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Bryant Park Project Deemed a Failure
July 14, 2008 4:11 PM   Subscribe

"The Bryant Park Project”, NPR’s attempt to reach a younger demographic and "capture listeners who had moved online" has been cancelled
posted by The Gooch (123 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've listened to NPR daily for the last 15 years, and the only time I ever heard of this show was a 23 year old woman telling me it sucked.
posted by Science! at 4:13 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I listen to NPR every day, and I have since my mid 20s. Though I also listen to c-span radio, so maybe I'm weird.
posted by empath at 4:14 PM on July 14, 2008


Although the program is heard over the air on just five radio stations
posted by smackfu at 4:14 PM on July 14, 2008


Smackfu...it is (was) also part of the NPR offering on Sirius.
posted by The Gooch at 4:23 PM on July 14, 2008


Maybe if they hadn't given it the oh-so-precious, aren't-I-important, urbane hipster name of "The Bryant Park Project," maybe I would have heard of it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:24 PM on July 14, 2008


I made a post 10 months or so ago about a disastrous interview The Bryant Park Project did with Sigur Rós. It was early on in their run so I can only imagine that they got better.
posted by Kattullus at 4:26 PM on July 14, 2008


I've listened to NPR daily for the last 15 years, and the only time I ever heard of this show was a 23 year old woman telling me it sucked.

Me too with the NPR listening, and I've been online daily for ten years, and I'm not, you know, an old demographic exactly. The fact that even I missed this says a lot about how well it was not marketed. That, and about the fact that snarky, slack personalities are maybe not what people are after when they seek their content.

Fingers crossed that PRI's Fair Game is next.
posted by Miko at 4:30 PM on July 14, 2008


I liked it. I regularly listened to the podcast on my commute. I'll miss it.
posted by cccorlew at 4:31 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Economically, this is not a good time to try to start something new. For example, my local PBS station is filling time with the BBC World Service in the off hours, presumably because it costs them little if anything to broadcast. The shows it has kept in higher traffic hours are the ones that actually get revenue come pledge time. Compared to a decade ago, KERA is currently bare bones. Catering to a younger demographic? Where's the money in that? I would say Bryant Park's lovely ladies could just wait awhile for this lovely lady to kick the bucket and then take her timeslot, but that would be insensitive of me. Besides, I'm beginning to suspect she may outlive us all.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:34 PM on July 14, 2008


On the subject of filling PBS station time, the public TV stations carrying BBC World News may not be doing so much longer, or at least not on as many stations or at any time they choose -- WLIW, which has syndicated the Beeb newscast for 10 years, is going to start producing its own competing broadcast. (Wonder how long that'll last.)

BBC hasn't been too thrilled with how the PBS stations have deployed its newscast anyway. From Current Magazine:

Michele Grant, v.p. of news and sport at BBC Worldwide America, says the BBC has been concerned about pubTV stations playing BBC World News at a myriad of times, often when the news is up to five hours old, and was worried viewers didn’t know when and where to find the program. The final straw came, she says, when a station accidentally played the previous night’s news.
posted by blucevalo at 4:42 PM on July 14, 2008


My wife and I (early 30s) heard the BPP periodically on Sirius (oddly enough, northern Fairfield County, CT is an NPR dead zone, at least when it comes to news programming over the air). It was the morning show in place of Morning Edition, which for some reason Sirius doesn't get.

All I can say is that whenever we heard it, we were embarrassed for the hosts and producers. It was among the most stunningly inept appeals to a youthful demographic either of us can remember. Give me Morning Edition any day please!
posted by gazole at 4:45 PM on July 14, 2008


So a year or two ago some friends and I were in someone's apartment, and the stereo was on. Turned out to be playing the radio.

The general reaction was "Wow, radio still exists. Interesting to know."

Sorry, NPR.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:48 PM on July 14, 2008


Miko, you got your wish, which was mine as well:

Fair Game went off the air May 30th, and lots of you are writing in to let us know how much you miss it. We?re overwhelmed by our listeners? support and are currently looking into new ways for Fair Game to continue.

The C&P artifact "listeners? support" pleases me, because I am a petty and small-minded person.
posted by dogrose at 4:50 PM on July 14, 2008


Come to think of it though, you know what'd be cheap and practical for NPR? Jay and Jack. Now that'd be catering to a lower demographic. They're in the process of trying to expand their podcast to survive beyond Lost. If they got corporate underwriting, Jay and Jack certainly couldn't do any worse than Bryant Park, and I bet they're comparatively cheap.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:52 PM on July 14, 2008


NOOOOO!!!

They picked up my MeFi project from it's traffic from the blue when it was just a week old! So I feel like I owe them just a little bit of pity.

Not that I ever listened to it myself. I can't stand NPR.

Which is odd, as I spend all my day on Metafilter, which is the web's answer to NPR if ever I saw one.

Sometimes I guess we've gotta give thanks to the fake-boobie posts.

Where am I again?
posted by Navelgazer at 4:59 PM on July 14, 2008


NPR’s attempt to reach a younger demographic
Isn't that called "This American Life"?
posted by Airhen at 5:00 PM on July 14, 2008


"Fair Game went off the air May 30th"

I only caught Fair Game once some months ago while I was washing the dishes. That female host was so annoying, I turned off the radio in the kitchen, went to the computer and turned on Winamp. Had to play it full blast so I could hear it over the water. The kitchen's not all that close to the computer, but listening to random mp3s on my hard drive across the house was preferable over Fair Game.

I adore Terry Gross, and Linda Wertheimer will always have a special place in my heart, but whoever that Fair Game lady was? Dayam! Radio hosting is not her destiny.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:02 PM on July 14, 2008


Maybe I'm an old fogey, I haven't heard the BPP but I probably would've hated it. NPR died for me the day they let Bob Edwards go. XMPR for the win.
posted by Dreama at 5:04 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you read the BPP's FAQ, you get right away why it failed.

Sample blather:
"Our gang aims to make you feel at home, with surprising interviews and tasty segments soaked in fully carbonated NPR smarts. So pull up a chair, will ya?"

"Think of it as a combination laboratory, cocktail party, and invitation to take this outside. We'll use the blog to experiment with nifty stuff, from story ideas to multimedia wowees."

Nifty stuff? Multimedia wowees? Is this NPR or H.R. Pufnstuf?
posted by grounded at 5:07 PM on July 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


I never heard the show either, but from its description it sounded a lot like misguided youth pandering on the level of "check out our new extreme skateboarding NPR show - cowabunga dudes! Don't forget to Facebook us, bro! We're out here reading blogs and being young, just like you!"
posted by whir at 5:10 PM on July 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


On the subject of filling PBS station time, the public TV stations carrying BBC World News may not be doing so much longer...

For example, my local PBS station is filling time with the BBC World Service in the off hours...


BTW -- the BBC World News that is broadcast on American public television is different than that which is broadcast on American public radio.

Regarding the daily U.S. radio broadcast -- 'The World' -- it is a co-production of the BBC, PRI (Public Radio International) and one of Boston's public radio stations, WGBH Radio. It is coordinated/produced daily with teams in London and Boston.
posted by ericb at 5:19 PM on July 14, 2008


Miko, you got your wish

YAY, that truly does make me happy. Don't let the door hit ya, Fair Game.

What bothers me about any and all strained attempts to "win the younger demographic" is the implied assumption that the younger demographic wants something dumbed down, with a nasty and self-satisfied tone.

Meanwhile, no end of great podcasts and even great produced, syndicated radio shows lie gathering dust because overcautious producers are afraid they won't appeal to certain people. People I call "non-radio listeners." If much of that content were migrated to the airwaves, there'd be more listeners.


radio still exists. Interesting to know.

Sorry, NPR.


The audience for NPR programming has doubled in the last ten years
to 26 million weekly listeners. Since Fall 2000, the audience to NPR programming has added nearly 8 million listeners, an increase of 40 percent. In the early 1980s, about 2 million people listened to NPR. They seem to be doing all right without you.

In fact, radio remains an incredibly powerful medium in America - probably even stronger, relatively, now that the television and online audiences have splintered into fragments.
posted by Miko at 5:19 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sample blather:
"Our gang aims to make you feel at home, with surprising interviews and tasty segments soaked in fully carbonated NPR smarts. So pull up a chair, will ya?"


Wow, that actually made me say "oh god!" out loud.

Related, I'm anxiously awaiting for the cancellation of "What Do You Know" which airs every saturday at noon (on KOPB) as if to ruin my weekend.
posted by mrnutty at 5:23 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


You know what other morning experiment they could get rid of? Steve Inskeep.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:23 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oftentimes the BPP had a "forced hip" feel to it, pandering to the younger audience by way of cringe-inducing slang. And the current fill-in host Mike Pesca (one sign the show was doomed was the revolving door of hosts on a program that wasn't more than a few months old) is beyond unlistenable. But I did appreciate that the show featured stories you don't often hear on morning radio, including lengthy interviews with authors whose books I doubt I would have discovered otherwise. Specifically, I learned of and later read both Gang Leader for a Day and Atmospheric Disturbances as a direct result of hearing both authors on the show.
posted by The Gooch at 5:24 PM on July 14, 2008


Metafilter: The web's answer to NPR.

That migh be both a compliment *and* an insult...
posted by melorama at 5:25 PM on July 14, 2008


BBC's 'The World' (the daily U.S. radio broadcast) is distributed to stations nationwide, as well as available as a podcast at their website. Here's today's podcast [mp3].
posted by ericb at 5:25 PM on July 14, 2008


Gooch: "NPR’s attempt to reach a younger demographic"
AirHen: "Isn't that called "This American Life"?

Yes. Thirteen years ago. Now TAL is a part of The Establishment.

