But buried in the data is another story, I think. Consider -- according to the report:
- HD Radio is only used 6% - a 3% decline from last year.
- The average age for listeners who have been a contributor for more than 11 years is 63.
- The average age for listeners who have been a contributor for less than 5 years is 50, with 19% being in the 25-34 age group (a demographic that doesn't even appear in the 11+ category).
But what to do about classical music? Everyone knows that only old people listen to classical music. They also represented the long-time (and sometimes big money) supporters of the station. But the real money -- and the younger audiences -- were in news/talk. So changes had to come.
No public radio station wants to be characterized as a culture-killer. Witness the firestorm when WETA dropped classical to go news/talk a few years ago. So rather than get rid of classical, some stations simply moved it to their HD Radio digital channel. "No, classical isn't gone. We still broadcast it, and you can listen just as before -- if you have a special HD Radio, that is."
HD Radio has enjoyed greater usage in the public radio market than the commercial broadcasting field -- but its penetration is still dismal. And (see fact 1), it's shrinking. So for a station to claim that everybody wins when classical gets shoved onto a frequency that no one can receive seems a little disingenuous. "No, we're not getting rid of it -- we're just putting it in the back of the attic where no one can easily get to it."
Fortunately, there's an upside to all this. Most stations that shift their music programming to HD2 also move it to the Internet. And online listening is an option that's growing among public radio listeners (just like the rest of the public).
The Jacobs Media survey shows the Internet to be the second-most used media for their study group (mobile phones were tops at 96%, Internet second at 91%). And over half regularly listen to content from their smartphone or MP3 player in the car. Sure, it could be podcasts (44% usage for this savvy group), or stored songs, or Pandora (only 18% usage). But there's a good chance that a significant part of it is content from the station -- and not necessarily their broadcast signal.
I have to admit that as much as I hate the programming of over-the-air WQXR (which I think is bland and boring), I love Q2 Music, which is their online-only alternative classical music service. It's innovative, it's fresh, it features living composers and unusual repertoire -- it's great! And it's online.
And I don't think they ever pretended it was available on an HD Radio channel.