What Wal*Mart’s HD Radio announcement means

Let’s get this much out of the way first, more distribution for HD radio is a good thing. No if’s, and’s, or but’s.

But there’s a dark side to that distribution, and it’s this: What if simply making radios available isn’t enough to induce consumers to buy and use them?

As I’ve said before, the issue with HD has never been about availability – as we will soon discover. The issue has been about the fundamental value proposition.

In the meantime, radio stations nationwide will give away for free millions of dollars worth of promotion for Wal*Mart – ostensibly for an add-on unit that needs to be installed in your dash and looks just like every other (non-HD) unit.

So this is good for JVC and their new radio, it’s good for Wal*Mart, but it’s not likely to be so good for radio – because our assumption that distribution is the problem is wrong on its face. Meanwhile there is a real monetary value to that promotion which is not changing hands.

[Note to JVC: Perhaps you might want to redesign your website, which right now includes the invitation “click a button to hear a radio commercial” – and no matter which radio button you push, there’s a commercial on. Um, maybe that’s reinforcing the wrong message.]

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