That's the problem with catering to a younger demographic. "We keep getting older, but jailbait never ages." (I forget who said that first but I don't think it was me.)
posted by ZachsMind at 5:26 PM on July 14, 2008


I know nothing about the Bryant Park Project, but I have to speak in defense of Fair Game. I enjoyed the host (Faith Salie): she had a great warm attitude which worked really well for certain interviews, and I think the eclectic combination of the show was moderately successful. I was sad to hear it had been canceled.
posted by switchsonic at 5:28 PM on July 14, 2008


Wow would NPR try to appeal specifically to teenagers? NPR is going to attract smart and interested people no matter their age.
posted by zzazazz at 5:29 PM on July 14, 2008


The audience for NPR programming has doubled in the last ten years.

In addition to NPR, there is also PRI (as mentioned above and formerly known as 'American Public Radio').

"PRI affiliate stations reach over 29 million listeners weekly, and its programming is heard by 11 million listeners each week."*

PRI and NPR
"Public Radio International and National Public Radio (NPR) are the two major public radio networks. Individual public radio stations can be affiliates of PRI and members of NPR, selecting programming offered by each. The phrase 'public radio' is a generic term, while 'Public Radio International' and 'National Public Radio' refer to each individual network."
posted by ericb at 5:31 PM on July 14, 2008


My wife always told me about stuff she heard on that show. It was always stuff that I had heard about already, and it dawned on me: they were just reading Metafilter over the air.

She'll miss them, but I don't have to.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:36 PM on July 14, 2008


Related, I'm anxiously awaiting for the cancellation of "What Do You Know" which airs every saturday at noon (on KOPB) as if to ruin my weekend.

OK, them's fighting words. Michael is my man! You wanna take this outside?

If I'm not there in five minutes, start without me.
posted by lodurr at 5:37 PM on July 14, 2008


Gooch: "Oftentimes the BPP had a "forced hip" feel to it..."

Actually in hindsight I think at least part of what made TAL so successful was the fact it went in the opposite direction. Ira Glass knew he wasn't "hip" and didn't pretend to be. He just wanted to tell people stories that would entertain and enlighten. Simple. He didn't try to be something he wasn't. TAL has prospered because it focuses on being good at what it is.

Is that zen?
posted by ZachsMind at 5:46 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


SwitchSonic: "I have to speak in defense of Fair Game..."

And you are well within your right. I have to speak in offense of Fair Game, and in particular its hostess. She had two ways of approaching the microphone. She was either insensitively talking down to the listener, or she was precociously intonating that present company excepted and whatever she was talking about "they" wouldn't get; "they" being "those people not listening to how cool we are." This works in stand up comedy. This works in delivering insipid sitcom dialogue. This works in high school. This may have worked twenty five years ago on top forty morning radio. Ron Chapman was notoriously adept at talking to his audience in that manner. He made a forty-five year career out of it.

This doesn't work on NPR.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:14 PM on July 14, 2008


When I saw the headline in the NY Times that Public Radio was cancelling a morning experiment, I was positive I'd be reading about the demise of PRI's The Takeaway with Adaora Udoji and John Hockenberry.

I do support nurturing a new show, and giving it time to get its legs (or ears or mouths or whatever) but still, I cringe at least once a morning listening to the banter on that show. I hope it gets better.

On the other hand, I really liked Fair Game with Faith Salie - she was pretty funny and had a good radio presence. Sad to hear it's off the air.

Overall though, I'm still in shock that the greatest radio artist out there, Joe Frank, was let go from his last home on NPR.
posted by extrabox at 6:20 PM on July 14, 2008


Actually in hindsight I think at least part of what made TAL so successful was the fact it went in the opposite direction. Ira Glass knew he wasn't "hip" and didn't pretend to be. He just wanted to tell people stories that would

That's kind of what I meant: Smart people of any age will listen to/read smart shows/newspapers/blogs. I can't find it now, but back when The Chicago Tribune launched Red Eye, a Trib columnist went around to see what the kids were reading in coffee shops, and it turned out that they all wanted to read The New York Times, not a "youth" newspaper. (Of course, I hear that Red Eye makes money hand over fist, so...)
posted by Airhen at 6:23 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Before the article in the Times, I had never heard of "Bryant Park" and I listen to NPR every single day, including the weekends. When was it on? 5 am? Midnight? I'd never even heard an announcer plug it.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:24 PM on July 14, 2008


More stations picking up "The Sound of Young America" would help NPR appeal to the younger demographic methinks.
posted by drezdn at 6:30 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I listen to NPR (in NYC) every morning. Never heard of it. But as soon as I saw that Twitter section, I'm glad it's going away.
posted by Zambrano at 6:34 PM on July 14, 2008


Funny, I'm 22 and just added NPR to my car's presets this afternoon after forgetting my ipod at home.

I would say that the current NPR is relevant to anyone of voting age. They don't need to interview the hot new indie bands or cover internet fads.
posted by clearly at 6:35 PM on July 14, 2008


Never heard of the Bryant Park Project, but I kinda liked Fair Game. And I was very, very surprised to find out that Faith Salie is every bit as adorable as her voice sounds (since the subject of NPR voices often comes up on MeFi).
posted by Brainy at 6:48 PM on July 14, 2008


Aw. I liked it.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:57 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


CompuTech_ApolloniaJames: "Before the article in the Times, I had never heard of 'Bryant Park' and I listen to NPR every single day, including the weekends. When was it on? 5 am? Midnight? I'd never even heard an announcer plug it."

You never heard it because less than a dozen stations ever carried it. Syndicated radio shows have to be 'purchased' by affiliates. That takes revenue, which small affiliates rarely have in any abundance that hasn't already been spent by the programming they're already trying to keep. Local affiliates can't afford to gamble on many new things unless they're relatively sure their local audience will give it a try.

Things that interest an affiliate include consistency and longevity. Does the show deliver what it promises to deliver every episode and has it done so for awhile? Car Talk was not the success it is overnight. It took ten years for the show to be picked up by NPR. Ten years of consistency. On that, an affiliate will gamble. Bryant Park was inconsistent, with no regular on air staff (people leaving on maternity leave or 'for personal reasons'), and didn't have even a year to prove itself before it went belly up.

When you go to the BPP website, there's a place where listeners are voicing their displeasure, and it didn't take me long to find a fan of BPP who's also a fan of Firefly. The comparison is to me laughable, but Joss Whedon's past failure with FOX does mirror BPP's problem in one important respect: money.

Joss Whedon's Firefly could have been kept alive by FOX for a couple years, provided it didn't cost so much to make each episode. The gamble wasn't cost effective, so FOX cashed in their chips. In the stock market game that's called selling at a loss. Had they held on a couple years, Firefly would have eventually found its audience and made up for its loss of revenue, but FOX couldn't wait two or three years for Firefly to pay off in terms of ad revenue, so they cut their losses.

You can be a ratings flop for ten years if you're Car Talk. The overhead for that show in the early years was no doubt negligible. It consists two brothers laughing into a microphone about a topic they already knew. We're also talking radio. Ten years is an occasional luxury in local radio, and in terms of Car Talk, it's paid off immensely, but that's cuz of the low overhead. For the first ten years, the boys at Car Talk were probably doing it more out of love than out of greed. That's probably still why they do it, although I imagine their greed is satiated now.

The Bryant Park Project cost TWO MILLION DOLLARS to make LESS than one years' worth of shows. For radio, that's insane! This American Life's first year budget was about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars: a little more than one tenth what the BPP people spent. Granted, that was thirteen years ago. The cost of living has gone up, but not by a factor of ten.

BPP didn't get suffocated before it could fluorish; this is a mercy killing. It cost too much and didn't deliver the goods. Pay your respects to it and let it die with some dignity.

.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:01 PM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


I would like anyone reading at NPR to know that I will gladly come on the radio and run my mouth all morning for like fifty bucks.
posted by The Straightener at 7:02 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Once again, the hate is astonishingly thick in here. I should stop being surprised by the vaguely aimed nastiness in MeFi comments, but it's tough to get used to. Especially when it's a story about folks you know are working hard to make public media serve the public better losing their jobs.

I'm a public radio host/producer (thanks for the plug, drezdn), and I knew (a little) the BPP folks. Interim host Mike Pesca is even my friend. A few clarifications:

NPR produces and distributes shows, they don't control stations. So your local station makes its own calls for programming. The premise of BPP (and "The Takeaway," which is a joint production of Public Radio International, the New York Times, the BBC and several stations) was that they would replace Morning Edition in markets where Morning edition was running concurrently on two stations. LA, for example, has KPCC and KCRW both carrying Morning Edition at the same time, despite covering mostly the same area. It would also run on HD stations and on the internet.

They had a lot of success on the internet, actually. Their podcast did very good numbers, much better than my show (or Fair Game, if I'm not mistaken). But stations are stubborn, and didn't pick up the show. Underwriters ("Support for this show is provided by...") cover only a modest portion of a show's production costs in most cases. Mostly it's station revenues that pay for a show. So without station pickups... and with a $2mil/yr budget... they shut down.

I know in my case, even with my show on WNYC in New York, WHYY in Philadelphia, and a number of other stations, I only make about five or ten grand a year from stations. Metafilter is my underwriter (thanks Matt!), but without direct support from online listeners (which NPR and PRI can't really do), I wouldn't eat. And my budget covers me and a guy who edits some of my shows partly as a favor to me. Oh... and a room in my apartment which I call a "studio." But NPR-style news costs a LOT of money to produce. You have to pay someone to work for a week to get 2 minutes of airtime filled. That gets expensive fast.

The question in my mind is this: is there room for new programming in public radio? As a guy shopping a new program to stations, it sure feels like the answer is no. Stations don't care if their average listener age is 55+ (yes, sometimes it's even more than 55). Old people die and leave $200 million bequests.

I listen to public radio too, but you can simply look at the numbers and know that the content, tone and style are borderline hostile to people outside of a very narrow demographic strip. I'm glad some of you are proud to be in that group, but that doesn't excuse public radio from serving people outside of it. That certainly includes young people, but it also includes people who simply have different cultural perspectives, whether it's because of age, geography, race, whatever.

Were they too precious? Maybe, I dunno. But I met the people who ran BPP, and while maybe my perceptions were colored by the fact that they told me they liked my show, they all seemed like very smart, sincere people. Not craven youth marketing types on skateboards with helmets and elbow pads and XXXtreme Radio Storiez.

