HD Slowly Passes Into The Night

03 Sep

Radio Shack has given up on HD Radio.

Their stores have two radios in stock and both are on clearance.

One radio that sold for $249 is now on closeout at $82.

The other was $149 and now sells for $99.

If that isn’t ‘get this out of here’ pricing what is?

It appears no new models are coming to replace them.

No surprise really.

Store personnel can’t explain much about HD.

They know a little more about XM or Sirius but usually it’s very little.

HD is a complete unknown to the very people the radio industry needs on the front line selling it.

Best Buy, Circuit City and Fry’s are the same story.

They don’t have HD units except for some car units and their people don’t have a clue what it does. Just ask them.

There never was a reason to pony up the money for an HD radio anyway.

The radio industry did a poor job promoting the content available on HD, if there really was any available.

The programming I’ve heard is pretty weak.

Four years ago an Executive VP from the company I worked for at the time explained  HD was going to be the savior of radio.  It would whip XM and Sirius and take us to the promised land.

We’re still waiting for that four years later.

The industry forgot that you need compelling content to be successful.

As less money is spent on programming the main channels how can we expect great stuff on the HD channel?

We know the answer to that.

There are four Radio Shack stores nearby so out of curiosity I stopped in each one to see if they had the HD radio in stock.

Hey, it was a slow weekend.

All had at least one.

None of the store clerks were able to explain what HD is all about.

I found the same thing at Circuit City and Best Buy when I was buying a new radio for my car a few months back.

So I left the $249 HD radio  still on the shelf marked down to the bargain price of $82.

Something told me I’d listen to it once and never use it again.

Guess I’ll get that WIFI radio instead.


Posted by on September 3, 2008 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , ,

10 responses to “HD Slowly Passes Into The Night

  1. George

    September 3, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Soon Radio Shack will sell no radios. Unless they come in another device. Then what happens? Do they change their name?

    Compelling content isn’t the issue. The reality is that they could air live sex on HD radio and people wouldn’t pay $250 for one. They give cell phones out for free. I can hear radio on my cell phone. Next week, Apple will announce their top iPod will sell for $200. Why do I need to spend $250 for a radio? There is no content worth that kind of money. Not now, anyway. Content is free. If you ain’t free, I don’t care.

  2. George

    September 3, 2008 at 5:07 am

    By the way, the only radios selling worse than HD radios are internet radios.

  3. KaitoWRX911

    September 3, 2008 at 5:54 am

    “In the following media growth projections, Bridge Ratings estimates based on current trends that Internet radio will have 180 million listeners by 2020, 250 million will still be listening to terrestrial radio, but HD will have less than 10 million. Which will contribute more to radio’s financial future? ”

    There will be zero HD Radio listeners – sorry, George!

  4. alanfurst

    September 3, 2008 at 11:53 am

    George I agree at $250 there is no reason to buy it at all. But I couldn’t bring myself to spend $82 on HD either. Reason, lack of content, I’ve been crazy enough (my wife’s words here) to spend as much as $1500 on a radio for DXing, and then the signal is coming through noise and special filters.

    HD had to be priced right. (It’s free said the ads) and offer great programming. It did neither. Game over.

    Cellphone, WIFI (soon to be in cars) and who knows what else will pass it by.

    In the end the delivery method won’t matter so much as having content people want to hear.

  5. Derek Lutz

    September 3, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    When HD radio comes in every new device and vehicle, then radio may begin to create some programming. Radio is not in the business of selling radios. While TV could sell the improved picture quality of HD, the improved audio quality of HD certainly wouldn’t prompt anyone to run out and buy a radio.

    Of course, as radio companies continue to cut costs and face additional music licensing fees. HD radio will probably be mostly talk and service element oriented, eliminating any HD audio quality benefits.

  6. paul vincent zecchino

    September 3, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Experts long said to place HD on its own band, as with AM, FM & Satellite. But 90s connivers who consolidated radio on behalf of Wall Street shadows had other thoughts.

    Inane ones, too-clever-by-half.

    They said by hog-gluing HD pig-wings onto AM&FM, the ensuing interference would jam competitors to ruin and make listeners buy unneeded costly HD stooge radios.

