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First Mediaworks


04/24/06 HD: Do It Now


Years ago, Chicago insurance billionaire W. Clement Stone traveled the country teaching young entrepreneurs the keys to his success. Stone, who lived until the age of 100, started out with $100, but eventually amassed $1 billion in assets. I was fortunate enough to meet him several years ago, and hear firsthand some of his advice on business.

Stone's mantra was “Do it now.” He explained that the key to his success was to set a five-year goal, then accomplish it in one year. He proved that an inventive mind could speed up any process with ingenuity and leverage.

Radio needs to embrace Stone's “Do it now” strategy for adoption of HD Radio. Consumers have everything except radio in digital form. Despite the efforts of the HD Digital Radio Alliance and the people at iBiquity, we are not converting to HD fast enough. On-air promotions touting HD Radio won't attract consumers until reasonably priced HD receivers are on the shelves in every electronics store in town. All of the aggressive promotion in the world won't matter unless HD Radio can rapidly penetrate the mass consumer market. Not in 10 years, and not five years; I'm talking two years or less.

I hear that some auto radio manufacturers are dragging their feet in committing to HD Radio. Would they be convinced if the heads of Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Entercom, Cumulus, Citadel, ABC, etc., told them face-to-face how committed they are, and demonstrated how HD Radio will rebuild consumer interest in their cars? If the car companies believe HD Radio can benefit their business, they will insist on installing digital receivers in every car within two years or less. Right now, my guess is that it's not even on their radar screen. Radio has tremendous power, which should be leveraged to get these companies on board.

Bill Burton, president/COO of the Detroit Radio Advertising Group, has access to the CEOs at all of the major car manufacturers. Why aren't we engaging Burton to open those doors to promote HD Radio? If our future is relying on HD penetration, then why aren't we offering our unsold air time to car companies that commit to HD? Let's show them we will promote car companies who commit to HD. The U.S. car companies are in trouble. Why not put the power of radio behind them in exchange for commitment on HD? Let's seduce them with the power of radio. If this is radio's most important initiative, we need to pull out the big guns.

And why aren't radio group heads meeting with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to insist that the commission mandate conversion to HD Radio as they mandated HDTV?

I applaud the efforts of everyone involved in promoting HD and converting stations. You're working hard. But as W. Clement Stone would advise: Let's turn a five-year plan into a one-year plan. If this becomes a debacle like AM stereo, radio may never be digital. There may be nothing more important on our agenda. Let's find a way to “Do It Now”.



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