Friday, September 08, 2006

Selling HD Radio: Building value perception and driving early adoption

Well I ended up ranting about this again on PDXRadio. After all was said and done, it's a rant worthy of some clarification and expansion.

Checking in with HD radio means learning that early adoption is still flat-lined. People are buying them slowly, but not for any real solid reasons. Some like new toys, some need a new radio and have heard the (boring) promos, a few are checking out the "hidden stations", etc... The takeaway here is that radio still has no overall compelling value proposition that will drive HD forward. This post is the third one in an attempt to put some ideas out there I believe have the potential to change this.

Disclaimer: I feel as strongly about what you are about to read as I do about knifing the baby that is HD AM. HD FM needs to build first for there to be a pool of new radios from which HD AM might see some new listeners. Better to use AM-Stereo right now, today to capture those 15 percent of car listeners who can take advantage of the higher quality today.

IMHO, the biggest problem HD faces today is content. It has to be compelling if it is to get people to buy new radios. A secondary issue is the branding. Right now, we've got stations using their existing brand, combined with this whole HD2, HD3 mess. Additionally, those extra streams contain content that may or may not be relevant to the listener base attracted to the brand in the first place. This is stupid from a value perception standpoint. It's also a mess where managing expectations is concerned.

Let me suggest some changes then:

Brand the stations with one identity. KXXX becomes KXXX and KXXX-HD. Two streams, that's it. One is either listening to the mainstream on whatever radio or the new HD stream on an HD radio. Clean and simple. Going forward it's easy to manage expectations and add value to one brand, instead of devaluing it with other choices that do not reinforce it. Think about it for a moment. If the existing stations are so cool, why bother with the new HD ones?

One station identity, with two streams opens the door for a whole set of really new programming and presentation ideas. If there is one constant in radio, the shuffle type stations have taught us, it's that new does get some attention. Having it last is another issue involving people and another rant, but let's just take the new = attention bit and run with it for now.

Copy becomes easy and clear. Now the term HD means both new and reinforces the main station identity all in one nice and easy to understand package. We did this HD thing so existing broadcasters could maintain their existing brands and stature. If this were not the case, DAB would be playing here right now and we would be listening to CBS-4 or some goofy new thing. Why not leverage the effort then and see where it leads?

eg: "Coming up on KXXX-HD, a mini concert series that explores the history of U2", "You are listening to KXXX-HD, where the new music is always first.", "This special programming segment was first aired on KXXX-HD earlier in the week. Take a moment to listen and explore what you too can hear on an HD radio today."

Having two streams under one brand provides a vehicle for more clearly differentiating that which is new content that adds value and that which is anchor content listeners return for. Both streams reinforce the station identity and together add value and provide additional choice for existing listeners, thus you will have a higher chance at keeping them. We may also find they switch to the HD stream before tuning off to another station. That can only be a good thing right? Finally, new listeners might be attracted by the new presentation options the two stream approach brings to the table.

If you are the first station in your market to actually do this, you get to claim the high-ground forever! Promo after promo can be aired, from time to time, letting people know their favorite station was the first on the dial to bring you the best in class HD radio programming! Gentlemen, start your engines!

Radio is best done as a venue. Having the two streams gives you a venue --go use it!

Some examples of what becomes possible, with a little out of the box thinking: (If you find yourself wanting more, contact me and let's talk!)

Play special events, interviews, live in-studio band sessions, DJ hour long spins, new music, contests and other things on the secondary stream first. Promo these on the legacy stream and play some of them while taking a bit of time to let the analog only listener not only get a taste of what they are missing, but also slowly get the idea they are behind the times. Done right, this not only builds awareness for HD radio, but also builds strong value perception and the idea of "newness" at the same time. This also provides a shot at earning some revenue from the HD programming efforts, in that properly re-purposed content can attract all listeners, not just HD enabled ones.

Once the new branding begins, the legacy stream is delayed where new content is concerned.

Mini-concert multi-casts! Choose an artist that has appeal across both young and old demos. Then play to both demos at the same time, letting the listener pick and choose! Before the commercial free set begins, take a moment to plug the HD and explain what's going to happen. The beauty of this is that when somebody hears the intro for a tune they don't like, they can check out the other stream first, maintain program continuity, and check out the other selection, all before tuning to some other station!

A station here locally has a program where listeners provide contact information that is announced and tied to Internet content and offers delivered to them by the station. (Yes, I'm a KNRK Nation supporter.) So, announce these early on the HD stream and tie that to a biggie prize. Then follow up with the normal announcement and the usual prize.

live DJ chat sessions, during long sets. On the HD stream, people can choose to hear the music, or participate in the chatter / shout-outs, etc... This is a very interesting way to combine music and talk. More to explore here for sure.

Pre-concert band interviews, special tracks, etc... On the day of a concert, promoted by the station, air extra goodies on the HD stream. Band member chats, mini-concerts, etc...

Make time limited podcasts avaliable to HD listeners. Put an HD radio ad into the podcast, and allow access to it via a keyword, heard only on the HD stream. Watch as HD listeners e-mail, IM, and phone a friend to say "I heard it on HD, check this special thing out!"

Actually play requests on the HD stream, during request hour while your bland and totally researched day parts grind away. Listeners can then contribute to the research in a way that mitagates the risk associated with playing some requests. You will find your next local market signature hit that way. Promo the hell out of it on the legacy stream, once it happens.

Extended listener composed sets, with dedication or message of the day. "Here's a set from sally that speak to global warming..." "From Weyland to Marissa with "Expresso Love". This is an hour of the best trance local DJ freaky has to offer, live and in studio coming up in the next hour on the KXXX-HD.

Which is more compelling?

Additional stations between the ones already on the dial that may or may not have anything to do with one's station of choice, or more of your favorite content first on HD?

There it is. Do this, so I've actually got a reason to buy an HD radio please?

Want more?