What do consumers know?

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Last month I provided an update on HD Radio and how retail stores were prepared to answer questions and provide receivers. The results of my field study were disappointing. Since then, I received many letters and comments, most of them agreeing with my findings that the technology has not yet made large headway into the consumer circle.

One letter suggested that I ask consumers what they know about HD Radio. So I expanded my study during my recent trips to Dallas for the NAB Radio Show, Verona, NY, for the SBE National meeting and SBE22 Broadcast and Technology Expo, and Cincinnati for a couple of days with my family. I also spoke with a coworker at another audio technology magazine within the Prism Business Media family who is based in San Francisco.

My brother subscribes to Sirius, and he's happy with it. I doubt that he will ever make the effort to purchase an HD Radio receiver unless it just happens to be in the receiver that he is buying. My coworker in San Francisco had heard of HD Radio, but she knew nothing about it. I asked hotel clerks and restaurant workers. No HD Radio here.

I asked about the HD Radio promos running in some of the markets that urge listeners to discover it. Some had heard the spots, but had no clue what it was about. Nor did they have any concept about the stations between the stations.

I attended the HD Radio update session with Bob Struble and Peter Ferrara at the NAB Radio Show, and I heard a lot of positive information about the roll-out and the upcoming plans. It is encouraging to hear that more receivers are becoming available, although many of them will not be ready for the upcoming holiday season.

I also learned about the efforts to inform retailers about the technology. What's ironic is that the two main electronics retailers that have a presence all over the country are the two that are at the bottom of the retailer roll-out: Best Buy and Circuit City. Of course, these are the two chains that I visited last month and received the disappointing response.

Next time I'll stop at Radio Shack — a retailer that is promoting HD Radio in the "Discover It" spots — and see if the phrase is "you have questions, we have HD Radio."

Not all work at the Radio Show

Steve Cropper (left) brings it home during Sweet Home Chicago with Chriss Scherer, Richard Frisch and Jon Adelstein.

I had a rare opportunity to extend beyond the all-work element of the NAB Radio Show by participating in a group of broadcast peers who share my interest in music. Gathering to perform at the Marconi Awards dinner, the Formats, as the band is known, included some of radio's top-level managers, including Bonneville International President Bruce Reese, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan, Sandusky Radio President Norman Rau, Regent Communications SVP Operations Fred Murr, Greater Media President Peter Smyth, Norm Phillips of Network Minded, South Central Communications President-Radio Craig Jacobus, Urban Radio Broadcasting President Kevin Wagner, KLIF-AM GSM Richard Frisch, RAB VP Mark Levy and others.

Besides enjoying the company of fellow broadcasters, I also had the opportunity to play with FCC Commissioner Jon Adelstein (who plays harmonica and flute) and the special guest, guitarist Steve Cropper.

I have to admit that the opportunity to play with a guitar legend and an FCC Commissioner on the same stage was one that I could not miss.

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