COLUMBIA, Md. Long-time radio programmer Don Kelly has been logging a lot of air miles since going to work for Ibiquity Digital in the spring of 2004.
He travels to meet radio managers and help them craft ways to promote the fact that their stations have gone digital.
This fall, radio begins a big consumer push for HD Radio, in time for fourth-quarter holiday purchases, typically the biggest selling season for consumer electronics. Radio World News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief Leslie Stimson spoke with Ibiquity’s broadcast strategic marketing manager before he caught a plane on his way to advise yet more stations.
RW: You and Ibiquity consultant Dan Mason often do station presentations together on HD Radio. What is the difference between what you two tell managers and programmers?
Kelly: Dan and I … go out to talk to market managers, PDs, sales managers, promotion directors, and so forth. We do some cluster meetings also, where we go to specific clusters within a market. Dan has a very good grasp on the history of where IBOC and HD Radio have come from. He’s been involved since the very beginning.
He has a sales background and a management background that’s different from mine. Mine is primarily a programming and marketing background. So he will talk about the sales and revenue opportunities that multicasting and data (digital) has to offer; and I talk about the necessity for promotion, marketing educating the listeners to what HD Radio has to offer them and the benefits to the listeners.
RW: Greater Media Detroit executives said they have done focus groups to see how to position HD Radio and multicasting to the listeners. What kinds of things are you telling stations that they should do?
Kelly: I think the most important thing about branding and marketing of HD Radio is that each radio station tailors that marketing campaign to their specific format and their marketplace. So what we try to do is go in and give them the objectives. …
I’ll give you an example… HD Radio is the centerpiece of what has to be marketed. And the reason for that is every receiver sold in America has the HD Radio logo on it.
If a listener is going to go in and try to purchase a receiver … especially in the early stages where many of the people on the sales floor may not be familiar with HD Radio at that point, to really be able to get what they want, which is an HD Radio receiver, they should be able to walk in and recognize that written on the front name plate of a receiver.
So therefore calling it anything else other than HD Radio, I think, creates a potential confusion problem with the listener’s carrying through with the purchase of a receiver. I encourage the stations to use descriptors of HD Radio that fit their market. …
RW: How can Ibiquity, stations and the consumer electronics industry combat confusion – say, if someone walks into a store and says, “I want digital radio”? I realize you’re advising stations to call it HD Radio. But how can you prevent that sale from being converted to satellite radio or something else?
Kelly: The most important thing is that the broadcasters continue to emphasize that it is HD Radio and they may even call it “digital HD Radio,” but as long as there’s HD Radio there, that helps.
But the other half of this is we have efforts that are being led by Bernie Sapienza (Ibiquity vice president of retail business development), our retail expert, where they are training floor personnel for retailers. They’re working on other ways of getting more of the store personnel who are selling or will be potentially selling HD Radio receivers in the future and educating them to what HD Radio and digital AM and FM is all about.
I don’t think you can fault the people necessarily on the floor, if someone walks in and says, “I want a digital radio,” because, quite frankly, the only digital radio out there is satellite in their minds – because they need the education just as much as listeners do about HD Radio; and we’re in the process of doing that.
One of the strategies we’re using is we’re attempting to get the broadcasters to interest listeners in going to their Web site. For instance, they may say, “We’re now broadcasting in digital HD Radio. If you’d like to know more about this great technology, go to our Web site and click on the HD Radio logo.” …
They pop up with a one-pager that explains what HD Radio is, what the benefits are, and in many cases, the broadcasters are actually telling listeners what retailers in their marketplace either are carrying or potentially can order HD Radio receivers in their marketplace.
Also, those HD Radio pages, are, in many cases, linking to our HDRadio.com site so that people that are listening to the station can gain as much information as they’d like. …
The idea is to entice them to go further. It would be virtually impossible to educate a listener as to what HD Radio is only by using the airwaves. I think we have to interest them in it and move them to the Web site for the full information. …
RW: Is it different promoting a multicast channel than a regular HD Radio channel? Are you advising people differently on those?
Kelly: Actually, it’s interesting. Right now, how to promote a multicast channel is really being developed by those people who are multicasting. Several of them are tying their multicast channel and they’re also streaming it on the Web, and they’re promoting between the Web and their multicast channel. Others are promoting from their main channel to their multicast channel.
There’s a number of different ways that will be explored by the broadcasters. …
RW: XM and Sirius have kiosks in the retail stores. Is Ibiquity planning anything like that? Something that would set the HD Radios apart?
Kelly: We’re a technology company, so we’re not in the business of selling receivers. We’re not in the business of being the content provider. And that’s really what the satellite guys are. They’re the radio station.
We’re the technology people, but I will say this, that in talking with Bernie Sapienza and the retail folks here, we know of retailers who are planning on doing just that: Setting aside special locations and special type of marketing within their store to sell HD Radio.
I think you’ll find retailers connecting with stations to do co-promotions. For instance, in Seattle, there’s a co-promotion with the Entercom stations and Car Toys, where Car Toys is promoting the stations that are HD within their locations.
And the Entercom stations are giving away receivers and promoting Car Toys as “The place to go to hear HD Radio” and so forth.
There will be a lot of cross-pollination between, not only the manufacturers and retailers, but the broadcasters and retailers.