Tom Bender and the Greater Media Detroit team are doing the latter with HD Radio. Last weekend, WRIF gave Detroit area listeners a preview of its HD2 channel, RIFF 2. On both Saturday and Sunday, when Detroiters tuned to 101.1 they heard RIFF 2 instead of WRIF. Promos explained how HD works, and how to purchase a radio. The station's website also has basic HD Radio resources.
Now that's taking a risk. So we don't forget, WRIF is the #2 25-54 Adult station in the market.
A few things to keep in mind here...
First, RIFF 2 is a pretty solid sounding station in its own right. The jocks are young, energetic, and plugged into the target lifestyle. RIFF 2 also features a heavy dose of local Rock. The Detroit music scene has always been vibrant, and that's certainly the case in 2007. Mark Pennington and Doug Podell have effectively used RIFF 2 as a creative sandbox, and the station improves every month.
Second, the management team realizes that if HD Radio is going to be successful, they need to do more than run the Alliance's promos. While they are generally well-produced, it's difficult to communicate what HD Radio is all about in short bursts. Thus, a two-day free sample. Risky, but certainly attention-getting.
Third, it sure would help if other Detroit broadcasters did the same, and committed to HD Radio in a big way. Instead of just one company taking the lead, why not an entire market of broadcasters in a show of force that would be impressive and genuine? And why not support the effort with advertising in other media? We can't create new cume just talking to our present listeners.
And finally, there needs to be help from HD Radio manufacturers and retailers. These "stunts" should be accompanied by downloadable coupons on the stations' websites offering week-long discounts on HD Radios. If consumers like what they hear, why not be able to run right out and buy one - or even make the purchase with a couple of clicks from a station's website? Retail availability is still spotty and retail staff knowledge of HD is next to none.
Detroit is a beat up radio market in a state that is going through unprecedented difficulties. But at the end of the day, consumers are still looking for entertainment and bang for their buck. While a national rollout for HD may be impressive to Wall Street, the fact is that many markets are running HD Radio commercials - and yet no area stations are offering HD2 channels. In essence, a product is being promoted that is far from being in place, much less good.
Here in Detroit, progress has been made on the HD front. There actually is something to listen to as you go up and down the HD dial. Why not focus some resources and create a bona fide story in one of radio's greatest markets, and the home of those auto guys who are going to decide whether and when to add HD to their cars? Detroit has a history for making a major impact on AM, FM, and perhaps HD. But the broadcasters here are going to need to come together, and they're going to need some help.