Radio digitale: HD Radio non vince e non convince

Non vince e non riesce a convincere la radio digitale di Ibiquity. Non vince perché a dispetto di un cospicuo investimento in iniziative di marketing, di ricevitori se ne vendono ancora pochini


da Radio Passioni

La HD Alliance parla di 1, massimo 1,5 milioni di pezzi venduti quest’anno dopo il mezzo milione del 2006. Quanto dobbiamo fidarci, tuttavia, di cifre comunicate non da osservatori indipendenti ma da un gruppo di interesse che in fin dei conti è sul mercato per cerare di trarre profitto dal sistema IBOC?
Su Radio&Records, Chuck Taylor riferisce delle perplessità manifestate da alcuni analisti nonché delle risposte sprezzanti che il capo della HD Radio Alliance, Peter Ferrara (curiosa coincidenza, sembra una legge di conservazione dell’antipatia dei cognomi) rivolge a chi osa criticare la radio digitale all’americana.
Sul suo blog Hear 2.0 Mark Ramsey controinveisce nei confronti di Ferrara, accusandolo di aver colpevolmente ignorato critiche molto costruttive. Il problema è che ancora una volta la discussione si svolge a un livello troppo alto, troppo distante dai consumatori e dalle loro vere esigenze. Ha ragione Ramsey quando afferma che la strategia seguita fino a oggi da Ibiquity “facciamo la radio digitale, tanto qualcuno la compra per forza” si è rivelata completamente inefficace. Così come sta succedendo su scala assai più limitata con le eterne prove del DRM in Europa e nel mondo, le diverse centinaia di stazioni che hanno investito in attrezzatura IBOC non sono bastate a concretizzare un pubblico. E’ il paradosso di una radio digitale che c’è ma non si sente e intanto costa un bel po’ di soldini a chi la fa. Quanto possono andare avanti a sostenere un modello del genere? Vale la pena andarsi a leggere i commenti all’intervento di Ramsey. Un lettore per esempio sostiene che la radio digitale sfonderà solo quando diventerà uno standard aperto, liberamente disponibile su tutti i ricevitori normalmente acquistati in negozio. Costringere la gente a investire in apparecchi speciali solo per arricchire Ibiquity non è un business model praticabile. Non saprei che dire, la mia sensazione è che ancora nessuna tecnologia digitale riesce a superare la radio analogica convenzionale sul piano che conta di più, il complessivo bilancio costi/benefici. Guarda caso, l’unico fenomeno “digitale” in reale crescita è l’ascolto della radio convenzionale attraverso Internet. Nessuno ha mai pensato di vendere Internet come strumento per l’ascolto della radio. La radio è semplicemente diventata uno dei tanti servizi di Internet. Forse è proprio questo il busillis: identificare il “mezzo” di comunicazione come un fenomeno puramente tecnologico. Ma è una mentalità che abbiamo ereditato da un’epoca in cui una infrastruttura tecnologica veniva identificata con il servizio implementato attraverso di essa. Ancora oggi diciamo “faccio una telefonata” quando dovremmo dire “faccio una conversazione” visto che la “telefonata” può essere fatta con un telefono a disco, un telefonino o un pc con Skype. Da una parte c’è il servizio, dall’altra l’infrastruttura. E come infrastruttura, HD Radio deve ancora dimostrare la propria validità.
Dovremmo imparare a dire, ascolto un programma radiofonico e a questo punto forse cominceremo ad apprezzare i vantaggi complessivi di una modalità tradizionale, incluse tecnologie preistoriche come le onde medie e le onde corte, a fronte della totale incertezza che circonda proposizioni come il DRM o HD Radio. Splendide realizzazioni ingegneristiche, non c’è che dire, ma terribilmente inadeguate dal punto di vista infrastrutturale.

HD 2.1
By Chuck Taylor

When the HD Digital Radio Alliance launched in December 2005 to acquaint consumers with the next generation of terrestrial technology—digital FM and AM, and the promise of HD2 side channels—it dedicated millions of dollars to on-air promotion defining HD’s mission to deliver pristine audio quality and new, free content on the dial, along with marketing for receiver manufacturers. Listener-directed efforts focused on the top 100 markets on stations owned by alliance members, including most of the big guns: Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Cumulus, Bonneville, Emmis, Entercom and Greater Media.
Now, almost two years later, HD radio’s integration into consumer homes—not to mention retailer shelves and automobile dashboards—still faces a long road. With a learning curve that extends to at least the end of the decade, the alliance is launching phase two of its mission to propel the technology. Its new “charter” focuses on what has always been AM/FM’s calling card: localism, to literally bring home efforts to hurry along HD’s acceptance.
“Radio is local, and while I believe we’ve done a good job raising national consumer awareness, what we need is for local markets to become both passionate and proactive to get HD to the ears of prospective listeners,” HD Digital Radio Alliance president/CEO Peter Ferrara (pictured) says. “In each market, we want to help member companies do what makes sense for them, to create unique and diverse content and make consumers aware that there are all of these neat new stations that they can’t get on a regular radio.”
The alliance will dedicate $230 million in additional marketing funds for 2008, on top of the $250 million allocated this year and $200 million in 2006, bringing its total commitment to $680 million since launch.
While the alliance’s motives are designed for the greater good of the industry, there remain detractors of the technology’s rollout who question its progress—and more so, the overall “bling” factor of digital radio.
Edison Media Research president Larry Rosin says, “I remain as concerned about HD as ever. I’m rooting for it, but we conducted a listener panel and asked young women about HD, and they literally mocked the commercials they’d heard about ‘stations between the stations,’ saying, ‘Who cares what it is unless you tell me what those stations are?’ I hope the alliance is focused on making clear what it is people can hear on HD radio instead of saying, ‘It’s here, take a gamble on it.’ “
The issue of how intriguing new content is on side channels—given the outpouring of consumer choices like Internet and satellite radio, iPods and the potential of WiMax—draws suspicion from radio analyst Bishop Cheen of Wachovia Capital Markets: “It’s up to operators to create sizzle and compelling content, instead of more ‘who cares’ channels. When FM launched, it was creative and liberating because programmers had nothing to lose. It was exciting to listen to. Operators have a choice. With HD, either they’ll put on the same institutionalized programming—shuffle some stuff, repackage and repurpose, save some money and everybody will shrug—or they can create something hot.”
McVay Media news/talk specialist Holland Cooke went so far as to say earlier this year that no matter how compelling the concept of side-channel programming may be, the alliance’s bragging rights are “like a tree falling in the woods,” simply because consumers don’t buy radios. HD radio “needs to make the message as cool and ubiquitous as the iPod silhouetted dancers,” he said.
Meanwhile, in August, Bridge Ratings published a study claiming that “projections for HD radio’s growth are disappointing, suggesting a slower growth curve for the new technology. Marketing, pricing and distribution efforts [must] improve.”

