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Fred Jacobs is President of Jacobs Media, a media research and consulting firm. Jacobs Media clients have included CBS Radio, Premiere Radio Networks, Citadel, Greater Media, MTV Networks, Playboy, Amazon, Electronic Arts, NPR, Sylvan Learning Centers, and Taubman Malls. Learn more about the company here.


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August 2011

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« Reinventing the Whopper | Main | Satellite Radio - What's Next? »



"You didn't buy that TiVo until you heard your friends telling you about how the box changed the way they watched TV. You didn't make the plunge into the iPod world until you saw that guy on the plane with thousands of songs in a little device the size of a pack of cigarettes. And you didn't throw down a couple thousand bucks for an HDTV until you walked into Best Buy that day and saw the Green Bay Packers like you've never seen them before."

This is DEAD ON. Most radio stations right now are touting the "crystal clear" quality of HD. The audience doesn't care! These are the same people who have loaded up their iPods with average-sounding MP3s.

The DVR/TiVo is/was a must have. It's a life-changing invention. Watch any show any time in less time. Radio in HD does nothing for me. Give me some kick-ass unique programming on the .2 channel that I can't bear to miss. (Even this will be tough, since any kind of unique programming you could ever want is on the 'net.)

Greg Smith

Your post was similar to one posted a while back by Mark Ramsey, about having to give away HD radios.

"We need to give these radios away, set up kiosks in high-profile retail centers (called malls), and let people experience HD Radio in markets where there's actually something worth listening to on HD2 channels."

I really don't know where to start. Mark Ramsey disagrees with you about the price of HD radios:

"Are you waiting in line for your HD radio?"

"If you lower the price enough, folks will buy the radio. That's the belief about HD radio that is being stoked in our industry. And, of course, it's wrong."


Since there is no perceived need for HD Radio, as it relates to analog AM/FM, there is no incentive to buy, no matter at any price. HD Radio has been around for five years, and now, there is still talk of giving away these empty radios? The HD signals can't penetrate retail structures, and with HD radios not selling, there is no incentive for retailers to bother with setting up external antennas. This isn't the 50s/60s, anymore. Many retailers don't even stock HD radios, anymore, since there is zero demand - look what happened to the Accurian HD at Radio Shack. It is very evident thatHD radioswill never sell.

Greg Smith

David Martin

Bravos, Fred. Good post. The future of HD Radio is in the hands of the operators. I agree with you HD Radio needs to be product driven, listener focused, "The play's the thing." CBS' WNEW initiative is indeed a step in the right direction.

While Mr Smith has a right to his own opinion he does not have a right to his own facts. HD Radio, IBOC, has been around longer than five years and there's no evidence whatsoever to suggest HD Radio receivers will never sell. Mr Smith sounds like one of those AM radio guys from the 1970s "FM will never take off."

Radio's migration to digital is a process not an event. It's early in that process.

Rich Wood

I'm curious. Has CBS hired a staff to keep the nostalgia fresh? Or is it just a tape editor to rearrange the past?

The "real" WNEW-FM has adopted Rick Sklar's comment about the old WPIX-FM - "Format du Jour." I was one of WPIX's gaggle of program Directors.

WCBS-FM might be a good example. On HD-2 they stripped out the legendary personalities and became sterile. If there's really an audience for the old WNEW format, why not put it where it belongs - on the real channel?

Until companies begin to treat their secondary channels as real radio stations it'll die the death of 4 channel radio. Even AM Stereo has millions more receivers in operation than this system.

Remember that the satellite services had 100+ channels in operation before the first receivers were sold. In my market, there are no retailers set up to demonstrate these expensive receivers.

The use of distressed radio inventory as the sole promotion campaign violates Advertising 101 - use a mix of media. I wonder how many major market stations pushed aside a very expensive spot in morning drive to run a promo that disparages the cash cow.

It's Keystone Kops marketing.

Bob Bellin

Demos of HD radio at malls would be a good idea if you could actually receive HD Radio signals in a mall. I’ve tried to listen to HD radio at five different locations and have come up empty at each one. Radio’s future is not in HD radio.

As for radio being in the early stages of migrating to digital – that is precisely the problem. Radio listeners – especially those under 40, are well along in their migration to digital and if radio doesn’t catch up and get into lock step with that audience, its relevance will devolve progressively. The music industry is an example of an industry that is still in the early stages of migrating to digital when their customers are pretty much already there.

Although it may be too late for the music industry, it isn’t too late for radio. But time and resources spent on HD Radio and other dead ends (“Radio Heard Here”) represent the squandering of valuable time while the clock is ticking.

Greg Smith

With regard to Mr. Martin's post:

"First HD Radio Sold"

"International Consumer Electronics Show -- iBiquity Digital Corporation announced today that an Iowa buyer became 'first in the nation' to purchase an HD Radio tuner. Nathan Franzen purchased a Kenwood KTC-HR100 HD Radio tuner from the Ultimate Electronics store in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Monday, January 5, 2004."


Personal attacks aside, the first HD Radio was sold four years ago, and I believe that stations started broadcasting in HD in 2002 - you sure got me on that one! Let's see - 500,000 iPhones were sold the first weekend, after being introduced. On Radio-Info's HD Board, it was reported that only 130,000 HD radios have been sold, not the 330,000 as reported by iBiquity. With poor coverage and bland programming, no doubt, a number of those have been returned:

"HD Radio spinners claim a breakthrough year: Pulling a fast one"

"According to a press release from the Alliance 330,000 HD receivers were sold last year. This is a 725 per cent increase from the 40,000 sets purchased a year earlier and therefore 2007 was a 'breakthrough year' for the technology. In 2008 they will sell a million of the things."


This isn't the 50s/60s, where consumers were comfortable fiddling with and mounting rooftop antennas. You can't compare today's media landscape, with that of the 1960's - just ask Mark Ramsey! Now, we have iPods, the Internet, call phones, Satrad, Pandora, Slacker, and Last.fm (personalized music services).

Greg Smith

Anthony Hunt

At least this is the first commercial station that I've seen excited about programming HD channels. Everybody else seems to treat the HD more like when they last had to kiss their aunt on the mouth.

Non-commercial stations have been excited about HD, but the actual cost has muted the public service enthusiasm.


Ugh. I started thinking about some of my aunts and it's not pretty. Thanks for the comments, Anthony, and for all who weighed in on this blog.

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