One evident change in radio during this year has been the realization that our business has to change if it's going to adapt, adjust, and continue to grow. Clear Channel's "Less Is More" – whether you agree with it or not – was one of the early indicators that business as usual wasn't going to get it done any longer.
But improving radio is going to take more than cutting back on spotloads or attempting to create a need for :30's over :60's. Consumers have a bigger problem with terrestrial radio that transcends clutter and commercial count. When it comes to changing and improving radio, it's easy to talk the talk. It's much more difficult to walk the walk.
That's why I draw your attention to what's happening right here in Detroit. No, not the gas guzzling SUVs, our hip-hop mayor, or the Lions, but what Greater Media is up to with all three of its big stations. Note that all three – WRIF, WCSX, and WMGC – finished in the top 10 in 25-54 adults in the spring book. So we're not talking about stations that are also-rans or weak sisters.
GM Tom Bender and CEO Peter Smyth have committed to HD Radio in a major way. Each of the three stations has launched a companion HD version – RIFF 2, WCSX Deep Trax, and More Magic. If you have an HD Radio, of course, you can tune them in. But if not, you can listen via each station's web site. Not only are all three streaming their terrestrial signals – they are also streaming these HD stations as well.
Why the investment? Because the movers and shakers in the auto industry live right here in the Motor City – in Bloomfield Hills, Grosse Pointe, and other communities in and around the Detroit Metro. The Greater Media Detroit stations are in a position to influence the corporate bigwigs right here where they live. If this initiative can convince Ford, GM, and Daimler-Chrysler that building HD radios into their vehicles is a good investment, terrestrial radio may actually be on the road toward a brighter future that combines the richness of our heritage with the dream of new technology. As Tom Bender notes, the car radio of the future should have capability to receive HD, XM, and Sirius. He likes our chances in that kind of fight, where terrestrial radio remains a free service.
Greater Media is setting a great tone here. Who's next?