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Exploding the momentum myth of HD radio

Reading the Inside Radio headlines – not to mention the full pages sponsored by iBiquity – one would think that we’re on the verge of an explosion in popularity for HD radio, that all we need to do is “get the word out” or “get the radios in cars” and we’re home free.

Well, that’s the perspective from the folks selling the technology who are interested, first and foremost, in selling the technology.

For a sense of where the momentum is we need to refer to more neutral parties. Ideally, folks whose job it is to measure trends, not fudge them.

For that, you have to refer to the Forrester study released earlier this year which showed where HD radio is expected to track between now and 2010.

As the graphic clearly shows, even by 2010 podcasting will be more popular than HD radio. Satellite will be twice as popular, and mp3 players and online radio will be four times as popular.

HD is estimated to be in 10 million households by then. That’s out of a projected total of 115 million households. In other words, less than 9% of households will possess an HD radio by 2010. Compare that to the 99% of households that have at least one conventional radio now (the average is five per household).

As an industry, we have to understand that, while our future is digital, it’s not necessarily HD radio. “Digital” comes in many flavors and we must pick the right racehorse if we expect to win the race. “Digital” and “HD” are anything but synonymous.

How does it benefit radio to develop a technology which, by 2010, will be used by far less than one in every ten households when each of those same households now has five conventional radios? How does this suit the interests of our advertisers?

When twice as many consumers pay to subscribe to something as choose to get it for free, what does that teach us?

How does it benefit radio to develop a marginally appealing technology when the trends clearly indicate that consumer interest is elsewhere?

How does it benefit radio to ignore much more obvious methods of “being digital” and instead distract ourselves with HD radio in the vain hope we can once again “own the pipes”?

For the sake of our industry I urge you to print out this post and paste it where you can always be reminded of it. I urge you to forward this post to your friends and associates in power. I urge you to return to the truth whenever you’re overwhlemed by the myth. I urge you to think – hard – about what your company has to do in the future in order to compete.

You will never see this news in a full-page sponsored ad.

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