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Chriss Scherer Scherer has been the editor of Radio magazine since 1997. His experience in radio includes work as chief engineer at stations in Cleveland (WMMS-FM, WHK-AM, WZJM-FM, WJMO-AM...more

Riding the HD Radio coat tails

On Nov. 28, 2008, NPR held a National Day of Listening that was highlighted by a special series that ran Nov. 22 to Nov. 28. The series, which NPR created in partnership with Story Corps, featured interviews of 10 popular NPR hosts, correspondents and commentators with their own friends and family.

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? The series was carried on NPR affiliates across the country, and the segments were also posted online. I know some listeners found it to be compelling, interesting content.

What I found strange is that I received a press release about the series under a thin HD Radio veil. The release said, “Experience the first ever National Day of Listening on National Public Radio member stations [on] November 28, broadcasting in crystal-clear sound — only with HD Radio.”

It appeared that the series was only available to listeners with HD Radio receivers. As an effort to promote HD Radio, this is an ideal way to encourage listeners to obtain receivers with the technology. But as I read more I realized that HD Radio had nothing to do with the series. I asked a PR rep from the source of the press release, and I was told:

“With NPR’s National Day of Listening, we’re highlighting some of the most compelling programming on the radio today and we’re saying that there is no better way to listen to these multigenerational stories from across the country than in crystal-clear HD Radio quality. It’s a reminder to folks of the improved sound quality of HD Radio broadcasts and the many great receivers available on the market.”

So the series has nothing to do with HD Radio. Just to be sure, I asked if the series was being offered exclusively on multicast channels, which would be another way to promote HD Radio for what HD Radio has to offer. But alas, the reply proved that wrong: “This series will be broadcast on NPR’s primary stations, not multicast stations.”

I appreciate the intent of the release. HD Radio provides a clearer sound. We know that. I think most of the respectable trade press will see through this as well. Unfortunately, some consumer media may pick this up and only confuse the issue.

There’s no need to tack HD Radio to unique content when that content is available elsewhere. Make the content exclusive to HD Radio and not a tag-along to other forms of media.

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