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When “HD” means “Hardly Differentiated”

Check out the angle of this headline in one general marketing trade (notably not a radio trade):

“Internet Radio to Outstrip HD Radio.”

What does that tell you about the way HD radio momentum is being perceived in the world at large? What does it tell you about the way you should invest your capital funds in the months and years to come?

Here’s eMarketer’s take on the progress – and lack thereof – for HD radio:

Kagan Research forecast in 2005 that US terrestrial radio broadcasters would be earning 4%, or $805.2 million, of their total revenues from HD radio, mainly due to multicasting abilities. They also thought that ad-supported “now” channels offering local information would bring in a large chunk of revenue. So far, it has not happened. “The value proposition for HD radio is less clear than with Internet radio, which gave people something they didn’t have before — a larger range of music types and a greater quantity of music overall,” eMarketer’s Mr. Verna said. “HD is a quality play, which is tough,” he said. “Look at MP3s and SACD and other high quality disc formats: People are not clamoring for better-sounding radio, just as they weren’t clamoring for better-sounding CDs. As a result, HD is growing more slowly than Internet radio.”

Now these are smart, thoughtful marketers trying to dissect a value proposition with far more effort than the average consumer will invest in a million years, and what’s their conclusion? “HD is a quality play.”

Patently wrong, of course. Unfortunately if you gather a hundred broadcasters in one room you’ll get a slew of value propositions and a mess of confusion. In short, you’ll get the public response to HD we’re experiencing right now. Because, in fact, there IS NO SINGLE, clear value proposition, not one that compels anyway.

Names matter, folks. And the minute the powers-that-be decided to call HD radio “HD radio,” they signed its death sentence.

This is not the fault of the broadcasting community – it’s not the fault of you or your group, it’s the fault of the architects and designers of the technology and its marketing.

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