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Is “variety” really such a good thing?

From the New York Times:

…a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll found that 54 percent of television viewers said they would prefer to buy [TV cable] channels individually, while only 43 percent said they’d rather pay a flat fee for a fixed number of channels. Strangely, these colliding views make sense. When asked whether they want total choice, especially from historically monopolistic quasi-utilities, it’s no shock that most people say: heck, yes. Yet, as the author and psychology professor Barry Schwartz and two of his colleagues pointed out a few weeks ago in The New York Times Magazine, Americans have this funny habit of confusing freedom, which they cherish, with choice, which can give them headaches. “We’re definitely at an overwhelming number of options,” Maribel D. Lopez, a media analyst at Forrester Research, told me. “It’s frequently difficult to understand what you’re buying….We run the risk of consumers moving to indecision because they have a lot of choice.”

What that survey result means is that folks would prefer to pay for what they want rather than a flat fee for a fixed (but larger) number of channels.

That is, it’s not about the scope of variety, it’s about what I want – either you have it or you don’t.

This is a tough concept for variety-addicted radio folks to get their heads around, but it may help for us to remind ourselves that the stations with the best “variety” images are also often the ones that play the fewest songs.

This is another way to say that “variety” – as an attraction to HD radio – is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be (as I have long argued).

And to assume that “variety” will be a draw for consumers to HD may be fatal, indeed.

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