Airwaves: May 18, 2007
Choices continue to increase when it comes to Country music in Southern California. Not only do we have KKGO (Go-Country 105) and K-FROG (95.1) on FM; now we have classic country on
XSUR (540 AM).
540 has been simulcasting sister KKGO ever since the format moved to FM, but owner Saul Levine -- giddy over the buzz generated by his support of country music in Los Angeles -- decided that a portion of the country fan base was still not being served. And he's right. XSUR will focus on music from the 1960s and '70s from such artists as Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.
In the meantime, KKGO continues to improve its presentation and has become one of my favorite FM stations.
The top-100 radio markets in the country now have at least one HD-2 channel available for listeners to sample. That's the good news. The bad news is that most people still don't understand the benefits of Ibiquity's digital HD Radio, and thus are not necessarily interested in buying an HD radio.
HD-2 channels are the "secret stations between regular stations," as the ads on various radio stations say. A station broadcasting with HD can send one or several extra stations if they choose; most major Los Angeles stations already have at least one additional channel, and more are on the way.
So why are people not interested? Consumers just don't see a need or are not aware of HD Radio's benefits according to a Bridge Ratings study.
Of course taking the study further, why don't consumers see a need or benefit? Because they haven't been told. Outside of this column, few people really even know what HD Radio is, let alone how you receive it. And that's the fault of the same radio stations that already broadcast it.
Sure they run ads telling you that you can hear secret stations. But what are they? Did you know, for example, that there are two adult alternative stations available locally using an HD tuner? That commercial classical is still in town? That you can hear two different versions of '80s alternative rock? Unless you read this column religiously, probably not. Radio has done an amazingly bad job of promoting this new technology, and it's time to do something about it.
First, let people know what you play. You may have the best format anywhere, but few people have the radios right now so word of mouth is out. Give people a reason to buy a radio and tune in.
Give away the radios. Hundreds of them. And have demonstrations of the technology so people can hear it for themselves. AM stations especially should do this. Ball games sound great in HD, and the music on Radio Disney is of amazing fidelity. Again: give people a reason to buy and tune in.
Speaking of AM stations ... Give free or discounted HD Radios to those who forked over the money for now obsolete AM stereo radios. It's the least you can do for those who have stood by you.
Keep the extra channels interesting, and make them good. Presentation is everything. CBS? Throw some money to the Liberman's so you can "borrow" the KHJ name for an HD-2 on 93.1 to recreate 93/KHJ ... but with current music as KHJ should be, not oldies. KRTH (101.1 FM) should launch the 1950s oldies channel it has been promising for the past year. And every college campus that runs NPR should use an HD-2 to give students a station of their own.
Promote it. Program it. Make it fun. That's what will make HD Radio a success. Otherwise just forget it.
Copyright © 2007 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.
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