HD Radio & Apple -- What Would Jesus Do?

I always get a kick out of it when someone asks "what would Jesus do". We're hearing it a lot these days. Who knows? How could you ever be sure.

But when it comes to HD Radio and Apple together -- I think even Jesus would pray. Pray a lot.

The radio industry is setting itself -- and its advertisers -- up for yet another in a long sustained series of disappointments by speculating that Apple's rumored decision to inject its cool into a very uncool device will jump start HD Radio. If Jobs, at the MacWorld Convention in a few weeks, unveils HD on-board boom boxes with iPod docking stations, it will wind up meaning nothing to the radio industry.

These docks would allow iTunes tagging so the next time a listener takes his or her iPod and connects to the iTunes store, they can buy the songs that were tagged.

Wait one minute.

What are these consumers going to tag? There's little HD programming which is why HD also stands for High Disappointment radio. The stations won't program it. The listeners won't buy HD capable radios. Advertisers have better things to do.

One of my readers sent me a jab the other day asking for my take of HD radio since I like Steve Jobs so much. Jobs is supposedly going to send the radio industry into a full and sustained orgasm.

My answer?

What would Jesus do?

Jesus would probably spring for satellite radio while he waits for the Internet royalty issues to be worked out. But the next generation -- maybe because they're a long way from the pearly gates -- thinks Internet radio is heaven on earth.

No kidding, the radio industry sets itself up for a black eye every time -- embarrassing itself. Let's count some of the many ways:

Less is More -- oops, nothing more than telegraphing to radio advertisers and agencies everywhere that there is a problem with radio and their commercials will get lost in all the clutter.

Looking to Google's AdNonsense to sell commercials without human relationships -- putting radio on the same level with Internet advertisers -- that's radio, like in archaic and Internet like in interactive.

Attacking Arbitron's People meter -- smart, really smart. Might as well shout to your advertisers -- the ones who are spending increasingly more online -- that your industry rating service is not reliable.

Now this -- desperate radio types trying to be hip -- I mean cool -- by invoking the name of their lord and savior -- Steve Jobs.

Is there any sane person who actually believes a boom box is cool? An iPod is cool.

Does anyone in their heart of hearts really believe that tagging music on a boom box for purchase on iTunes at a later date is the same as connecting online or on a mobile device and downloading music immediately?

Does anyone think these misers running consolidated radio groups right now with their penny stocks are going to invest in even the most elementary HD broadcast if they do anything at all?

So let's not run from reality.

Radio companies have failed as consolidated operators not to mention public companies -- check their stock prices. They're heading for the exit as soon as they can get there. Their shareholders are stampeding ahead of them.

HD radio is a farce. It isn't high definition. It's an excuse to add inferior sub-channels that arguably interfere with some stations on the AM band. The last thing the industry needs is more channels.

Broadcasters support the HD radio initiative because -- sit down, please, so you don't hurt yourself -- the HD radio initiative is the number one advertiser on terrestrial radio. Not Mc Donalds. Not Geico. Not P&G. Maybe that explains one reason why radio companies give lip service to HD while doing nothing to offer appealing HD programming.

H frickin' D Radio -- a technology whose time will never come.

Listeners have proven they don't want it. Radio companies have proven for many years they won't invest in it and yet the radio industry props up this embarrassment in every meaningless way it can -- even tying its future to the apron strings of their nemesis Steve Jobs. Oh, I get it -- they're protecting their HD buys.

I'm sorry. I really am. This industry we love has to move on from these self-imposed embarrassments. There's lots of work to be done.

The main job is to re-purpose our talent and start broadcasting where the next generation actually lives.

Since 1996 I have been complaining rather loudly that our industry was in deep trouble. I took a costly lawsuit from a big consolidator for airing these views when consolidators were beginning to have their way with our industry. Ten years later my concerns are turning out to be right on the money.

Radio has nothing left to sell.

left to promise Wall Street.

Any business that is firing instead of hiring is headed for the junk heap.

So, back to the latest fantasy that Steve Jobs is going to save HD radio.

Jobs is not that dumb. Tagging or not, why do you think there is no radio band on your iPod or iPhone? Those who buy Apple iPods and iPhones don't want it. And if for one moment Jobs actually thought he was God and felt that he could lay his hands on the radio industry and save it, even he (small "h") would fail.


Because in the media entertainment business, we all have to answer to a higher power.

The listener.

Shall we pray?

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