Re: Seattle Radio Happenings


There are no phones I know of capable of receiving an AM-HD digital broadcast.

Streaming is slowly being carved out as something carriers need to encourage to add value to their platform. Actually using a smart phone conflicts with data caps and the reluctance of carriers to make ongoing investments in their networks to better serve users paying for service. At least one carrier has put some popular streaming services outside the data cap, and others may well follow.

I’m just gonna ignore “superior” sound quality. It’s gonna compete nicely with the average stream though.

In the car, this could make some sense. Depends on the topology where it’s used. When I sampled AM HD in the midwest, it was workable. Here in the North West, it’s gonna range from par to less, depending. All digital does mean no analog to fall back on. Then again, Satellite Radio suffers from this and people aren’t all that worked up over it, which favors this.

IMHO, the big competition will be between streaming services making deals with carriers, who will move or modify data caps enough to preserve value, and downloadable / easily synchronized content. (podcasts)

AM-HD will be range limited, streaming will not, nor will podcasts.

I’ll just put quality as equal, and IMHO it mostly is.

AM-HD will eventually have to run ADS, streaming and podcasts range from free, to AD funded, to subscription.

AM-HD will most likely follow existing radio formats and “ideology”, streaming and podcasts may do that, but there is a lot of variety.

Notably, AM-HD may well be at a disadvantage in the area of content innovation. Streaming and podcasts are already innovating in various ways.

**Here we have the same old “quality” argument AGAIN!! I find it amazing to see the same shit, packaged in various ways (new brand every 6 months), yielding the same tepid results frequently associated with quality problems.

Again, for the folks reading at home. You’ve got two options! One source is compelling but the quality is low, and the other source sounds great, but just isn’t compelling. Which do you use? Which do you think most people would use?

It’s gonna be the interesting stuff in front for the vast majority of people!

Content is king. Quality is nice, but content is king.

As talk radio dives, I get the idea of using the AM stations to carve out a new niche. Totally. But, it’s actually gotta be NEW!

Ok, back to the details now.

AM-HD and streaming have some coverage issues. Phones don’t always have data service, and terrain / conditions will impact AM-HD reception. Podcasts require a sync / copy operation, which can be largely automated. Once that is done, playing the material is energy efficient and there are no coverage issues.

AM-HD is a linear medium. Missed it? Well, hope you can get to the archives. What are those? Streams and podcasts, both of which can present a schedule, be on demand, and are non-linear in that users can rewind, seek an archive, share (depending), forward, whatever.

AM-HD, streams, podcasts all have the potential to play ADS within the program, and all can be customized per region. Streams and podcasts can be granular down to the listener who requested them, if desired.

AM-HD requires a newer, capable radio. Streams and podcasts require only a computer and most any smartphone in use today.

AM-HD reception isn’t on smartphones today. (correct me on this, if I’m wrong) FM reception is on some smartphones. Typically, this means radio will require one carry or have access to a radio.

Here’s a subtle but important one:

AM-HD, and radio use in general, conflicts with the “in car” smart phone model. One very nice benefit of using a smartphone for streaming / podcasts, is that one gets their phone calls. The show is suspended and the phone call gets focus, often possible hands free. Once the call is done, the show returns and continues.

Here’s the subtle bit: Most phones can do this even on older car systems, requiring only some reasonable way to get audio into the car system. AM-HD will require newer car systems, a newer third party radio, and some integration be done to manage phones. Currently, this kind of thing is being done for (some) Apple phones, leaving Android out of the loop.

Using the phone for both is less overall activity compared to radio overall.

The impact of this is clear, and comparable to what happened to AM radio overall when auto manufacturers and phone manufacturers left it out of the equation, or degraded it. Younger listener share, even just sampling, went to near zero.

If any of this stuff, syncing, having a car integration done (to allow seamless phone / radio interaction model) as examples, is too much trouble, it won’t get adopted. A lean UX model (what one does to get shit done, basically) is the expected and growing norm.

AM-HD isn’t something one would use an app to interact with. We call that a stream 🙂

Few people understand what AM-HD actually is. “HD Radio” in general isn’t widely understood, just as AM-Stereo wasn’t, and we’ve gone over why here many, many times too. Everybody understands what a stream is, and many understand podcasts. Apps fill those gaps nicely, and pretty much everybody knows what an app is.

**So there you go. The core differentiators as I see them. Man, if I were in sales, I would very rapidly get to one singular question:

“What content will I have that won’t be on streaming and podcasts?”

If there is a good answer to that, maybe this can have a positive impact. If there isn’t a good answer to that, I’m going to get that resume out and fresh, because it’s gonna be brutal.

Now, to be fair, there is a quality problem with ordinary AM. Newer radios do not reproduce it well, and an entire generation doesn’t even understand why or what to look for. For those people who do understand, the content isn’t really there, or it’s niche / ethnic.

That aside, the core radio issue just isn’t quality. FM is good, FM-HD is better, and radio adopting streams and podcasts (to which I have some great ideas I might let go someday…) can bring things to people in a way that is relevant and can compete on quality overall.

The core issue IS CONTENT. When I see stuff like, “All our content..” I think, “Really?” What content? No joke. That’s the problem!

And “content” can be people and the “cool” also written here many times, or it can be music, or it can be talk, or it can be themed shows, whatever.

So what exactly is the goal here? Is it to maximize the use of AM stations to the older listeners? If so, OK. That could plug the big hole we’ve got in talk radio due to Limbaugh fucking it all up, and due to corporate radio not actually doing leftie talk, among many other things.

But will that actually deliver returns? Will older people continue to get newer radios? Maybe!

If the goal is to improve relevance and pick up the generation of lost listeners, a mere quality move won’t cut it.