When HD radio actually creates value…

…it does so by providing a laboratory for new formats which quickly spread beyond HD and onto the “regular” radio band and across the Internet.

Such appears to be the case with Clear Channel’s “Pride,” according to this article from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Since its fairly modest debut in Chicago last spring, Clear Channel Radio’s full-time format geared to gay and lesbian listeners has become a national phenomenon. Pride Radio, which began on an HD Radio side channel of Top 40 WKSC-FM (103.5), has spread to FM stations and dozens of Web sites and other HD channels from coast to coast.

[More on where you can hear Pride here]

On the surface this is a tidy argument in favor of using HD to experiment with new programming concepts – treating HD as a format laboratory.

But given the rapid proliferation to other distribution channels (analog radio and the Internet) one really has to ask why HD was needed at all. If you believe, as I do, that all technology is transitional, then you would never want to hold content captive to one technology when the audience moves across several.

The fast spreading of this content across channels illustrates that CCU clearly understands the primacy of content over the primacy of any one distribution channel. They – or you – could clearly create laboratories like this on your own websites (and stations) with equal success – if the idea germ and its execution are good enough.

Why don’t we experiment more?

Finally, this illustrates something else I’ve argued for a long time: That if a good idea happens on HD, it will quickly be distributed to broader audiences using bigger media channels, thus stripping from HD its only chance for distinction in a crowded marketplace.

When it comes to distribution, great content will follow the audience, not necessarily vice versa.

That’s not only a message for HD radio. It’s also a lesson for the folks with the satellites.

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