So what this represents to me isn't the cancellation of one show. It's a little bit of hope about people trying new things in public media going *poof*. Seriously, if we can't even get a new perspective on the air in places where *two stations are playing the SAME show at the SAME time... I dunno. It makes me wonder whether I should just give up the dream of being a public radio guy I've been working on for the last ten years.

Also: Mike Pesca is the greatest.
posted by YoungAmerican at 7:17 PM on July 14, 2008 [15 favorites]


I've been listening to podcasts of this show on my commute for several months and will miss it. It was an enjoyable counterbalance to the BBC's Global News. I first heard about it through one of NPR's "compilation" podcasts which consists of clips from different programs. Perhaps it was the "food" podcast? The upbeat atmosphere stood out from the typical NPR monotone.

Like others have said above, there were good points and bad points. The just general forced feel of a few of the segments ("Make Me Care" in particular) and a lot of the segues in between made me cringe. I did however appreciate the irreverant tone, the occasional inclusion of various indie bands complete with in-studio performances, and topics that otherwise wouldn't have made it into such a "mainstream" forum. I was also hoping Mike Pesca would mature into someone more listenable after he became the sole host.

As a longtime contributing listener of NPR, I guess I'll have to rummage through the NPR news listings until they decide to make Morning Edition available in podcast form.

I would also like to go on the record as saying I've never been able to stomach This American Life.
posted by jarsyl at 7:18 PM on July 14, 2008


For the first ten years, the boys at Car Talk were probably doing it more out of love than out of greed. That's probably still why they do it, although I imagine their greed is satiated now.

I read an interview with them in which one of them was talking about how some group wanted to get them to show up for a speaking engagement. After saying "no" several times ("because it would be too much like work") the group offered them some ridiculous speaking fee for 90 minutes on stage and their response was, something like, "well, you're stupid to offer that much and we don't work for idiots." Evidently, they turned down several more profitable offers to leave NPR because it would have required more work and time on the road.

I must admit, I feel a bit old because I listen to public radio, but I was spoiled by WFHB and I can't listen to radio that treats me like an idiot with shock jocks and the same 100-song shallow playlist.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:20 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Bryant Park Project cost TWO MILLION DOLLARS to make LESS than one years' worth of shows. For radio, that's insane! This American Life's first year budget was about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars: a little more than one tenth what the BPP people spent. Granted, that was thirteen years ago. The cost of living has gone up, but not by a factor of ten.

This American Life was making one hour a week of radio, and BPP is making 10 per week.

And I don't know what TAL's overall budget is (nor do I begrudge them ANY of it), but I know they get over two million a year from underwriting alone. Plus station money.

Your general theme, that it is difficult to start up a complicated and expensive radio show, is correct. Your suggestion that BPP was expensive (considering what it was doing), I disagree with.
posted by YoungAmerican at 7:23 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Gooch: "NPR’s attempt to reach a younger demographic"
AirHen: "Isn't that called "This American Life"?

Yes. Thirteen years ago. Now TAL is a part of The Establishment.

That's the problem with catering to a younger demographic. "We keep getting older, but jailbait never ages." (I forget who said that first but I don't think it was me.)
posted by ZachsMind at 5:26 PM on July 14 [+] [!]


That's how forward-thinking your local public radio station is. It's only been 12 years since they ignored This American Life for two years before grudgingly picking it up... and they're already considering another new show!

Oh wait. Nevermind. They're not considering any new shows.
posted by YoungAmerican at 7:27 PM on July 14, 2008


I know in my case, even with my show on WNYC in New York, WHYY in Philadelphia, and a number of other stations, I only make about five or ten grand a year from stations. Metafilter is my underwriter (thanks Matt!), but without direct support from online listeners (which NPR and PRI can't really do), I wouldn't eat.

I was driving home last Friday night and tuned to WHYY just in time to hear a woman say "Ask dot Metafilter dot com," that was freaky. Must have been the sign off for your show because it went right into something else.
posted by The Straightener at 7:30 PM on July 14, 2008


Yup, the Straightener. 8-9 PM Fridays on WHYY if I'm not mistaken.
posted by YoungAmerican at 7:33 PM on July 14, 2008


Their podcast did very good numbers, much better than my show (or Fair Game, if I'm not mistaken)

Although public radio can even make you feel bad about downloading their podcasts... have you heard the whining on the TAL one? It's ridiculous.
posted by smackfu at 7:37 PM on July 14, 2008


Although public radio can even make you feel bad about downloading their podcasts... have you heard the whining on the TAL one? It's ridiculous.

It's almost as though This American Life costs millions of dollars every year to produce, and the podcast is circumventing their primary funding source, local stations.

God forbid someone should ask you to donate five or ten bucks for one of the five best programs in broadcasting. They weren't even looking for money to pay for their production costs... they were just trying to cover bandwidth!
posted by YoungAmerican at 7:40 PM on July 14, 2008


I'll add this: if public radio is making you feel bad by asking for money, here's a quick tip that will make you feel the opposite way: support the programming you enjoy by donating. It's the easy way to turn that frown upside down!

And this whole time you thought you could only feel good if you were getting over on somebody!
posted by YoungAmerican at 7:42 PM on July 14, 2008


Can I just squeeze in this and express some love for NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell me? Screw everything else, Monday mornings are _hard_ without a WWDTM fix.
posted by the cydonian at 7:46 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


In other news, NPR's "All Things Considered" is using music from my youth such as New Order's "Age of Consent" as bumper music between news stories. I know they're trying to reach out to my demographic, but it just makes me feel a little old.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:57 PM on July 14, 2008


I appreciate all the hardwork (and money) that goes into making NPR programming. I love NPR and have been listening to it for 3-4 years now...However, I will say that as a young person (25) Fair Game literally offended me (I never got the chance to hear BPP). The way in which it treated young people as Hannah Montanna-Facebook-Twitter- zombies truly made me sad, and listening to it actively pained me.

I will echo what some people above said: shows that appeal to young people are smart interesting shows, that should appeal to people of any age (I like Radiolab, for instance). Im grateful for the great programming NPR provides, and would like them to keep trying new things, so at least theres that.

Also, lay off KERA its what got me interested in NPR in the first place, and has some great local programming (RIP Glenn Mitchell).
posted by rosswald at 8:01 PM on July 14, 2008


What can I say, ZachsMind? I never got that from her. From my perspective,she simply didn't take herself too seriously. Obviously I'd never want a show like that to overshadow the many other fantastic mainstays on NPR. But sometimes, late at night, when you're just not in the mood for more On Point podcasts, it wasn't a bad change of pace.

On a totally different note, a question for you, ZachsMind, since you do seem to know a lot about it; you talk about the high prices of Firefly or Bryant Park Project as a factor in its cancellation. For Bryant Park Project I get it, as a small-distribution program l see how modest prices could can the show. But for a national network, is price really that important? I would think that the opportunity cost of the airtime is worth much more than a couple million. Firefly couldn't have been that expensive.

A wistful . for Firefly as well
posted by switchsonic at 8:06 PM on July 14, 2008


I pitched in some money to TAL, but then again, I really wanted that CD of the credit crisis episode to share with my extended family. And it's a podcast, you can skip forward 30 seconds.

I never knew BPP existed, but honestly, I feel a bit underwhelmed by the Georgia Public Broadcasting system compared to other networks.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:14 PM on July 14, 2008


I run a podcast and have made a few unsuccessful efforts to get it distributed on NPR stations. I know that a number of young people listen to my program, but I suspect that the difference between me and, say, the Bryant Park Project is that while I will talk with debut novelists and young people, I've also conducted interviews with the likes of Cynthia Ozick, Mark Kurlansky, and John Updike. Ultimately, it's the approach and character that sells a show, not necessarily the demographic. And I have listeners of all ages who've emailed me. Nevertheless, I've been told by one program director that I was "too smart" for their station. And I think that NPR misunderstands that "younger demographic" actually translates into "informal" (much like The Sound of Young America's solid interviews do) as opposed to snark for the sake of snark's sake (and indeed ignorance about the subjects) -- the kind of misguided effort that made the Sigor Ros interview linked above such a journalistic disaster. I respect the intelligence not only of my audience, but also of the guests who take the time out of their hectic schedules to sit down and talk with me. It's a waste of time to talk with any guest without being fully acquainted with the guest's work. Not even Terry Gross reads books for her interviews. (I do.) In her words, she skims them.

And I'll tell you this much. If I received even $5-10K a year (as Jesse does), I sure as hell wouldn't be complaining about it. And it would certainly help me in ways that you couldn't possibly know. I keep the program running largely through my freelancing income, which isn't much. But I do mange to get by. And I hope to keep on doing this as long as I can. Each podcast involves about twenty to thirty hours of my life. And I rarely get a cent for any of this. If NPR were to come to me, telling me that they could pay me $60K a year to do a weekly show for them (as opposed to the $2 million that BPP went through), well then I suspect we might come to some arrangement.

Aside from one pledge drive for a few hundred dollars and an unobtrusive donation button, I've never asked for money. And I only conducted the pledge drive because it meant that I wasn't going to interview a few authors who I thought were important to American literature. And it was the difference between temp work and conducting these interviews. To my great shock and gratitude, the listeners came through.

I'm doing my best to restore journalism and interviewing back to its glory days. I ask questions that others don't ask. I'm not afraid to probe. And I'm hardly the best guy doing this. But as someone shockingly informed me, I have more authors on my show each month than Morning Edition. And I'm just one guy. As I write these words, I'm trying to conduct as many interviews as I can in July, because I don't know if I'll have to do a few weeks of temp work next month to meet the rent and I want to ensure that I conduct as many interviews as I can. But we'll see what happens. This is the freelancer's predicament. And it doesn't get any easier with newspapers firing editorial people and hacking away at page counts. I know that author interviewing opportunities are often scarce. And this is a great injustice to our cultural landscape. But there's only a few people I know, such as Jesse, Rick Kleffel, and Michael Silverblatt, who are doing this -- often at great financial sacrifice. I try on a regular basis to balance bigger authors with small press authors. It's often a thankless task.

