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Apple embraces HD radio iTunes tagging. Surprise, surprise.

Apple readying HD Radio push for Macworld iLounge has learned that Apple plans a push for iTunes Tagging-ready, HD Radio-equipped boomboxes with iPod docks during the mid-January Macworld Expo event in San Francisco, California. Announced in September, iTunes Tagging is a new HD Radio feature designed to further boost iTunes sales by allowing listeners to “Tag” the currently playing song, automatically adding its information to a “Tagged” playlist on the connected iPod. When synced with a computer, the playlist appears in iTunes, making it easy to purchase tagged tracks from the iTunes Store….. “We are very pleased with the strong support iTunes Tagging has received from the broadcast radio industry,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Vice President of iPod Product Marketing. “iTunes Tagging is a great way for local broadcasters to jump into the digital music space and for consumers to easily discover new music on their HD Radio and enjoy it with iTunes and their iPod.” According to a document on iBiquity’s website, “Apple plans to offer participating stations a revenue share for songs referred to and purchased on iTunes,” adding extra incentive for HD Radio broadcasters to adopt iTunes Tagging.

Now I don’t know what a “push” is. After all, Apple makes very little of the equipment that would integrate tagging technology. So their ability to “push” is fairly limited.

Further – and more importantly – note the section in bold: “iTunes Tagging is a new HD Radio feature designed to further boost iTunes sales.”

Not designed to boost the fortunes of HD radio. Not designed to increase listening to your stations.

Get it?

It should be obvious that tagging is a much bigger part of the iTunes ecosystem than the HD radio ecosystem, let alone the broader radio ecosystem.

Who benefits most through the use of iTunes tagging?

Answer: Apple (which adds another value proposition for its iPods) and iBiquity (which adds another value proposition to HD radio).

Who does not benefit from iTunes tagging?

Answer: The radio industry. Because now iPod-owning listeners will be one click away from another reason not to listen to the radio. Further, once one digital source provides tagging, what’s to keep all of them from providing tagging. HD radio will be one of many “tagged” sources of content for the iPods.

So Apple would be essentially using your station as a mechanism to sell more iPods. Fair enough.

But are you aware that there’s little money being made by the sales of music on iTunes (compared to the money Apple makes through iPod sales), so to share a portion of that with radio is to share a tiny slice of a tiny slice? (By one report, Apple makes about 10 cents on each tune. Two pennies for you – eight for Apple).

Are you aware that the quarter-hours you lose are quite likely to be worth more than the pittance you get from Apple?

Don’t get me wrong. Technology happens. And there’s nothing wrong with tagging. Of course you should embrace it because fighting it is foolish. But understand the consequences.

Just because something’s good for iBiquity and Apple does not mean it’s good for the radio industry.

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