Quick survey question

Do any of ya’ll have an HD radio? If so, whaddaya think?

If not, what are the chances you’ll ever get one?

Bonus link.

15 comments

  1. Doug’s avatar

    Great question Doc,

    The way this has been marketed to me it feels like they have run out of ideas. I think the real problem with radio is the content. There are few shows that are even worth listening to these days and most of them are on NPR. We don’t need the ability to have 5 more morning zoo shows in between your normal low def stations.

    Look at what Radio Lab, This American Life, The Sound of Young America, You look nice today, and countless others are doing. Has nothing to do with more stations, or better sound quality. Shows mentioned deliver on great content and these ears would fight though static to hear those shows any day.

    Maybe I am completely missing something?

  2. Michael Buckbee’s avatar

    Podcasts for specific content that I’m interested in have taken a big chunk out of my radio listening time, but the nail in the coffin has got to be Pandora running on my iPhone for my general music listening.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Michael.

    If your iPhone had an app that would let you tune all .mp3 streams on the Net (and not just Pandora’s, or LastFM’s or AOL/CBS’s), would you like that?

    If so, would that not make the iPhone a radio?

  4. Rick’s avatar

    Can’t imagine a need for more of the same. Can’t stomach the deliberate deceit of the “HD” moniker which even Ubiquity admits doesn’t refer to high definition but rather a significantly bitrate-reduced digital encoded signal superimposed (and detectably degrading) an analog signal.
    HD is headed to the same bin as AM Stereo.

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Doug.

    I think there are two problems. One is that HD Radio uses proprietary tech by something called Ibiquity. Being proprietary, closed, and presumably expensive (both for broadcasters and radio makers), the result is half-hearted adoption by broadcasters and only experimental adoption by radio makers, which put it only on relatively expensive devices, none of which (that I can find) are portable or hand-held. And rolling it all to market at a time when more and more listening is not to traditional radio, even if it’s made digital.

    My own belief, as I suggested in my response to Michael, is that the long-term hope for radio as we know it is to join the rest of the stations already pumping out .mp3 streams, and tuning those in on iPhones and other hand-held portable devices, in addition to desktop and countertop radios at home.

    At both our places (Santa Barbara and Boston), we have Sonos systems that tune hundreds of streams, most of which I’ve added myself. (Try doing that with the AOL radio app on the iPhone.) My wife’s iPhone is craving a real radio app that gets everything, rather than just what one service provides.

    Against that competition, I don’t believe HD radio has a future by itself. Though I do think it has a future if it integrates with Web streaming.

    Just my 2¢ worth. Or maybe 3.5¢.

  6. Pauly’s avatar

    Low.

    The reason it’s not zero is that I don’t think the RIAA royalty hike has shaken out enough to know whether my favorite streaming internet radio sites are in or out of danger yet. Another reason I think HD radio is not only unlikely for me but for most is that the marketplace has voted that format flexibility and ubiquity trump fidelity and quality (well known issues with mp3 sound quality don’t seem to matter in other words).

    All that said, the fact that I don’t put a huge value on least common denominator entertainment is also a factor. For example I don’t have HDTV either, and don’t see getting it unless and until I need to replace my current TVs (fairly infrequently used) and nothing else but HDTV units are available as a replacement.

    In other words HD radio seems to be a technology (way) too late. As a relatively avid music consumer I probably would’ve signed up in 1985 (but depending on what kind of longish tail programming would’ve been available).

    Oh, and belated Happy Birthday Doc. I can only imagine it was a special one…

  7. Nick Francis’s avatar

    Doc –
    I’m the music director for KPLU in Seattle (we met earlier this year at the Public Radio IMA conference.) We introduced a 24/7 internet jazz stream a few months ago  Jazz24.org) and we are also using this stream on KPLU’s HD-2 channel. I finally got an HD radio in my office the other day and it sounds great. I’d been previously listening online to the channel on computer speakers, so hearing it on a good sound system is a definite improvement. I’m not an audiophile or anything, but there seems to be a little more “depth” to the stereo sound than what you hear on FM, particularly when played loud. However, the sound quality alone is not enough to jump out and get one. HD radios also have gained a reputation for very spotty reception, particularly in cars. Not good.

    We already have over 60,000 monthly listeners tuning online to Jazz 24; over 90% of our listening comes from outside Western Washington. Internet radio is more convenient and accessible, with loads of programming choices, far more rich than what could be offered, even with a best case scenario of quality programming, on HD spectrum.

    Whether its AM FM or HD, radio operators have got to realize that serving their local communities with unique locally-focused programs will be their only way to survive.

  8. Doug’s avatar

    An iphone radio app would be great, but at the same time, the radio infrastructure is already in place and if the content was there I wouldn’t even think about turning to another station or distribution type.