But I also realize that my ability to do this is truly a privilege. Yeah, it's hard to stick at this as a freelancer. And perhaps I haven't tried hard enough on the NPR front. Perhaps they'll never have me. But I do know that authors who aren't even covered by the New York Times Book Review are read because of my podcasts. I do know that my apparently intelligent interviews help people during their hellish commutes. And while keeping this podcast going is extremely difficult at times, I don't believe that the world owes me a living. It would certainly be nice if I could be paid some livable wage for this. But the terrible reality is that lively cultural radio is becoming an endangered species in America. So I mourn Bryant Park's loss, but I understand why it was canned. It tried to calculate what the audience was, rather than having the good grace to permit the audience to come to them. The problem isn't one of demographic. It's radio in general. It's trying to keep things lively and intelligent without falling into the soporific boilerplate.

I don't know how long it can go on. But I'm doing the best that I can.
posted by ed at 8:23 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


God forbid someone should ask you to donate five or ten bucks for one of the five best programs in broadcasting. They weren't even looking for money to pay for their production costs... they were just trying to cover bandwidth!

You're trolling, right?


the cydonian: Peter Sagal IS MY GOD!!!
posted by dogrose at 8:26 PM on July 14, 2008


NPR misunderstands that "younger demographic" actually translates into "informal" (much like The Sound of Young America's solid interviews do) as opposed to snark for the sake of snark's sake

This sums up my feelings on the matter precisely. I certainly don't begrudge BPP for the attempt to try something new, but I feel like somewhere at NPR, somebody in charge of programming feels that "young viewer = bubble-headed illiterate with no attention span." I'm not saying that that's what BPP was all about -- as I said, I never heard it -- but that's certainly the way it came across in its marketing and in news articles I read about it, and I really have a tough time enjoying media when I feel that it's talking down to me.

(I'd also like to take this opportunity to plug YoungAmerican's show, which is extremely good, and which is exactly the sort of smart but pop-culture minded show that NPR should be developing if it really is interested in cultivating the younger set.)
posted by whir at 8:44 PM on July 14, 2008


It's almost as though This American Life costs millions of dollars every year to produce, and the podcast is circumventing their primary funding source, local stations.

I skip over ads on TV with Tivo too. I'm EVIL.
posted by smackfu at 8:48 PM on July 14, 2008


Not completely evil though... I did buy a bunch of TAL back episodes on iTunes though. Hopefully they get a decent amount of that money. It's a lot more worthwhile to me than any of their other "gifts" for donating. Also, you wonder how much of their bandwidth bill is just people who signed up for the podcast on iTunes and never listen to the stuff, and it just downloads every week and then ages off in a while. How sad would that be?
posted by smackfu at 8:54 PM on July 14, 2008


The premise of BPP (and "The Takeaway," which is a joint production of Public Radio International, the New York Times, the BBC and several stations) was that they would replace Morning Edition in markets where Morning edition was running concurrently on two stations. LA, for example, has KPCC and KCRW both carrying Morning Edition at the same time, despite covering mostly the same area.

In retrospect, though, this was a really silly idea. Take the Seattle area -- ME is on two stations, KUOW and KPLU. But not only are their demographics different (KUOW being all NPR and news, KPLU playing jazz when it's not running ATC or ME), their coverage areas are different, even if they overlap over the heart of Seattle.

So, which one runs BPP? The jazz station is clearly for the older folk who want to listen to Monk and Coltrane and Davis, so they're out. But KUOW is rumored to have such a large audience that it would be top 3 in the Arbitron ratings if they included non-profits.

KUOW's solution was to run BPP on its "new" second station, KXOT. At 5am. KXOT, unfortunately, is such a small station that you can't pick it up clearly in the U District... where KUOW is located. So, you're broadcasting a show aimed for youth from 5-7am weekdays on a station that can barely be heard in one of the largest "youth" neighborhoods in Seattle.

Oh, but wait, KUOW says. It's on KUOW-HD! If you have an HD radio, you can pick it up!

Except... who has an HD radio?

I alluded to this KXOT fiasco when I interviewed Jesse last year. And I know for him just getting four weeks on the secondary channel of one of the largest NPR stations in America was a huge deal, but it seems a little disappointing to me when they're trying out something "new" in the most inauspicious way like this.

I'm starting to believe that radio is dying, precisely because no one takes these risks anymore. NPR's "new" stuff of late, Day To Day and Weekend America, are just causal chat show versions of Morning Edition and ATC. Heck, look at Rush Limbaugh's huge new deal. He's getting that kind of money because advertisers see him as the surest thing in radio. 20M Dittoheads can't be wrong, right?

Meanwhile, you look around at what's on podcasts right now, from Jesse's brilliant show to the hilarious and filthy non-sequitur of You Look Nice Today to the peculiarly British The Bugle. Or the umpteen music podcasts out there. Or all the people in their houses with their Macs and a microphone fulfilling their personal dreams to be Ira Glass, or Casey Kasem, or (heaven forbid) the next Rush. The fact the BPP was successful in podcast form should say something about its ability to reach youth. But NPR doesn't seem to get podcasts, not when iit still can't release its signature products (ME and ATC) in podcast form.

Radio is dying, not because it's old. And like a bunch of blue hairs eating at Luby's every day at 4:30, it is completely happy with sameness and blandness.
posted by dw at 9:07 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Arrgh.

Radio is dying, because it's old.
posted by dw at 9:08 PM on July 14, 2008


Isn't NPR forced to be conservative, when their core audience would revolt if they messed with the drive-time programs (ME and ATC)?
posted by smackfu at 9:14 PM on July 14, 2008


Let me just say from an insider's perspective that the people who made Fair Game and especially BPP were really, really fighting the good fight. That they failed is going to close a lot of doors. The shows may not have been perfect... but they were really slogging through the jungle.
posted by YoungAmerican at 9:57 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know what other morning experiment they could get rid of? Steve Inskeep.

When NPR announced that they were replacing Bob Edwards, I was disappointed, but I think Steve Inskeep and Renée Montagne do a much better program than Edwards did.

I like The World better than any program produced by NPR, though.
posted by lukemeister at 10:15 PM on July 14, 2008


... although Wait Wait is almost as good.
posted by lukemeister at 10:17 PM on July 14, 2008


the people who made Fair Game and especially BPP were really, really fighting the good fight.

I love your work, and wish I could agree with you, but in my book the "good fight" is not accepting the pigeonholing of young people as an indifferent, irreverent, short-attention-span, shallow demographic that needs its own program format featuring hosts who really don't have a strong intellectual command of contemporary culture beyond their own life experience and what seems to be cool right now.

I'm the biggest fan imaginable of creative and groundbreaking radio; I work with a local LPFM and scour PRX for great independently produced programming. All day at work I download weird new stuff to listen to from small-timey podcasts. These programs really weren't it; they were a pale imitation of what information hounds are looking for on the airwaves, the types of things greenlighted and structured by older folks who want to feel they have some understanding of what's hip, but don't have the courage of their convictions about what great radio really is. Young America really is great radio. Humility, the ability to back out of the focus and shed the light on your subject, the understanding of what compelling audio sounds like - that's great radio, and it's never changed. The fear of the old guard that there's some new aesthetic they haven't caught on to is a detriment in nearly every field - web design, instructional design, print media - and, I think, radio too.

The folks behind these shows may have been fighting the good fight indeed. I don't know enough about the specifics of proposal, oversight, and production to know where things went wrong. But they did go wrong. They didn't find their market, and when they did hit their demographic, they seem to have won it and alienated it in equal numbers. I'd say it's a simple problem: one of tone. It's time to move on from the idea that young people are always and inevitably irreverent, judgmental, and shallow.
posted by Miko at 10:30 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Good riddance. I get my NPR via podcast where I am, and for a while I would absolutely cringe when I started listening to the compilation podcasts they put out, dreading the moment when I would hear some snippet from that awful show.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 12:47 AM on July 15, 2008


YoungAmerican: "Let me just say from an insider's perspective that the people who made Fair Game and especially BPP were really, really fighting the good fight. That they failed is going to close a lot of doors. The shows may not have been perfect... but they were really slogging through the jungle."

Sometimes there's a reason why they call it the path less travelled. People went there. They came back. It wasn't worth going there again. Besides, too many people slogging through the jungle, that's what's diminishing the rain forests. Leave the jungle alone.

What good fight could Fair Game have possibly been fighting? And why would I have wanted it to win?

How could BPP's failure close doors? It should open new opportunities. Money that would have been spent there will go somewhere else.

Others will get a chance to prove themselves and take a stand. Hopefully they will have more to say and more to offer than either Fair Game or Bryant Park Project did.

This isn't necessarily like when television networks cancelled good programming in favor of reality television solely cuz it was cheaper to produce despite it's comparatively crappy quality.

With regards to the future of radio in light of this decision, the glass is half full. What the future fills the rest of the glass with might be trash and it might be treasure, but there's two things we now know it won't be. I think that's a step in the right direction.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:23 AM on July 15, 2008


the luke parker fiasco: Good riddance.

Heh, the first time I noticed the username The Luke Parker Fiasco, I thought that it was some sort of reference to The Bryant Park Project. Admittedly this was mostly because I couldn't remember it's name ("something park project" was as close as I got but I remembered that the host guy was called Luke).

Well, I don't think that anymore.
posted by Kattullus at 5:06 AM on July 15, 2008


I've tried to get into NPR. Can't do it. My girlfriend seems to like it, though. I can't understand the appeal of listening in on someone else's conversation (can't stand ANY kind of talk radio, including sports, so don't feel bad, NPR nerds). But then, I'm also not the kind of person who sits in coffee shops on a laptop (or with a Moleskine!) and just listens to other folks' conversation (people-watching).

