HD's (second) Biggest Obstacle

Written Jul. 14, 2007 by Tom Webster in HD Radio with 0 Comments

It has been over a year since I wrote The Next Ten Years: Radio's Biggest Challenge, an article that generated lots of constructive feedback, criticism and most importantly, dialogue. In that article, I articulated the Human Resources challenge radio must confront if it intends to remain a competitive venture (a challenge that was one of our primary motivations for starting 30 Under 30). I know my colleagues in business school generally hated the "soft skills" classes, gravitating instead towards Operations or Equity Analysis, but no matter how brilliant your operational strategy, it gets executed by people. Attracting, retaining, managing and compensating people is where the rubber meets the road as far as the radio industry is concerned.

I think that issue is at the heart of a point made recently by the BBC's James Cridland. Cridland points out the lack of cross promotion on US (and UK) commercial radio, and notes that program directors are incentivized on their own station's results, not the performance of their group or cluster. I have even heard myself of programmers being advised to make their HD2 channels "unlistenable" to partisans of the main terrestrial signal, which may be the only fiscally responsible position at the station level, but is hardly good for the strategic positioning of HD.

What you measure, you get--until programmers are paid based upon the performance of a given cluster or station's entire suite of offerings (and not just the 25-54 rank of their terrestrial station) they will continue to drive those ratings at the expense of HD or Internet initiatives, and with the current HR strategy of most broadcasters, they are not wrong to do so.

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