Surveying HD Radio consumers

Interesting Bridge Ratings survey of some 500 HD radio consumers released today.

Naturally, the results need to be taken with a grain of salt since the super-innovators are the only ones who so far own the radios. In fact, I’d be surprised if the proportion of audio engineers in the sample wasn’t overhwelming.


The pressure on this group, obviously, is to vote consistently with the wisdom of their big dollar expenditure. That is, once you spend a lot of money on something there’s a natural bias to justify and rationalize your decision, regardless of the consequences. People behave and think consistently with their previous behavior and thinking. This is why, for example, nobody’s mind is ever changed about anything after losing a case before Judge Judy.

What all that means is that you’d expect the opinions of these folks to be particularly rosy.

Yet while the positive comments outnumber the negative ones, “rosy” is not the appropriate word here. These are, after all, the earliest of HD geeks – exactly the folks who should be counted on to evangelize the technology to the mass market. They should be lavishing HD with praise, just as the iPod geeks fawn over Apple’s newest iPod.

While 37% are VERY satisfied, only 25% are SOMEWHAT satisfied. And 38% feel HD Radio is “Just Okay” or worse.

Among those who were dissatisfied, the majority pointed to deficient signal reception or “quality not as advertised” which seems to refer to audio quality. “Value” (i.e., cost) was not a big mention. “Lack of variety” and “low quality programming” (which could mean the same thing, but not necessarily) were also in the mix, but at lower levels.

On the whole these categories are rather too broad and thus ill-defined. But the sense of it clearly is that the technical promises of the technology are not quite living up to expectations for those who are dissatisfied.

And this also reflects something else: That the radios are being purchased for technical quality reasons first and foremost. This could be characteristic of the “innovative” nature of these consumers. Because one thing’s for sure: Audio fidelity will never be a primary driver for the mass market.

To be sure, this is early response on early equipment. But we have to keep in mind that first impressions are often lasting. And, by definition, you never get a second chance to deliver one. All the more reason to make the consumer’s first encounter with HD radio one she will remember – positively.

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