Friday, April 18, 2008

"Just do what you do best." Red Auerbach

"A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment." John Wooden

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you." Woody Hayes

Today's image: oli by i m a i o. Awesome work. Thanks for sharing.

Buzz: Microsoft Albany

Congrats & cheers: Frank Comerford named prexy platform development and commercial operations for NBC Local Media. Bryon Rubin, new CFO at CBS Interactive. Edward Esposito named RTNDA chaiman, Stacey Woelfel chair-elect.

Bonus: Is Content Worthless?

Bonus 2: Lee Abrams, the IWM interview. Kudos to Patrick, well done!

As advertised, my response to the RBR article Part 2: Can HD Radio Be Saved.

Addressed previously were the "six possibly insurmountable" issues raised by our unknown typist. My proffer being none of the six are in fact insurmountable. "Make no mistake, any of those six on its own should be a deal-killer or product exterminator. But the soap opera drags on like a root canal" said the unknown provocateur. Nonsense. Innovation is a marathon not a sprint. Innovation is messy. Soap operas and root canals follow some logic, innovation begets chaos and ambiguity. Radio's migration to digital is a process not an event. Moreover, the process is iterative; to succeed sooner we need to learn how to fail faster. Dismissing the first generation of any new technology and calling it a failure has time and again proven to be wrong. As said here before first generation technology tends to suck given hindsight. One could make an equally compelling case for how much first apps suck. Contrast and compare the early days of radio, TV or MTV with today's iterations, yeah, in comparison, they totally sucked.

The "Part 2" of our unknown contributor sets forth five "suggestions on how to salvage HD Radio." They are actually six in number, numbers one and six making the same point. I commend the unknown contributor for offering suggestions.

1. Until the FCC mandates HD on every radio receiver, HD Radio will be a hobby, not a business.

Two issues here. First, a call for government intervention. Second, the notion that HD Radio is a hobby, not a business.

The latter is patently false, HD Radio is a business. A nascent business but a business nonetheless involving developers, manufacturers, retailers, and broadcast operators. My sense is there is at least one hobby related to HD Radio. A small and largely anonymous anti-HD Radio claque are engaged in a hobby of online ranting. The majority of these rants are no more than the noise of sockpuppetry (some possible astroturfing) being tyronic, invidious and inimical in nature. If you've not been exposed to these rants you're in luck. Typically the messaging is nothing more than a bashing of HD Radio technology, no alternative digital tech solutions offered. I do respect those who sign their name to arguments made against HD Radio even though I may not agree with their case or approve of their style in making it.

The call for a federal mandate as the only effective remedy would seem to suggest the political naivete of our provocateur. The marketplace has proven to be a far more effective, efficient and just arbiter. The mandate solution not only ignores the regulatory genesis of IBOC but the potential for inviting a bigger elephant into the room - surrender of spectrum. Having said that I will agree possible paths to a favorable regulatory disposition may present themselves via parential controls, involvement in the ongoing reinvention of EAS, or other family (and voter) friendly initiatives that enhance spectrum usage by some fresh leverage of next generations in the digital platform. My view is there remains one important near-term issue that merits an industry effort before regulatory and that is the need for an effective increase in the approved transmission power allowances of HD Radio.

2. Since HD is nothing more than free and extra channels...could it be that HD is nothing more than the 2008 version of sidebands?

Wrong on its face. Should HD actually be nothing more than something, my suggestion would be it is perhaps nothing more than an approach to spectrum management. The decider remains the operator and their market. Multicasting is one app not the only app. Operators are free to parse the pipe as opportunity presents.

3. Perhaps an out-of-the-box idea like the recently announced Navteg real-time traffic application will have legs...Is the brand new Electronic Program Guide idea a keeper?

Let a thousand flowers bloom. Digital spectrum affords a practically endless opportunity for app innovation. Again, the key will be failing faster to discover the killer apps sooner.

4. National shows and networks either not on the air today or broadcast on inferior signals...National or Local, listeners have to care about what's being programmed.

Good ideas. Larry Rosen of Edison Media Research, among others, has also made the suggestion that national programming deserves consideration. Agree with the unknown blogger that listeners do have to care, it was ever thus. Q.E.D.

5. The HD Dial/Display has to be fixed...we know with absolute certainty the present day nomenclature is not inituitive and non listener-friendly

The typist refers to the conventions commonly used by the "present" and first generation of appliances. It's still way early in the game. Once the marketplace smells money a rapid prototyping of new conventions and form factors will likely emerge. Take a page from the book of Jobs. There are over 150 different MP3 players on the market, the dated technology used in each is essentially identical but one version is eating an 80 plus share of market becoming the de facto standard.

In summary, my thought is the success or failure of HD Radio is in the hands of the operators. Only they can create (or purchase), broadcast and promote the content or apps that will set the fire, fan the flames of demand. Operators will need to work collaboratively with developers, manufacturers, a deep field of leading-edge vendors to bring engaging new apps to market. Concurrently, the chip sets will get better, the software and hardware will improve, the price points at CE retail will continue to fall, and the next billionaire (of Bill Gates magnitude) will solve the single biggest challenge holding back a brave new world of hand-held devices - the battery. Radio can be ready, waiting in the right place when the right time happens, or not.

Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

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