A few months ago a close friend of mine asked me about HD Radio. He told me that he had heard "cute" and "weird" ads for HD Radio but quickly added that he didn't get it.
"You need an HD receiver to get it," I replied.
He smiled at my stupidity and said, "Yeah, that much I know, but what I mean is — I don't get why I would want an HD radio, or how I even get hold of one."
Since he'd opened the conversation, I couldn't just let this slide. I continued, "Well, you'd get to hear lots of new radio stations on the HD Radio dial with different kinds of music. Plus, the radios are easy to buy — just Google 'HD Radio' and you'll see all the choices." His response was impatient: "Sounds like too much work for stations I don't know anything about."
I wish I could tell you I've seen the results of a research study that clearly spells out the public's ambivalence about HD Radio. I haven't. What I'm about to offer is entirely unscientific, but there's so much common sense involved, it's hard not to formulate an opinion.
Original wagon photo by Anthony Bonventre/stock.xchng GET SPECIFIC
In the last couple of months I quizzed more than 25 friends (not in media) about HD Radio. The consistent theme I hear from my middle- to upper-class suburban pals is that they are not interested in it because it doesn't mean anything to them.
When I prompted them about "new stations" or "lots of different kinds of stations," I drew blank expressions. A few asked me to be more specific.
That's when the simplicity hit me. The industry is running thousands of promos per month for HD Radio that don't tell anyone what they can hear in our particular city.
It's like telling people they should visit a restaurant for food. "What kind of food?" "All kinds of food!"
Well, I don't want all kinds of food. I want a specific kind of really good food, and I want to know where that really good food is located. Isn't it time to get specific?
THIS WEEK ONLY
In Washington, I hear only one station doing this on a consistent basis. WAMU, the public station licensed to American University, regularly tells listeners what's playing on its HD Radio channels. The announcements I've heard are read live and they are specific, short and easy to understand.
However, I have yet to hear them encourage people to purchase an HD Radio. Shouldn't the station — like all those offering unique content — be presenting listeners with a discount coupon on its Web site to encourage people to purchase an HD Radio today?
How about: "Go to WAMU Dot Org to print out your 25 percent off coupon to purchase an HD Radio from Best Buy this week only."
Hello, Crutchfield! Wanna sell lots of HD Radios? Offer discount coupons to radio stations — substantial ones, not some cheesy 10 percent off. Put limited windows of time on the offer(s). Make sure the radio station specifies all the HD Radio channels customers get to hear in that particular city if they buy an HD Radio.
Clusters have the ability to promote multiple reasons for listeners to purchase an HD Radio. Example: "Did you know Washington has a full-time blues radio station? We also have new radio stations that play smooth jazz, rock of the '90s, and classic country. It's all on HD Radio. Get a 25 percent off coupon now at [station Web site]."
Also, it's time to get HD Radio promoted on more than just radio. If there's no cash available, effort should be put into cutting trade deals with local TV stations, cable systems, Web sites and newspapers. This is a market-by-market battle and it has to be specifically about your market!
There is only a limited time frame in which any technology is tested in the marketplace. The clock is ticking on HD Radio. If you've made the investment financially to broadcast HD Radio stations, it's time now to make the investment with common-sense marketing.
The author is president of Lapidus Media. Write to him firstname.lastname@example.org.