Garrison Keillor? Sucks. One or two funny lines that are only kinda funny, in a one "ha" way ('everyone is above average').
This American Life? Self-absorption central. No wonder it flies so well with the MeFi crowd. Whiny folks with nasal voices doing the audio equivalent of filming a plastic bag a la American Beauty.
Car Talk? Good guys, and fairly smart, but are they ever hahd to listen to. Not just the Cambridge accent. Have you ever met a group of folks who are so insular and well-established internally that it's hard to get integrated? They give you that kind of "we have enough friends, thanks" vibe? "Hey, let's try going to this new bar." "No, we've always gone to the Stone Pony, and we always will. End of conversation." These guys are kinda like that. They've got a routine, and it's the same thing over and over.
Michio Kaku's show (forgot what it's called)? Would be interesting science talk if it weren't all politicized. Which is fine if that's what you're looking for; all of NPR's content seems political these days. But I came to the show interested in science, not the politics of science. It's like signing up for a physics major and learning all your courses are about science policy analysis. "When do we get to smash the atoms?" "After we look at the last 40 years of tort reform." Yes, I realize real scientists spend most of their time dealing with this bullshit in their quest for funding, but that's why I go to the radio. To get away from the shittier aspects of the job and just to talk about straight science.

If I want to be informed, I'll read. When I listen (passively), I want to be entertained. Fill me with wonder. Don't bore me with details. Details are great, but you can't possibly compete on that point with printed matter. TAL tries (to be fair), but you can't really expect me to wonder at the history of the coupon.

I know there are people who like NPR (and they all seem to be on MetaFilter), but I can't stomach it. It's like coffee. That shit is disgusting; I don't care what anyone says. Yet billions of people suck it down every day. I guess when they started it just seemed like the thing to do (hey, I want to seem smart and cultured; better listen to NPR), and now they've "acquired a taste."

Though there are probably few folks who were fed coffee by their parents; unlike NPR. Growing up in an NPR household seems like a terrible crime. Kids should be out playing around, having fun. I imagine these households to be... fairly "starchy." The children are told to sit and listen, not to touch anything, and occasionally the parents dust them off. I know it's not like that, but you've got to understand (since you've all drunk the Kool-Aid and can't remember pre-koolaid days) what the heck it looks like from the outside. Dust yourself off, NPR listeners. Go have some fun that doesn't involve sitting and listening quietly. Engage in a dialogue! (or is that why you all flock to MeFi?)

One thing that would make me interested in Public Radio again is serialized entertainment. Public television has all sorts of fictional content, why does the radio have to be so serious? And I don't mean reenactments of old serials. There are lots of talented writers out there; we should totally have folks out there who are pushing the boundary of the medium.

Whatever. Unpopular opinion, hostile tone. I know what I wrote. I'd don my flameproof suit, but I rather expect my comment (and concerns) will be largely ignored, because it's "not proper." It's just my awkward attempt to reach across to the other side. Educate me, NPR snobs!
posted by Eideteker at 6:38 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you don't like the programs that's fine but I don't see why you need to be so insulting.
posted by smackfu at 6:42 AM on July 15, 2008


"I'm starting to believe that radio is dying, precisely because no one takes these risks anymore... And like a bunch of blue hairs eating at Luby's every day at 4:30, it is completely happy with sameness and blandness."

Yes, yes, yes again. Shake things up a bit, NPR. Get a bit dirty. Are you telling me the stodgy and staid cardigan crowd and the guys who wear loafers and khaki shorts wouldn't go ape for a nice, twisty noir serial? It doesn't have to be all ray guns and space aliens. Give us quality drama, compelling action, thought-provoking dialogue.
posted by Eideteker at 6:44 AM on July 15, 2008


"I don't see why you need to be so insulting."

Lo siento. As I said, my girlfriend listens to NPR, so I don't really hate NPR listeners, and I realize they're real people with real feelings (that aren't always repressed!).

But hey, when you get tired of people foisting their NPR attitudes on you ("You really should listen..." "You mean you don't listen..."), you tend to foist yours in return occasionally. It's liberating.
posted by Eideteker at 6:50 AM on July 15, 2008


We have a Pacifica affiliate in our city. Suck on your NPR, heathens!

I also like NPR and shuttle back and forth.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:15 AM on July 15, 2008


What good fight could Fair Game have possibly been fighting? And why would I have wanted it to win?

How could BPP's failure close doors? It should open new opportunities. Money that would have been spent there will go somewhere else.


To be frank, that's just not how it works.

Fair Game had live music from fantastic bands who otherwise never would have been heard on public radio. Fair Game interviewed people who I personally really admire, like Luis Guzman and Jack Handey and Michael Ian Black, who never would have been heard on public radio. Fair Game suggested that maybe it was OK to be both funny and informative.

I think it's entirely reasonable to quibble with the quality of these shows. It's really hard to do something entirely new and get it completely right right out of the box. And certainly there are lots of folks at stations and at the networks who didn't get it and contributed to a climate of vaguely patronizing marketing. But the people who worked on these shows were trying to carve out a whole new space.

Here's what happened: stations didn't pick up the shows, and now shows like this won't get made in the future. It doesn't free up money any more than Firefly flopping made FOX want to make more expensive sci-fi westerns.

I own my show and produce it from my house, so it can't get cancelled. But I did get dropped last week by one of the few stations who've picked it up. My show was picked up by PRI in a climate of trying things to expand public radio's reach to younger audiences. All of a sudden... it looks like that's not a priority anymore.
posted by YoungAmerican at 7:31 AM on July 15, 2008


I alluded to this KXOT fiasco when I interviewed Jesse last year. And I know for him just getting four weeks on the secondary channel of one of the largest NPR stations in America was a huge deal, but it seems a little disappointing to me when they're trying out something "new" in the most inauspicious way like this.

For one thing, they're building up the capacity at KXOT, but that's not the point.

The point is this: I spend an unpleasantly large portion of my time trying to market my show to program directors. There may be some who disagree, but I think my show is good enough for their stations. They always say the same thing, "as great as it is, it's just not a good fit for my audience."

The central problem in public radio is that they (we) have focused in so tightly on the classic latte-sipping volvo drivers that we've forgotten that our mandate isn't to be a public service to middle-aged and older rich, white, highly educated moderate liberals. It's to be a public service, period. NPR's big news shows, Fresh Air, Car Talk... they're all really wonderful shows, but that doesn't mean that every other show should try as hard as it can to be just like them.
posted by YoungAmerican at 7:37 AM on July 15, 2008


Oh, and the reason there's not serialized entertainment on radio is because A) TV is much better at it and B) there's no such thing as appointment radio.
posted by YoungAmerican at 7:39 AM on July 15, 2008


Can I just squeeze in this and express some love for NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell me?

Recent CBS Sunday Morning segment: Quiz Show Worth The 'Wait' [video | 06:47].
posted by ericb at 7:40 AM on July 15, 2008


Maybe if their navigation wasn't so balls-crazy, the youngsters would like it more!!

Seriously, This story is linked to at our blog?
posted by shownomercy at 7:41 AM on July 15, 2008


they should hire Chuck from THIS IS HELL to appeal to the younger market with a morning show. Maybe we can educate the hipsters to pursue thoughtful analysis of world affairs so that they can save the world and pay my nursing home bills and cure cancer. Chuck is the smartest voice in broadcast journalism and he is also very funny while being respectful to what he is covering. He's been producing the show on his own, unpaid for a decade now.

This is Hell is the greatest radio show in history as far as I'm concerned and I've been listening to NPR solid for most of 20 years now. NPR needs to pick that shit up.

this is hell
posted by n9 at 7:45 AM on July 15, 2008


Bpp was NPR's Poochie.
posted by jewzilla at 9:02 AM on July 15, 2008


Fair Game interviewed people who I personally really admire, like Luis Guzman and Jack Handey and Michael Ian Black, who never would have been heard on public radio.

Hmmm. Don't Guzman and Black show up on every single episode of I Love the 70s-aughts on VH1? Not sure I'd want my radio show to be thought of in the same vein...
posted by nushustu at 9:11 AM on July 15, 2008


I got Fair Game on podcast. Even though they have annoying features like 'Why do they hate us', the interviews make up for it. I'd much rather our local station (WBUR) carried that on weekday nights instead of repeating "On Point", which covers interesting topics but rarely delivers much meat.

Instead of a dot, I'll offer one particular good memory from the show: in discussion of executive compensation, they translated wages into sound pitches. So it started with the song of a whale (representing the wage of the average American worker), and went up and up into a mouse squeak, and then they informed us that actually the wage of the average CEO goes so high that it goes out of our hearing range.
posted by of strange foe at 9:14 AM on July 15, 2008


Hmmm. Don't Guzman and Black show up on every single episode of I Love the 70s-aughts on VH1? Not sure I'd want my radio show to be thought of in the same vein...

Well, if you think every person who appears on those shows isn't worth thinking of seriously... that's exactly what I'd like to see counteracted.

Guzman was a protege of Miguel Pinero, one of the most important New Yorican writers of the 1970s and 80s. He's also a really spectacular actor and a brilliantly funny guy.

Michael Ian Black was a founding member of The State, one of the best comedy groups of the 90s, and Stella, one of the best of the 2000s. He's also written for McSweeney's among many other outlets.

I think the real point is that there's no reason folks like this shouldn't get the same serious attention that, I dunno, David Brooks gets.
posted by YoungAmerican at 9:55 AM on July 15, 2008


For one thing, they're building up the capacity at KXOT

Huh. You can actually here it in the U District this morning. That's an improvement.
posted by dw at 10:30 AM on July 15, 2008


BPP's original male host was Luke Burbank, who bailed out last year. I just remembered this morning that he's now hosting Too Beautiful To Live, which is doing surprisingly well right now in its early evening timeslot.

And the kicker? It's on a for-profit station owned by a media conglomerate, not an NPR/PRI affiliate.
posted by dw at 10:34 AM on July 15, 2008


As a corollary to YoungAmerican's point, one thing I do mourn about the loss of the BPP is what appears to be the lack of a middle ground in morning drive-time radio between the "All Iraq All the Time" ultra-serious hard news approach and the grating, insipid banter of wacky morning zoo DJ's, sportstalk and right wing radio.

