A major concern with the rollout of HD Radio deals with the consumer element of the technology. Even the best technology will ultimately fail if no one wants to use it, so how is HD Radio doing? That depends on whom you ask.
Surveys continue to report various statistics on consumer awareness, interest and adoption of HD Radio. It's not surprising that as more stations adopt the technology and more marketing material is presented, that consumer awareness will rise. After awareness comes interest, and then comes acceptance.
But there is a disparity in the awareness figures that are being shown. At the NAB Radio Show, recent information from Critical Mass Media was released that showed HD Radio as having a newly discovered mass recognition among consumers. This data says that 77 percent of consumers are aware of HD Radio. The HD Digital Radio Alliance compares this to other studies, such as the Jacobs Media study conducted just a few months ago, that cite consumer awareness of HD Radio as being 46 percent.
The HD Digital Radio Alliance attributes the significant increase to better polling methods (telephone surveys instead of online polls), which has resulted in more accurate data. Curious about the results, I took my own poll to gauge consumer awareness of HD Radio. I asked people in my neighborhood, people in my office building, people in stores (with some strange looks usually) and others. I asked, “Have you heard of HD Radio?” While my sample size is fewer than 100 people, I was surprised that my results were almost evenly split 50/50. Most of those who said yes heard about it on the radio. Kansas City has about 10 stations in the metro that transmit an HD Radio signal.
Of those people who said yes, about half really had any clue what HD Radio was. This survey was about awareness, after all, not understanding. So what's the reality of consumer awareness? Frankly, it's hard to tell, but I think it's safe to say that awareness is growing, even if consumers don't understand what it is.
Source: Jacobs Media Tech Survey III, May 2007; Critical Mass Media Sept. 2007.