Heard It All Before

Ferrara responds that he’s heard it all before. “To the naysayers, I say, ‘Shame on them. They can either be part of the solution or part of the problem.’ If they’re not coming up with great ideas that offer outstanding constructive criticism, I choose to ignore them.”
Focusing on the positive, he adds that a recent survey shows 77% of consumers have now heard of HD radio, thanks to the alliance’s efforts. Further, a study that Critical Mass Media conducted in September found that 31% of radio listeners say they are “interested in HD radio.”
In May, the alliance celebrated the milestone of completing the rollout of HD2 channels in all top 100 radio markets—in fewer than 18 months. In total, about 1,500 stations have made the leap to digital broadcasting, with nearly half of those offering multicast content.
In addition, iBiquity Digital, which oversees HD integration with manufacturers, says about 500,000 sets were sold last year and predicts that 1 million-1.5 million will be delivered before year-end 2007.
Perhaps most essential, on the manufacturer side, Ferrara points to the fact that in December 2005, there was a single receiver model available at retail. Today there are 50 in the marketplace for home and vehicles. In 2008, 11 auto manufacturers will offer HD radios as an option on 55 models, while Ford, BMW and sister brand Mini Cooper, Jaguar and Hyundai will offer a factory-installed option on select models. For home units, retailers now include Radio Shack, Best Buy, Circuit City, Crutchfield, JCPenney, Sharper Image, Wal-Mart and Target.

Ed ecco il contributo di Mark Ramsey:

HD Radio: “Shame on You”

In a new piece on HD Radio from Radio and Records (I’d link it, but R&R doesn’t provide permanent links (!)), critiques are leveled by Edison’s Larry Rosin, McVay Media’s Holland Cooke, and a radio analyst from Wachovia.
Unsurprisingly, the HD Radio Alliance’s Peter Ferrara has “heard it all before,” he says. Although by “heard” the Alliance obviously does not mean “listened to.”
Ferrara goes on:

To the naysayers, I say, ‘Shame on them. They can either be part of the solution or part of the problem.’ If they’re not coming up with great ideas that offer outstanding constructive criticism, I choose to ignore them.

Just a minute here.
For the record, let it be clear that Mr. Ferrara and his team can likewise be part of the problem. Because it is they who have ignored exactly this kind of “outstanding constructive criticism” for years.

Shame on you, HD Alliance, for your “if we build it, they will come” mindset.

Shame on you, HD Alliance, for your insistent reliance on PR stunts and image-making over tangible audience distribution.

Shame on you, HD Alliance, for spending hundreds of millions of dollars worth of promotional time in exchange for a pitiful amount of consumer acceptance.

Shame on you, HD Alliance, for your spin that “77% of consumers have now heard of HD radio, thanks to the alliance’s efforts” – even though those same listeners A) Don’t know what “HD” is or B) Think they already have “HD” or C) Have heard the term and couldn’t care the least bit about it.

Shame on you, HD Alliance, for quoting research provided by a company owned by one of your own founding partners with heavy investments in HD: “31% of radio listeners say they are ‘interested in HD radio.'” You mean the same 31% that doesn’t understand what HD is and is nowhere near buying a receiver? Yes, that 31%.

Shame on you, HD Alliance, for embellishing estimates of past and future unit sales.

Shame on you, HD Alliance, for criticizing or ignoring those who disagree with your strategies rather than your goals, no matter how wrong your strategies or how right your goals.

Shame on you, HD Alliance, for guiding some of America’s best and smartest broadcast companies – led by people with radio’s best interests at heart – down a path that risks being embarrassing, distracting, and wasteful.

Thus far, the results of our industry’s HD effort speak for itself. And these disappointing results are nothing that wasn’t predicted – constructively – more than two years and hundreds of millions of dollars ago.
The state of HD affairs is obviously not the fault of the HD Alliance alone, of course. This dreary situation has many fathers, to be sure. Indeed, the positive work of the Alliance has been considerable. Let’s face it, without their efforts, there’d be few HD stations and no HD radios and zero HD awareness. For their achievements they deserve enormous credit.
But when the alliance starts condemning its critics while at the same time ignoring their advice, then somebody has to call this kettle black.

printfriendly pdf button - Radio digitale: HD Radio non vince e non convince