    Gloated they, ‘we could lose half the AM stations (to jamming) and no one would notice’. Cronies, perhaps dreaming of a fourth home in Belize, chortled of ‘thinning the herd’ of unneeded stations – not theirs.

    Did they ask us? No. In 90s Retro-Soviet Command Economy tradition they demanded we submit to ‘our inevitable digital future’. They said billions of our radios worth trillions of our dollars must go, to pave the Road to Perdition for costly, tempermental HD Stooge radios.

    Did they ask broadcasters? No. They told them either Go HD – or else.

    Where’s the pressure coming from? Wall Street? Price Waterhouse? No surprise there. Price figures in a multi-million dollar estate scheme which looted our family and left people dead before their time, as experts see it. Nice crowd, eh?

    Did HD promoters really believe, if they bluffed and insulted us they’d win our hearts, minds, and checkbooks? Why?

    Didn’t they realize TV is an appliance but Radio is personal, and citizens don’t appreciate their radios – or anything else – being rendered worthless by Wall Street cronies and some made-over East Bloc Jammer?

    Don’t allegedly astute HD promoters realize, the aggregate wisdom of the American citizens is tough to beat? If not, why not?

    Why’d they think they could get around that? Why’re they still trying?

    Paul Vincent Zecchino
    Manasota Key, Florida
    03 September, 2008

  7. Glen

    September 4, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    There are problems with HD Radio that all the marketing in the world won’t solve!
    1) It’s a proprietary technology, so the manufacturers of the equipment can’t adjust prices, designs and availability to follow the market without a difficult “licensing” process.
    Also, because it is a technology that has to be licensed, The radio manufacturers seem to be cutting corners in other areas of the radio’s engineering. Your typical HD Radio receiver is essentially a $10 Dollar Store radio sold for $150. People hear the performance of the receiver itself, and it goes back to the store. Radios are NO DIFFERENT from cars! A good front-end dose not ensure that you will have a good product, but a bad front end ensures that you won’t!
    2) Since that technology is used ONLY in the US, and NOWHERE else, those who live near the Canadian or Mexican borders, or who take their boats out of Florida far enough to get the Bahamian stations will flat-out lose the stations they are accustomed to listening to when they switch to HD Radio. Bottom line most HD Radios stink at being radios!
    3) There are severe performance issues, especially for those who live in the outer suburbs. Stations that come in perfectly fine on any analog radio you’ve ever owned are utterly unlistenable on an HD Radio! Even on the analog side! I suspect the above issues come into play, and I suspect but can’t prove that the stations are keeping the modulation levels of their HD Radio signals low to avoid “hashing” their analog signal.
    4) In too many places today, Satellite radio is still better “Bang for the buck” and may always be. What you save on monthly fees with HD Radio, you spend on Prozac because you still have to listen to the increasingly-asinine commercials!
    5)They’re simply too late! Radio, by mishandling the internet early on, walked away from being a primary source of new music and information about new artists a decade ago. The radio we relied on in the 1970s is dead, and has been since long before HD Radio! Many of the people they would really need to attract are the people who can remember the early ’80s and the vain attempts to convince us that AM Stereo, with it’s additional channel of static could somehow satisfy a need!
    While the need for the broadcasters may be obvious, where is the need for the listener? Clearly, the recording industry is more concerned about fighting decoupling and vainly trying to maintain the link between content and media than in actually becoming sellers of content.
    6)Local content in radio has gone the way of the carburetor! Most people are able to find the music and info that they want on the web, or through the cell phone, and could care less about local radio.
    7)The radio industry still seems to have a “where else are they going to go” attitude toward their programming. With the exception of a few stations, this view has become delusional! In the Washington, DC market, for example, 30 years ago, you had 4 or 5 mainstream formats, all with completely different playlists, and sounds, and basically 2 stations in each format. with each station having some unique songs that no-one else in the market played. Now you still have 5 supposedly different main music formats, but you have one station in each format, and you couldn’t put 5 songs between the 5 of them.
    8)Most people are spending less time on audio-only content, video is more important then ever!

    All things considered HD Radio is the wrong technology, at the wrong price, at the wrong time!

