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HD Radio reality check

As talk in the industry swirls around how best to label the radio dial in an HD world (by the way, the obvious answer is “as simply as humanly possible”), it would be smart to revisit the prospects for HD according to one informed source: Forrester Research.

Months ago, Forrester projected that HD could have an audience of 10 million by 2010 (a number which I would describe as VERY optimistic). That’s less than the audience for podcasting (12 million) and only half of the estimated audience for Satellite radio (20 million).

If, by Arbitron’s estimate, 94% of everyone 12-and-older listens to the radio now, how hot and bothered should we be by a technology that promises trivial audiences for years to come?

Is growth likely to skyrocket for HD after 2010? Nobody knows since it’s not possible to project technology growth out that far. “Podcasting,” after all, didn’t exist even a year ago.

So let me repeat: Perhaps 3% of America will be tuning in HD radio by 2010. Yet 94% of America listens to conventional radio now. And nobody can estimate whether or not that 3% will become 30% by the time all of us retire – or 1%.

If I were you I’d hedge my bets. And focus on retaining and growing as many ears as possible with the stations you have right now.

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