I understand the complaint some people have made in this thread that it is insulting when shows aimed at a "younger" audience tend to translate into "dumbed down". But personally, while I did have my issues with the way the show presented itself (the "too cool for school" attitude that felt forced as I mentioned above), I did enjoy the broad variety of (arguably) "lighter" topics discussed in an intelligent and entertaining way.
posted by The Gooch at 10:35 AM on July 15, 2008


YoungAmerican,

Fair enough. Personally, I like Guzman. I just cannot stand the whole I Love the 80s thing. They're cheap in so many ways. The comments made on those shows aren't particularly witty, even though they're edited in such as way as to appear to be nothing but witty. So I tend to get a bad taste in my mouth whenever I think about the people who do those shows. I know they're probably smarter than those shows, but nobody is holding a gun to their heads and making them dilute their personalities.

Let me also say that I'm not really trying to denigrate your show. I can't say that I've heard it, and that is due only to my own ignorance of its existence. I always just consider the people who do those VH1 specials so desperate for media attention that I have very little respect for them. They're maybe a step or two above the former stars who choose to participate in reality tv gameshows.
posted by nushustu at 11:17 AM on July 15, 2008


Diane Rheem is 117 years old; you can't stop her, you can only hope to contain her.
posted by mattbucher at 11:56 AM on July 15, 2008


The central problem in public radio is that they (we) have focused in so tightly on the classic latte-sipping volvo drivers that we've forgotten that our mandate isn't to be a public service to middle-aged and older rich, white, highly educated moderate liberals. It's to be a public service, period

But here's the problem with Fair Game and BPP: they were simply aimed at some producer's imagination about what a young, future latte-sipping Volvo driver would want to listen to. Any audiences drawn to those shows and their knowing, arch style are well within the affluent, white, and highly educated audience sectors- they're just not old yet.

Besides which, I'm not sure how well those descriptors apply to public radio listeners as opposed to listeners of other types of radio. It's certainly the stereotype, but I think the reality is probably more complicated, especially when you break it down by show type. Garrison Kiellor's audience might not be the same as Nick Spitzer's audience or Radiolab's audience or On The Media's audience or Terry Gross' audience (I once heard NIck Spitzer describe his audience as "white females 30-39 and black males over seventy.") I wonder if public radio research tends to conflate its donors (which, almost regardless of the charity type, are largely white, educated, and affluent) with its listeners (which are far more diverse).

But I do hear your call for more different types of radio. But I don't see the Fair Games and BPPs as the solution - they do not, actually, increase diversity on any metric but age (and apparently miss the mark on that). Where are, say, the shows about Latino music, politics and culture? Where are the political shows that examine issues from a non-baby-boomer perspective? Where are more magazine shows that offer serious, expansive interview time for culture shapers? Where are youth shows? Shows about hip-hop? Film noir serials, like Eideteker suggest? (Awesome idea, BTW - radio drama is such an underdeveloped category. The audio theatre program on our local LPFM is one of the most popular shows).

I think these two shows failed not because they were different, but because they weren't different enough. They (at least Fair Game, I still haven't listened to much BPP) didn't really sound fresh - they sounded like more of the same, just with a more superior, provocative, and TV-influenced tone.

I don't despair for public radio. It's growing, and times are changing. The old program directors are going to be moving on. Twenty to thirty years ago is right about when they started making noises about taking over and making change from what went before - a whole lot of dry, dull classical music programming complemented with monotonal news. The Garrison Kiellors and Click and Clacks of that day were the revolutionaries. Fortunately, they had something of lasting quality to offer. Their heirs will become apparent. Not to fret.
posted by Miko at 12:31 PM on July 15, 2008


Been listening to NPR since my junior year of high school (1996). Got my brother hooked when he was a junior in high school (2008). While only 4 or 5 of my 20 something friends listen to it, our public radio proselytizing has gotten a few more interested. I don't think NPR isn't having any trouble attracting a younger audience.

BTW, I live in the New York Metro area, apparently where this show is made, and I've never heard of it. No big loss, IMHO.
posted by exhilaration at 12:40 PM on July 15, 2008


Heard the BPP on the radio, disliked it INTENSELY. I'm SO GLAD it got canceled, yay! Hopefully Diane Rehm is next . . .

Yeah, it was an attempt to reach out to my generation - and to me, it was a really horrible attempt, along with the tendency of the newscasters (do we still call them that?) to use slang and more informal language with each other and playing really wretched music both between segments and on themusic-only programs.

I'm really excited that it got canceled.
posted by arnicae at 12:44 PM on July 15, 2008


I'm curious where that increase in listeners came from. Retiring baby boomers? My anecdote only speaks from my personal experience, and I hang out with all sorts of degenerates and weirdos, but even among the more "normal" people of my age I know, the idea of sitting down and turning on a radio is already pretty out there - and within a decade the majority of the populace will probably have broadband internet on them 24/7. (I was going to note that I didn't even OWN a radio, but I remembered my MP3 player has an FM tuner. I might have tried that out once; not sure.)

Do you see the youth listening to the radios you're involved with?

The only exception is in cars for people who haven't bothered to get some sort of MP3 player hookup yet.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:00 PM on July 15, 2008


I'm 28 and listen to the radio. NPR I mostly get via podcasts, as I got burned out with their election coverage in January. We have two college-style radio stations here, and they're great for learning about new music.

Then again, maybe I'm an anomaly, as I don't own a cell phone and my MP3 player is an old man iriver.
posted by drezdn at 1:06 PM on July 15, 2008


miko: Where are, say, the shows about Latino music, politics and culture?

As to this specific point, well, I've been told that Spanish-language radio in the US is generall of higher caliber than English-language. Same goes for Spanish-language TV news. A lot of my close friends listen to NPR but I've never gotten into it. I really should give it a shot. Though I did listen to one or two of their podcasts for a while.
posted by Kattullus at 1:27 PM on July 15, 2008


I'm 28 and listen to the radio.

You're old, man.

Seriously, a lot of the "generational shifts" I think I see coming from my age peers (22) seem to not be present by the time you get up to 25-26 year olds.

Next shift happens when kids come of age who've been on Facebook and Myspace (and a lot of them on the chans, etc.), since they were 10. That should be interesting.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:29 PM on July 15, 2008


You're old, man.

I'm willing to accept that.

*Kicks some kids off of my lawn*
posted by drezdn at 1:38 PM on July 15, 2008


Thing is, when I was 20-26 or so I didn't listen to public radio either. I listened to a lot more music in those days. When I moved to Philadelphia at the age of 26, I switched between WXPN (noncommercial, member-supported music radio with a number of PRI/NPR produced shows as well) and WHYY (the NPR affiliate). It was then that I developed what has become a daily habit.

How much public affairs/culture/news content do people under 25 take in from any medium? I just think that sort of content is simply much less interesting to people in their college years and shortly thereafter, as a broad generalization. If listening to radio programs is something people only gravitate toward when they're older, is that such a terrible thing? I've continually been frustrated watching newspapers tie themselves into knots trying to attract younger readers using some magic rubric they've inventive. The fact is that younger people simply do not read newspapers very much no matter what's in them. As you get older, knowing what's going on around you - now that you have much more of a personal stake in the culture - simply becomes more important. It's amazing what a few years of active citizenship, job searching, rentership and home ownership do for your interest in public affairs and culture. News geeks will get their news wherever good news is to be had, so the way to appeal to young news geeks is the same way you appeal to old news geeks - be a good medium for news.

And yes, the goal of public radio is to be a public service, but a corollary goal and a part of that service is to provide types of content that are not available from commercial sources. This may often mean that other radio stations reach more of a younger demographic. But if public radio starts doing a "morning zoo" or conservative call-in-and-rant show, it will no longer be filling an otherwise unfilled niche; something it's chartered to do.

It's not that I think expanding programming is the wrong thing to do - it's that so often, it results in these blunt, blundering, and out-of-touch attempts to reach new audiences. Good-quality programming finds an audience. Where do the new public radio listeners come from? They come from people who used to listen to commercial radio or watch more TV, but were won away gradually by interest in first a single program or two, then more, if not the whole palette.
posted by Miko at 1:57 PM on July 15, 2008


Let me also say that I'm not really trying to denigrate your show. I can't say that I've heard it, and that is due only to my own ignorance of its existence. I always just consider the people who do those VH1 specials so desperate for media attention that I have very little respect for them. They're maybe a step or two above the former stars who choose to participate in reality tv gameshows.

I don't want to get off on a tangent, but particularly for comedians, being on shows like that is a way to dramatically increase their ability to earn money practicing their art. Doug Benson or Paul Scheer or Nick Kroll are all really spectacularly talented people who've used that platform to earn money as comics. The sad fact is that it is borderline impossible to earn a good living as a standup without being on TV, and it's borderline impossible to get on TV doing standup. So people do panel shows... they act... whatever they can do to get a little name recognition that will get people out to their show at the Boise Funny Bone, where they practice their actual art.
posted by YoungAmerican at 2:07 PM on July 15, 2008


I'm really excited that it got canceled.

That's kind of a sad commentary on your life and priorities. Maybe next time you feel like revelling in others losing their jobs, you should read a book or clean up a beach or something.
posted by YoungAmerican at 2:10 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Diane Rheem is 117 years old; you can't stop her, you can only hope to contain her.

She's on the older side, but she sounds much older than she is because of a medical condition which causes the muscles in her voicebox to quiver. She had to re-learn to talk at one point, iirc.
posted by YoungAmerican at 2:12 PM on July 15, 2008


My anecdote only speaks from my personal experience, and I hang out with all sorts of degenerates and weirdos, but even among the more "normal" people of my age I know, the idea of sitting down and turning on a radio is already pretty out there

That's just not the case. It's certainly moving in that direction, but there's a long way to go. IIRC the average household has 7 radios. Radio has over 99% market penetration in the US -- way more than any other mass medium, including TV.

Certainly radio is being affected by the multi-platform world just as much as other media, but radio remains ubiquitous.
posted by YoungAmerican at 2:17 PM on July 15, 2008


I'm really excited that it got canceled.

That's kind of a sad commentary on your life and priorities.