  8. Douglas Hanna

    September 9, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    HD radio showed a lot of promise two years ago, but IMHO, it’s dropped the ball. The HD2 channels have been mostly used to broadcast some slight variation of the stations regular FM programming and now these channels don’t even have to be commercial free. I really like HD radio but have real qualms about its future. There are now a number of HD Radios available and song tagging for the Zune was just announced but …. ?

  9. Pocket-Radio

    September 10, 2008 at 2:02 am

    It’s as plain as the nose on Bubble Strubles pale face. The smoke has finally cleared and what we are left with is a radio system that doesn’t really work, it’s more like a fixer upper. Now I happen to like fixer uppers, heck I’ve dated a few and called them home too.

    But listeners, the ones who really matter in this crazy radio drama called HD, don’t like fixer uppers. I suppose some do and radio geeks for sure. But the fact remains, listeners have far to many media options to choose from, it’s called over-choice and they suffer from time scarcity. Television is suffering from the same problem and it doesn’t work like it once did.

    Maybe the Alliance could learn a thing or two about marketing sliced bread. Maybe you can too.

    We might have to wait 10 years for the kinks to be finally worked out. Maybe the FCC will increase the power allowed for HD or they’ll move the AM band to new frequencies.

    I personally don’t think HD can take 10 years to fix up their little radio project. In another 10 years listeners will have even more media choices and I can’t wait. Wimax will be well entrenched by then. Every car will come with wireless access standard and they’ll be things we haven’t even thought of yet. Just 10 years folks or maybe less.

    I hate to say this, but someday your grand children will be asking you about mass media, 45’s, 8 tracks, CD’s, Am stereo radio and HD too. And I bet you’ll have one heck of a greasy little story to tell those little pesky tikes.

  10. Kris

    May 1, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    I just came across this blog and would like to give you folks in broadcasting another perspective. See, I was instrumental in convincing a manufacture to make an HD Radio, actually we made a few. They have all been failures in the market and have landed me in an unemployment line. While I am disappointed in the result I’m happy to have taken the risk and paid my dues.
    Now, HD Radio does have a number of technical problems that have impeded its success; like poor signal strength, putting a large noisy DSP next to a radio receiver, and the need to develop ground up radios at an engineering level that had not been done in 20+ years (which means the talent to develop it has retired, died, or moved on). But over time all of these problems have or will be overcome; yet HD is still not the promised success, Why?
    The world has changed since the 1970’s and radio is no longer the only means to get good content. Take a look at your competition and there is one factor that broadcasters have yet to realize; your solution must have compelling content and be simple for customers to understand and use. HD radio did not make this happen. The radios are difficult to use, needing bigger antennas, a clunky user interface, and a value proposition that consumers don’t understand. More channel, commercial free, great but if you want customers to move to HD, put your sports on the HD sub channel, that would sell HD radios. And that leads me to the main problem; broadcasters are not in the business of selling radios. This is the common factor that all of your competition has solved, iPods/iTunes; satellite radio, cable TV, Satellite TV, Cell Phones – they sell the content and the devices that make their content work. By doing so, they get control of the user experience and the user feedback; they get very dedicated customers; and they get control of features and pricing.
    Let’s look at the iPod; you know the first iPods were a failure selling less than a 100k units. MP3 players had been around for 7-10 years at that point, why didn’t they succeed? Because the content was difficult to get, difficult to organize, and quality was poor but there was plenty of content available. Then Apple introduced iTunes, it helped but since it was only on Apple computers it only helped a little; then came version 2 for windows which made the iPod accessible to nearly anyone and the rest is history. By the way, the average selling price for the 1st million iPods was over $300 and Apple took nearly 80% of the market share even though you could get mp3 players for $99 or less.
    Internet Radio is in the same place today, it is not easy to use but at least the content is available. I think we are in a position similar to MP3 players in the 80’s, lots of content, a few quality devices, easy access with a computer, but difficult for consumers to use in regular life. Someday, we will connect contend and devices so a common user experience can happen and simplify the process so consumers can understand Internet Radio and use it as easily as they use today’s analog FM radio. I’d like to be part of that process. Do you think broadcasters will ever change their thinking or will they let someone take this opportunity as well?


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