Dead Technology Walking

Deader than Microsoft's new iPod competitor Zune this holiday gift buying season will be HD radio. Expensive. It has no rhyme nor reason to anyone who doesn't own or operate a radio station. It's remarkable to me that any sane radio executive can believe that HD radio will give the industry the rebirth it needs to satisfy its prime audience -- Wall Street investors -- I mean, listeners. Now, if someone would invent a radio with pictures that would start a revolution. Wait, someone did. The inventors of cell phones and MP3 devices. So how can radio be so sure HD spells relief? From my perspective its wishful thinking. The reality is consumers want better programming. You don't hear them clamoring for better audio. They rarely mention it. They want fewer commercials (please, not less is more). Less insulting commercials -- meaning stations would have to stand up to advertisers and agencies that want to continue cramming 45 seconds of meaningless copy into 30 seconds of time. Jocks that know the music -- and not sound like they're playing music in between personal phone calls. More variety -- not sweepers that try to con listeners into believing their radio station is playing more variety. Local stuff -- radio since consolidation seems to want to be bigger than local. Listeners like community -- they like local. The Internet is big but it is about community -- local. Hint. Hint. Even my Gen Y students tell me at USC that they want stations to be more locally oriented. If you find any of this hard to believe let me remind you that the next generation reveres public radio's KCRW in Los Angeles (i.e., "Morning Becomes Eclectic" etc). And KCRW is on it when it comes to utilizing the Internet in an effective way. In fact, KCRW is Los Angeles and nothing but Los Angeles yet it has a growing -- forgive me -- national market for people who want to hear "Los Angeles" radio. I'm sure you get the distinction. You owe it to yourself this holiday season to give the gift that keeps on giving -- no, not expensive, meaningless HD radios -- a trip to Southern California for a radio exec on your list to sit in a hotel room for a few days and go back to school on tomorrow's radio. KCRW is showing that radio does not have to be anything more than old technology with tons of new ideas.