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Washington Post lukewarm on HD Radio

Here’s another article from another newspaper tech guy offering his first impressions of HD radio, this time from the venerable Washington Post.

And, as ever, it’s another mixed bag.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why we’re planting receivers with print guys. Even if their disincentive to say nice things about radio is set aside, anyone who knows anything about newspaper writers knows that they are almost uniformly fans of AAA and NPR. And as such, they are not qualified to assess what the radio masses are really interested in.

That said, if we’re going to plant radios with newspaper techies, at least let’s make sure they’re likely to be impressed!

In this case, there were a number of negative comments about the HD experience:

1. Receiver availability: “Two years after digital broadcasts went on the air, listeners who’d like to hear them at home without spending more than $1,000 have one choice, Boston Acoustics’ Recepter Radio HD” [and by the way, that Boston Acoustics page is UGLY].

2. Not “cool” enough: “Because we are talking about commercial FM here, other stations blow the chance to do anything too original with HD radio”

3. It doesn’t work: “tuning in digital radio reminded me of trying to lock in digital TV broadcasts. The signals were weaker than their analog counterparts, as mandated by Federal Communications Commission regulations, and could drop out, then resume for no apparent reason. The HD signals of classical WGMS (104.1 FM) and smooth-jazz WJZW (105.9 FM) never got past that shakiness — and The Post’s WTWP (107.7 FM) was complete static the whole time.”

4. Don’t trust the spokespersons: “it’s not as if you’ve got much of a choice right now at home. When will that change? Since 2004, iBiquity has had the same general answer: over the next year or two.”

The most positive comments? Some glowing comments about the sound of AM and a general (and guarded) optimism about new options available on a radio band which “may be radio’s last, best hope to escape its playlist prison.”

It seems to me that if the PR agenda for HD paints the remainder of terrestrial radio as beneath contempt, we will do ourselves no service in the long run.

Not as long as every household contains five terrestrial radios and zero HD ones.

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