Monday, April 21, 2008

Do We Have A Winner?

By now you've read the headlines:

Exciting new plan to SAVE radio... HD Radio on the move... Radio 2020... Radio Heard Here...

All "designed" to rejuvenate radio's images, perceptions, and realities. Sorry folks, no winners here.

Here's the scorecard as I see it.

Logo = 0
New Content = 0
HD Radio = 0

What's with me? I'm being so negative. It's not my normal style. I'm a positive "glass half full" person.

It's hard to be to remain positive when one sees his beloved industry make questionable turn after questionable turn. I feel kinda sick aside from the miserable spring cold that's permeated my head.

I wish I could be positive about that retro (read: horrible) logo released last week. Aside from the weak visual what does it communicate? The intended recipients already know that radio exists; they are choosing to use it less or not at all. How does this address their issues?
It's been said in this space before. It's a content issue, not a hearing issue. We need to be developing new content that REALLY entices under 30's to switch off their self directed choices and discover unique and one of a kind entertainment coming out of that old fashioned radio.

It's not likely to come in the form of music. The hits are the hits are the hits. iTunes proves that every day when one simply takes a look at the top downloads. It looks remarkably similar to the top 40 charts.

There's always been a segment of the music audience that has broader and more eclectic tastes than the general public and the on-line world demonstrates little change from that. Remember the days of the original Alternative format? Once a song "crossed over" and became popular the Alt audience shunned that song and had already moved on to the next hip thing. That is not to say there aren't genres and specific styles of music bubbling under the mainstream that could become the next big thing.

The one of a kind entertainment I am talking about is the kind that is conceived, written, and performed by humans. Content that is interactive, fun, funny, challenging, enticing, titillating, controversial, endearing, informative, helpful, caring, tells a story, unique and different. Insert your own descriptors and now you have a "support radio" campaign that might strike a chord with its intended listeners.

Ho goes HD Radio again...

Aside from the Alliances own self-serving research every other study says the same thing--stillborn.

After this amount of time the chance of HD Radio catching fire with consumers seems pretty dim. There's no shortage of folks saying the same thing.

I said it when IBOC was being readied for deployment and I want to say it again now. Using the dash-1, 2, and 3 system was a huge mistake. HDTV did it for their over the air digital signals and aside from a few geeks (myself included) NO ONE knows those additional channels are even there (cable and satellite do not carry them and few watch over the air). HD Radio should have been called DM for digital modulation--AM, FM, DM. Everyone would have understood it--instantly. Even though the signals would use the same spectrum space as they currently use, they should have received their own "band" and been assigned their own channel number. Pick a doesn't matter.

Would this have spelled success for HD Radio? I don't know. But I believe it would have reduced some of the confusion and allowed the digital channels to have unique identities and not be tied to the main signal. Even if this system had been adopted there was no guarantee of success.

All of the same programming issues would remain. Especially that pesky one that music machines are not the future. Real content created by humans (radio pros and listeners alike) is the future.