attention. It’s a new and smaller definition of radio than the ones consumers prefer to use. We diminish the radio experience by reducing it to “over-the-air.

The primary benefit in a crowded techno-space of this still large distribution channel is that we can use it to shine the light on our content offerings which live on the air, off the air, online, in person – wherever consumers want to collide with that content and enjoy it.

At least, that is certainly the way other media brands see this puzzle. It’s why so many big media brands invest in multiple distribution platforms and develop or acquire name brand content to sprinkle across those platforms.

So, in fact, a step backward for a distribution channel (or a portion of one in this case) stubbornly clinging to its oxygen supply has no bearing whatsoever on steps forward for technology, for platforms, for media companies with a vision and a strategy, and for the consumers who get to enjoy it all on their own terms.

Repeat after me: All technology is transitional.

ALL technology. Including the kind that delivers your dial position on an FM or AM radio.

Distribution, of course is critical. And so is content. But don’t confuse either of these with “over-the-air radio.”

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