The Washington Post misses the point about HD Radio

From the Post:

But far from pushing their HD offerings, most stations seem only halfheartedly invested in the technology. Most Washington stations barely mention their HD channels on their Web sites, let alone on their airwaves. HD remains a promising technology, but so far, many more people listen to the new programming via online streaming than on an HD radio. Listeners are voting with their ears, and they’re choosing Web-based and mobile audio, in part because most HD radio programming just isn’t compelling enough to lure people to a different gadget.

Even if we put aside the head-rattling conclusion that radio stations are “halfhearted” in their commitment after countless hundreds of millions of dollars in on-air promotion, this is still wrong, and it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of consumer behavior and economics.

First, there is nothing radio stations can do to fundamentally drive listeners to purchase new radios (if, in fact, a purchase is required) because listeners do not have a “radio problem.” These alternatives – online or mobile – are in our lives not because they offer us radio but because they offer us benefits that are specific to these technologies and address unique and particular needs. The fact that they might also offer radio (of one type or another) is strictly icing on the cake.

Second, If you have nearly 100% distribution, as conventional radio does, and you have fresh, compelling content, where is the best place for you to put it?

On the distribution channel that is used by everyone?

Or on the distribution channel that is used by no one?

If you have something good, why place it in an HD ghetto when it can achieve instant critical mass – and be monetized accordingly – in the bright light of day on a full and ubiquitous FM signal?

Web-based and mobile audio are being preferred because they don’t depend on the creation of new audio programming to drive their demand. They are already on our desks and in our palms for reasons which have nothing to do with radio (indeed, this is exactly why they are so important to our future).

I am sick of radio stations being blamed for the difficulties of HD. Folks who complain listeners would come to HD radio if there was something good on it are generally the same folks who have no idea what that “something good” might be.

Besides, when the major groups are firing approximately one program director a day, it tells you all you need to know about the priority placed on fresh and original content.

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