I don't necessarily think it's a sad commentary on priorities. On the contrary, it's the flip side of the very intimacy which makes the medium such a success. While people watch TV, they tend to have a very personal relationship with radio. Loyalty to stations and hosts is very high - which, in fact, is why there's so little flexible room on most programming schedules. When a favorite program is cancelled, there's an outcry precisely because some people feel very enriched by the time they had enjoyed spending with that program - because that time was so similar in its pleasant qualities to spending time with a friend or a coach or a great teacher. There's a close one-to-one relationship of listener to audience. Which is wonderful, and exactly why stations program the way they do (consistently and in blocks) and exactly what successful shows have built.

But the flip side of that intimacy is that, if you find the tone or style of a show grating or boring, you will feel exactly the same way about it that you feel about spending time with a grating or boring person - someone you would never wish to carpool with, or have talk at you while you work in the yard or around the house. There's a personal dislike with radio, not just a distant distaste as you might have with TV or movies. Because there is the illusion that the voice is really there in your life with you -- not in a box or on a screen performing for a large invisible audience, but directly addressing you alongside your own daily activities as you engage in them, the relationship has to be good - and has to feel like a real, individual, positive relationship.

When the relationship isn't a pleasurable one, you just want those people to go away. Knowing that the limited resource of airtime could be given to something you'd like better doesn't help.

It's tough, but it's exactly what makes radio work so well - even in a world in which there are a lot of choices.
posted by Miko at 2:25 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


If listening to radio programs is something people only gravitate toward when they're older, is that such a terrible thing? I've continually been frustrated watching newspapers tie themselves into knots trying to attract younger readers using some magic rubric they've inventive. The fact is that younger people simply do not read newspapers very much no matter what's in them. As you get older, knowing what's going on around you - now that you have much more of a personal stake in the culture - simply becomes more important.

But why are these younger people going to jump on the radio and the newspapers when they want more "knowing what's around them?" Consider that within a decade the majority of the populace are probably going to have some device in their pockets with a headphone jack (also Bluetooth/UWB audio out for cars and stereos), gigabytes of flash/HD storage, and broadband access anywhere they go. Frankly, newspapers stink. I read in the newspapers about things I read on Metafilter, Digg, etc. last week, except with more misinformation and bias. The few decent articles I'll see linked online somewheres that day or the next. A local newspaper could be nice but they've all been bought up by Gannett or whoever, delocalized and homogenized.

As for radio, it has inherent technological problems with poor sound quality and its broadcast model. Broadcast models are going to be more niche, I think, as you see in video with the rise of on-demand and online streaming. When there is a choice, people are less often interested in tuning to a channel or station that tells them what to listen to and when. There's another thing that's become foreign - the idea that a "show" (radio talk, TV, music, whatever) is on at x o'clock and you have to sit down at x o'clock so you don't miss it. Now it's on whenever you want. There's still room for a broadcast model - people will want someone picking their music for them sometimes, there can be interaction on live shows, but in general I think people are preferring the on demand model given to them by digital cable, BitTorrented shows, and MP3s. But local things and live things work on the internet too.

Now NPR also puts their things online. That might work out, but on the other hand "old media" in general seems to have problems adapting to working online. Newspapers put their stuff online too, but face competition they didn't have before, as online you can just get your newswires right from the AP and UPI, your press releases, sans journalist rewording, right from the company/government entity, your classifieds from Craigslist, your op ed and letters to the editor on blogs all over the place, etc.

Also, there should be a National Public Website Network like there's NPR and PBS, though I think all three ideas are too Communist to have any traction in terms of getting started today.


It's certainly moving in that direction, but there's a long way to go. IIRC the average household has 7 radios.


I remembered another FM Tuner I own, giving me, who hasn't so much as heard a radio in months, 2 radios. I feel like I should have an actual standalone radio in case of dire emergency, and that would give me 3. The number of radios I listen to would remain at 0.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:07 PM on July 15, 2008


A local newspaper could be nice but they've all been bought up by Gannett or whoever, delocalized and homogenized.

Do you read your local paper? They certainly vary, but the fact is that they don't delocalize and homogenize as they did in the late 80s/early 90s. In fact, the Gannett papers have discovered that their central hope for survival is to become hyperlocal - to fill in the niche of coverage of the vital information that stakeholders in a community need to know, but which will never ever ever ever be covered by broadcast news (local or national) or other online sources. That includes town council actions and meetings, local events, housing prices and sales, local job listings, police activity, school activities and calendars, local businesses, local collaborative intiatives, local controversies about laws or construction or the disposition of public property, obituaries, and local politics. The longer I've lived in my present community, the more vital I have found it is to read the local paper. In fact, it's hard to be a functioning, knowledgeable taxpayer, property owner, or citizen without knowing what's happening. Much of this is available also from the online version, which I certainly use. But the portable dead-tree version is pretty great, and first thing in the morning I'd rather read stuff on paper, knowing I'm going to be looking at pixels most of the rest of the day. YMMV, but the days of the usefulness of the newspaper are far from over.

Besides which, the information on the web is totally chaotic and also far from unbiased. At some point, you need to have an authoritative source prepared to stand by what it reports. Newspapers still do that to some degree.

I think people are preferring the on demand model

I think people are entranced by the novelty of so much on-demand content, but that it will settle back and continue to co-exist with realtime broadcasting.

One of the advantages radio has is that the means of delivery is incredibly cheap to own in many forms (7 radios per household is impressive, and even when there are portable personal multimedia devices, 7 per household is going to remain expensive for quite some time). It's also hands-free and eyes-free. That means you can listen to it at work, in the car, while you're cooking or working in the yard, doing laundry, laying on the beach, whatever. Sure it's true that you could also outfit yourself with technology to listen to whatever you want at any time. But I believe there will always be a set of people who like the ritual aspects of tuning into a regular broadcast - live or not - at a consistent time of the week. In fact, in working in community radio, the main concern we hear when we poll listeners is not "give me the content downloadable on demand!" -- far from it. What we hear is "We want more consistency - the same show every week at the same time! - and similar types of shows in a row!" Some content absolutely needs to be fresh and delivered on time. I can think of a few shows that absolutely need to be live and need to be in a pre-weekend slot, because they are almost always concerned with upcoming concerts/events/seasonal food and stuff like that.

Radio's a pretty darn enduring medium. You know, when TV came along, they were pretty sure it would kill radio. Radio will certainly change, but just as certainly will not die.
posted by Miko at 3:40 PM on July 15, 2008


National Public Website Network like there's NPR and PBS

What would be on it?
posted by Miko at 3:41 PM on July 15, 2008


Eideteker: It's just my awkward attempt to reach across to the other side. Educate me, NPR snobs!

Have you thought that perhaps politeness might draw a better response? And I'm not certain what there is to say, because obviously you have your own set of stereotypes about what we are about.

But to start with, my childhood had a fair amount of swingsets, sandboxes, and tonka toys, but along with the yearly trip to the basketball game (it was Indiana after all) I got a trip to the theatre. (Got the triple-crown of classical music parenting: Peter and the Wolf, Hansel and Gretel, and the Nutcracker.) I was fed a broad musical diet of rock and roll, classical, and folk music, and hit my developmental teen years during that period when Mellencamp was mixing his rock with folk fiddle, and Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon were collaborating with African artists. When I was young, my dad and I traveled across the state almost every weekend to care for my grandparents, and in the evening, I loved switching the radio to AM to discover what I could hear on middle wave skip.

Musically, I have a great deal of respect for the standard rock combo when done well, but I dislike having to listen to it all the time. So at least for me, public radio is a place on the dial where I can hear music and performances that don't fit into the constraints of commercial radio formats. I don't always like what I hear on Bluegrass Breakdown, World of Opera, Big Band Jump, The Green Island Radio Show or Performance Today, but I know that I'll probably hear something new. All of these are shows by staff who are willing to air not only "classics" but also worthy and obscure works of note.

I certainly don't sit and passively listen. I usually have the radio playing the the background when I'm writing, reading, doing housework, playing a video game, or driving. I listen to the news while I'm getting up and ready for work. This American Life is on my podcast for bus rides, or while eating dinner.

TAL is hit or miss. Yes, the guy talking about being asked by his producer to watch television for two weeks was a bit precious, but the best segments have included first-person storytelling from points of view that won't get more than a 15 minutes spot on 60 minutes, if that. (And 60 minutes strikes me as blatantly manipulative in its editing.) The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar, The Giant Pool of Money, and The Prosecutor are amazing examples of radio journalism. Mistakes Were Made is also excellent for pulling you into the first-person story of the guy who ended up with the first frozen bodies of cryonics, and then partway through, sucker-punches you with an alternative version of events. The TAL format is a welcome relief to the current standard of broadcast journalism of verbal boxing matches between pundits or opposing soundbites clipped from press conferences.

The biggest thing that keeps me on community and public radio stations is the advertising of commercial radio. Too much, too loud, too discordant with the rest of the format, and too insulting. I can't help but get the DEVO cover of "Satisfaction" running through my head each time I blunder across a radio ad. I'd probably be the perfect audience for XM (and I loved surfing it in a rental car a few weeks ago), but I don't feel like paying $300 on a radio and a monthly subscription fee when I have dozens of public radio stations covering the entire spectrum of music just a few clicks away.

I'll agree about Prairie Home Companion. It's pretty much a boomer wank-fest. And I have to admit, while Georgia Public Broadcasting is certainly more diverse than just any shallow-playlist commercial station, there are a number of programming itches that I'm lacking: international music beyond just Ireland, electronic music, and alternative country.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:55 PM on July 15, 2008


What would be on it?

Just analogize the PBS model to the internet: More or less the same as any other random selection of more-or-less general interest websites, but non-profit, with a public-good/cultural/educational bent and maybe another go at the ad-free bit that PBS and NPR have failed at in recent years.

Do you read your local paper?


