What If Apple Marketed HD Radio

HD is amazing radio -- the best that's ever been created. Its revolutionary ability to deliver several channels from the same station will bring variety back to radio listening. HD radio combines three products -- your usual channel in enhanced audio, several sub-channels with additional programming and a digital readout to provide critical information. It's an entirely new way to listen to radio and it's available June 29th.


I can't do this. I'm playing with you just to make a point.

That exciting first paragraph is inspired by the Apple web site description of their much-anticipated new iPhone due out -- June 29th. I wanted to show how unexciting the savior of radio -- HD -- is compared to the coming of the iPhone.

With the iPhone, Apple even tells its visitors how to get ready to buy. Can you imagine creating such anticipation for this amazing new "high definition" set? The product manufacturers could have started with a more exciting and more descriptive name. HD radio isn't really high definition -- it's high fidelity sort of -- but that term was used a long time ago.

Apple has created a product people really want.

Radio has created a product it really wants.

An HD set that will allow stations to create more stations through sub-channels -- more stations they are not willing to professionally program -- and they want the consumer to go out and invest in this losing proposition.

Apple is taking chances and offering innovation (i.e., a touch keyboard that if it fails will doom the entire iPhone concept, but if it succeeds will radically alter mobile keyboards forever allowing larger screens and pop-up keyboards only when necessary).

Radio on the other hand is asking its listeners to take all the chances.

Go buy a new radio while we fail to invest in programming even at the same level of existing stations. Right now it's even hard to find HD programming in some markets. That likely will change, but whether radio will invest the same type of money in programming its sub-channels as it does on its original stations is suspect -- really suspect.

Apple is focused on delivering consumers what they really want -- an iPod and a phone along with computer compatibility and the Internet all on one device. Even their competitors admit that this phone will be a unique product. The only question is how big a hit it will be.

HD radio is giving consumers nothing that is new or exciting.

It boils down to a way to increase channels without buying more frequencies and it's done under the guise of high fidelity.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The best marketers in the world can't put lipstick on this pig.

And therein lies one of radio's biggest problems.

It's all about them.

Don't they know that today, it's all about the consumer -- especially the younger ones. And consumers don't care if you can create more stations when they're not excited about the stations you currently operate. How can the radio industry convince people to upgrade their radios when it is unwilling to upgrade the programming on these "fantastic, new channels"?

Again, the master, Steve Jobs, is conducting school. He's teaching the most basic of lessons to Microsoft, Sony, the big four record labels and all the other companies that he's had for lunch.
Radio doesn't make the cut.

And, if you can identify even one person who is excited about buying a new "old" radio to hear new "old" programming then you have found an odd duck, indeed. Send them to Wal-Mart now before they actually listen to HD radio.

The ultimate obituary for HD radio is that even Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Radio Shack can't move HD radios off their shelves.

And Apple won't even include FM capability on its iPods and phones.

Get the message?

While you were out consolidating, the audience has moved on.

Maybe it's time for radio to do the same.