    With that said there are def some stations that would be nice to listen to on the way to work, KCRW, WFMU, KEXP and WOXY (well they are internet only now so that might be the easiest one to turn to) just to name a few

  9. Terry’s avatar

    I’ve got two HD Radios in my house. I’m in the business, so I don’t pretend to represent normal consumer behavior. After over a year with them I remain surprised by the audio quality (better than I expected). A couple of stations in my area have been running HD-2 streams that I listen to as much as or more than those stations’ HD-1 (the duplicate of the analog FM) content. In total that’s still much less than my Internet listening (streams+on-demand).

    I concur with Doc’s comment that HD broadcast streams *might* make sense for some stations, as part of an combined on-line and over-the-air content strategy. But an HD-2 or HD-3 service without the on-line streaming piece? Forget it…

    One tech point: early HD Radio chipsets sucked a lot of power so portable radios were not especially feasible. This is supposed to be better now but I am unaware what if anything is in the pipeline from the receiver manufacturers.

  10. John Proffitt’s avatar

    No HD Radio here. And no plans for one. Although the company will be buying me one — because I work at a public radio station where we (kinda) broadcast in HD. We don’t yet do anything with the additional stream capacity, though. And I wonder if we ever will.

    One of the things that local radio outlets have to contend with is that each radio channel must be programmed. Yes, you can buy national streams to throw on the “extra” HD channels, but you can’t monetize if you don’t program it, and you can’t monetize it because no one has an HD Radio.

    This was a huge blunder by iBiquity and the rest of the broadcast industry. Too little, too late, especially against satellite and Internet radio challenges. We’re only using HD on our station because Congress forked over the cash to do a conversion (and many others) and we don’t want to bite one of the major hands that feed us.

    Truth be told, we’d shut off the HD channel if we (politically) could. It’s just not worth it. And to date, no one has convinced me it ever will be.

  11. Nick Dynice’s avatar

    Sure, there is a market for high quality audio. But radio is all about discovering new music (or at least it should be). The market has spoken (via iPod sales) that it is more important to have a quantity of music and the ability to discover and listen to more new music than better sound quality. Ideally, the long term strategy for iBiquity would be to support and encourage radio station to (if technically possible) to use the bandwidth to have a larger variety of additional channels and not just one or two with high sound quality. And if they want higher adoption rates they need to loosen their licensing requirements.

  12. justcorbly’s avatar

    No, I don’t have an HD radio. Whether I buy one depends on the programming. Content trumps tech.

  13. ralph’s avatar

    No HD Radio here. I don’t listen to commercial terrestrial radio’s traditional signals; I’m not interested in more of the same. My philosophy of radio listening is that of John Peel, who said “I just want to hear something I’ve never heard before”. HD Radio doesn’t offer that.

    Sirius and XM have hundreds of channels and can microtarget with them. I don’t expect to ever see an HD Radio secondary stream carrying 24/7 garage music, for example; there just aren’t enough stations in any given market to make that kind of oddball programming financially feasible. You need to be able to do it over an entire country or the entire world to get a sustainable audience.

    That applies even more to net-based “radio”. The kind of microtargeting satellite radio does goes ballistic on the net. I don’t have an iPhone or other reasonable solution yet, so I don’t do portable streaming, but podcasts are a great indication of where we’re heading even for those of us without the latest and greatest.

    That said, I don’t try to extrapolate my desires to that of a wider public. I’m an oddball in my listening habits. If most people are happy with top 40 or Rush or whatever other crap terrestrial radio is spewing, then maybe HD Radio has a chance to survive. But it holds no attraction for me.

  14. Scott Westerman’s avatar

    I’m with Nick in thinking that Internet Radio is the killer app. I bought an ASUS AIR the other day as a replacement for the reliable old Radio Shack shortwave in our bathroom. It’s definitely first generation and is not easy to configure, but once you get your faves locked in, it works well.

    Next stop is a Sangean WiFi radio, so I can try the Reciva interface.

    As a fellow Sonos fan, you know whereof I speak. Nothing beats the variety and sheer volume of choices streaming across the Internet

    My sense is that HD Radio is like the Betamax. A nice format that is, at the moment, better in technical quality than the stream-osphere, but will be eclipsed, especially if manufactures (and cell providers) figure out how to leverage wireless broadband in automobiles.

    Hope you get WordPress working again soon!

  15. Compass’s avatar

    I can’t really see HD radio having a high adoption rate – especially compared to HD TV. It seems most of the radio listening is done in the car – just something to keep you busy on your commute to work/school. The quality of standard FM radio seems fine for most people – I think there is very little incentive to pay more for an HD radio service considering the most common usage. And when you are not in the car, you are likely listening to your iPod or iTunes anyways.

    I also saw some comments talking about Internet radio and discovering new music. Has anyone hear tried Pandora? If you’re looking for new music it’s very cool!

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