Plugging In HD

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HD Radio. Opinions on it are wildly varied and strongly held. Either way you look at it the format is expanding its reach extensively. Mike Snider and Chris Woodward over at USA Today share some news about the state of the new medium as it continues to evolve seeking its place in the media ecosystem.

Mr. Snider takes a look at the incredible diversity of offerings that have resulted from over 1,700 broadcasters nationwide adding HD to their traditional on air offerings. One interesting example presented is this one:

Rock music is just a portion of the playlist on Clear Channel’s experimental station eRockster, which began broadcasting online (at erockster.com) in April and as an HD channel in three cities (L.A., Philadelphia and Washington). “You’ll hear a song from the Beatles, followed by Hot Chip, and that’s followed by Charles Mingus,” says Eric Szmanda, producer and one of the station’s hosts. “All the songs from the soundtrack of our lives.”

Szmanda, who plays Greg Sanders on CBS’ CSI, came up with the online station’s concept along with Evan Harrison, head of Clear Channel’s online music and radio unit. They met more than a decade ago at record label BMG.

“Eric had a really fresh idea about how (to) approach a radio station that really doesn’t stick to a format but is rather focused on good music,” Harrison says. Szmanda says eRockster is basically “the first nationally branded HD station, as far as I know. … I find it exciting to be part of this new technology.”

Seems like a fresh approach, something we can always use more of. As stations add HD offerings to their broadcast menus we can already see and explosion of niche market sounds finding a home. From the bluegrass served up by WAMU 88.5 in Washington, D.C., to the classical music heard in Boston (89.7), Indianapolis (88.7), Grand Rapids, Michigan (105.7), and Las Vegas (88.9), an increase in variety is starting to sweep the nation.

Mr. Woodward’s piece shows us the complementary trend of HD radios in your auto dashboard as a way to access these new options:

The latest is Hyundai, which this month will offer digital radio — known as HD Radio — in a package on its new Genesis sedan. Among others, BMW already offers an HD tuner as a stand-alone option, and Volvo is going to offer HD Radio standard on most models early next year.

“Some of the automakers known for innovation are picking up on this,” says Diane Warren, executive vice president of the radio industry’s HD Radio Alliance. “The rest of the industry will follow.”

Not only that, but Mercedes-Benz will have three models out in the fall which offer HD as an option. The evolution of this aspect of radio is sure to be an interesting one both because of the sharp eyes of the media watching it, but also because it is an example of the niche market mindset of the Internet infecting its growth.

Personally, I am always thrilled by more options.

Photo courtesy of RossinaBossioB, used under its Creative Commons license

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