I have used this space to criticize some of the HD radio hardware that has been released over the past few years. For reasons that many of you know, there have been all sorts of issues and problems with many of these products, which have led to consumer frustration, as well as discouraging broadcasters who were once so hopeful about HD radio's promise.
So when Microsoft announced that their new Zune would feature HD radio as standard equipment on their new device, I wasn't exactly thinking optimistic thoughts. But like all of us slogging through radio here in the 2000s, you cannot assume anything anymore.
As many of you know, we were commissioned by iBiquity last year to design a project to survey the radio industry about HD radio. That research was delivered back in '08, and it belongs to iBiquity. So while I cannot go into depth or detail about the results, those of you who participated either at our station management focus groups or the subsequent quantitative study know what you said and how you felt about the barriers facing this technology. For those of you who weren't surveyed, rest assured that iBiqiuty got what they paid for.
HD radio has been severely hampered by a number of issues, which we continue to track in our publicly released tech surveys, conducted among both rock radio and public radio listeners. While these respondents differ with one another in too many ways to list here, they agree about why they have not made the leap into HD radio technology.
This graph from the recently released PRTS2 is consistent with what we've been seeing in all our national surveys. It lists the key speed bumps that turn off consumers about HD radio:
HD radio has not been well-explained to consumers - despite all the advertising. And too many complain that they've never heard it before nor do they know anyone who owns an HD radio. After all these years of marketing, you'd expect better grades.
But price point is an issue and as many expected, the declining costs of purchasing an HD radio are having a positive impact on the willingness to purchase:
And the Zune might provide a boost, too. Now don't get me wrong. As an industry professional who has enjoyed the rising popularity of Apple gadgets in our jacAPPS business, I have no illusions that Microsoft is going to seriously dent Apple's mp3 player dominance anytime soon. And perhaps that's the reason why the nerdy guy needed to come up with something hipper and different than the cool guy.
So without waiting for someone from iBiqiuity to send us a complimentary Zune, we went out and bought one ourselves on Amazon. Tomorrow, we'll take a look at how it looks and works, and then discuss whether there's a "there there" for HD radio given some of these hardware steps in the right direction.