Now my local paper is the college paper (read sometimes), and previous to that I was in NYC, so those are sort of special cases. Before then, growing up I had two local papers, a weekly which went out of business and a daily which Gannett ruined the local aspect of in the '90s and remains the same every time I go home.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:11 PM on July 15, 2008


TheOnlyCoolTim: Why do you think that radio and the internet are necessarily antagonistic to each other? If anything, I've found that public and community radio have openly embraced both synchronous streaming and asynchronous podcasting.

And, well, I just want to slap people on metafilter sometimes for their unexamined privilege. Only half of US households have broadband, with indications that broadband has reached a saturation point and adoption is leveling off. The iPod has only sold 150 million units worldwide. The U.S. population in comparison is 300 million. As much as the metafilter Kool Aid is that Internet access is going to replace radio, DVD and Audio CD tomorrow, that's highly optimistic for the US market, and totally unrealistic for the international market.

And a big market for FM radio (and its digital cousins XM and Sirius) is the commuter on the road. In fact, "prime time" for radio is 6-9am and 4-8pm. Killing off radio is going to require ubiquitous mobile internet.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:37 PM on July 15, 2008


DW: "I'm starting to believe that radio is dying, precisely because no one takes these risks anymore."

Public radio is being forced to be economically conservative. You can only gamble what you can afford to lose, and with conservatives in Congress, public radio can't afford to lose anything. Funding has been stretched. So, public radio isn't dead. Conservatives are just suffocating it, economically speaking. This goes in cycles. If we you guys can get more liberals in office next go around, federally supported funding will return at least a little bit and public broadcasting will find its footing again. Until then, it has to listen more closely to its pledges.

Notoriously, those who give money to public radio do so for what's already on the air. People don't give money to public radio for what it hasn't broadcast yet but might in the future. Despite what you may think, or your own personal beliefs, generally the audiences of public radio like to incorporate public radio into their daily routine. Do you like your routine disrupted? Of course not. That's why it's a routine. If you liked things being different all the time, you wouldn't HAVE a routine.

Public radio doesn't have the safety net it once did to take a chance on creating things that people might want to add to a routine, so it has to tighten the belt for awhile and pull itself up by the bootstraps. Turnabout's fair play I suppose. Arguably, Clinton lessened funding to the military a decade ago. Now look at it.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:47 PM on July 15, 2008


Just analogize the PBS model to the internet: More or less the same as any other random selection of more-or-less general interest websites, but non-profit, with a public-good/cultural/educational bent and maybe another go at the ad-free bit that PBS and NPR have failed at in recent years.

I don't see the utility. The web in itself is nothing new. It's a platform that can aggregate and offer and link content; but it needs content. I'd rather see good content developers like PBS, NPR, PRI, and newspapers continue to develop friendlier and more expansive presences on the web that make the best use of the web's capabilities. But I see no need for a new public entity just because there's a new medium. Maybe it'll happen, but it's hard to see the need. I mean, given the bandwidth of the WWW, would such a site be more useful than the privately held resources that the web is so very friendly to (such as MetaFilter?) The reason we have a PBS and an NPR was that the resource of time and reach over the airwaves were always finite in a given location. It had to be parcelled out somehow, and there was a strong argument for public access and ownership of some means of transmitting content. The web is really not sufficiently privatized yet to create the need for that sort of channel - the public can still easily create and publish their own content online.


Now my local paper is the college paper (read sometimes), and previous to that I was in NYC, so those are sort of special cases. Before then, growing up I had two local papers, a weekly which went out of business and a daily which Gannett ruined the local aspect of in the '90s and remains the same every time I go home.


So yes, you may find that your interest in the kind of information offered by newspapers may change once you are out of college and have a strong interest in things that will affect your life which happen in your community of choice. People's media needs and interests really do change as they age and go through different stages of life.
posted by Miko at 4:53 PM on July 15, 2008


I agree with YoungAmerican. I, too, am a host of a weekly public radio show. We're on 19 stations nationwide, we've got tens of thousands listening by podcast, and we're hoping to add a few more stations before the new season starts in the fall.

It is, without question, an enormous amount of work. I don't look with glee on any radio show being canceled, nor radio personnel losing their jobs, no matter what I thought of their shows.

I do look with envy on their startup budgets, like YoungAmerican, and think, "Holy mole! That could fund us for five years!" But outside that, I know that they worked their tails off. They put their hearts into looking for a new way to do radio. They had some of the top minds in the business behind them and, well, it doesn't always work out.

Public radio is more show business than it is business, if you know what I mean.

I haven't gone so far as to send T-shirts to program directors yet ;) but trying to get the 350 or so stations that carry public radio talk programming to even listen to our show is only a little less hard than getting to the moon.

If my radio partners and I had decided to go to the moon instead, we'd be eating green cheese by now.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:31 PM on July 15, 2008


TheOnlyCoolTim: Why do you think that radio and the internet are necessarily antagonistic to each other? If anything, I've found that public and community radio have openly embraced both synchronous streaming and asynchronous podcasting.

Because if radio stations define themselves as entities that broadcast AM and FM they're defining themselves as an anachronism. (Really, just from an EE viewpoint rather than the practicalities I've discussed above, FM and especially AM seem almost as quaint as Morse Code.) You could switch what a "radio station" is to "an entity that provides streams and MP3 files."

As much as the metafilter Kool Aid is that Internet access is going to replace radio, DVD and Audio CD tomorrow

Quick googling claimss cellular phone penetration at 85%. That "portable personal multimedia device" I described above, except for the wireless speaker (hell, put wireless video on it too) output, is an Iphone. So my prediction is only basically that in ten years the cell phone industry is at the point where everyone getting a cellphone gets broadband, just like today the industry is at the point where I can't get a cell phone without a camera.

It's a platform that can aggregate and offer and link content; but it needs content.

So, I think it would be nice to have some publicly funded content, and not just NPR MP3s, PBS FLVs, and a few adjuncts to those, but maybe the Podunk Regional Blog and the Interesting Website About History/Science/Whatever.

So yes, you may find that your interest in the kind of information offered by newspapers may change once you are out of college

Already out the first time, actually, but I just keep going back because now they're paying me. For many reasons I doubt I'll be taking the (mainstream) newspapers seriously ever, unless they change a lot.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:39 PM on July 15, 2008


TheOnlyCoolTim: Because if radio stations define themselves as entities that broadcast AM and FM they're defining themselves as an anachronism. (Really, just from an EE viewpoint rather than the practicalities I've discussed above, FM and especially AM seem almost as quaint as Morse Code.) You could switch what a "radio station" is to "an entity that provides streams and MP3 files."

Well, while it is true that CW is dying a slow and lingering death, AM and FM have a growing audience of billions. And no, I'm not exaggerating.

But, I don't think radio stations ever did define themselves as entities that broadcast using a specific modulation on a specific frequency. I think early on when you look at the origins of networks like NBC and CBS they defined themselves as producers of entertainment that just happened to be delivered over now-abandoned frequency bands. And when FM and TV came along, they moved the exact same entertainment formats along with them. Yes, Tiki Bar TV is a direct descendant of radio sketch comedy.

Probably I'm just a bit biased in that I worked for a community FM station that podcast their news and features. While I'm on the subject, I just want to plug bloomingOUT as an outstanding example of what a volunteer-run station can do. But it seems to me that many radio producers are embracing internet delivery. And often if you go to a web site for these shows you get not only transcripts and playlists, but access to additional material, background, and commentary.

With ubiquitous mobile internet at least a decade out, I don't think that broadcasters have anything to fear, especially not as long as they continue adopting internet delivery as a way to expand their audience.

But, if I can put on my paranoid hacker hat, analog modes have been politically revolutionary because no one can really control the airwaves. Once Marconi let the cat out of the bag, it was possible for anyone who practiced a slightly technical trade to make a radio, and to teach others how to make radios. Radio waves can cross borders, and it was possible for two people to communicate with each other separated by a thousand miles using only slightly more energy than a flashlight. The delivery of all information through proprietary hardware and networks should raise some concerns about control and privacy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:37 PM on July 15, 2008


With ubiquitous mobile internet at least a decade out, I don't think that broadcasters have anything to fear, especially not as long as they continue adopting internet delivery as a way to expand their audience.

If they manage that, I agree, but I think the transition will cause changes and what's eventually called the "radio" after it's mostly online might be quite a bit different, and some entities won't manage the transition. For example, syndicating anything is pretty much right out.

Regarding control and revolution, analog radio does have certain low-tech, infrastructure-free benefits (which can also be good for emergency use) I think the internet will manage to remain free if things don't get rather draconian. Basically I think any internet that's useful will also be pretty free - people have worked on ridiculous things like transmitting data covertly in the inter-arrival times of your innocuous packets and other things beyond what I think would ever be practically necessary to bypass governmental problems. For a perhaps easier absurd scheme that I just made up, imagine me and my revolution's first officer log onto an empty FPS server and our characters sort of spastically twitch around and fire randomly in the spawn room while we conduct our revolutionary IMs. I mean, currently, kiddie porn is pretty much universally vilified and forbidden, but my sense is that I could have some quite shortly if I went looking. There are also advantages - if I use my Internet to broadcast the manifesto to the entire nation you can't do some direction finding to track down my broadcast antenna.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:25 PM on July 15, 2008


publicly funded content, and not just NPR MP3s, PBS FLVs, and a few adjuncts to those, but maybe the Podunk Regional Blog and the Interesting Website About History/Science/Whatever.

But we already have interesting websites. The reason that public networks over the airwaves were created is that there was the danger of private domination of the airwaves for commercial purposes, limiting or crowding out citizen access. So for the purposes of a civil society, it was deemed important to preserve some frequencies for the use pf the public through the creation of nonprofit organizations to broadcast content. Frequencies, in any given region, are a finite resource.

The web, however, is nearly infinite in its ability to carry and deliver content. There is at present no danger of commercial domination or "crowding out," because it's still cheap and easy to develop websites, and plenty of nonprofits already exist who are doing it. Given the difficulty of securing funding for the existing nonprofits, including broadcast public media which reach people who would have no other broadcast alternatives, I would be loath to make further demands on either private charitable giving or public funding for the creation of websites which would duplicate functions already well performed by both nonprofits and the private sector.
posted by Miko at 6:56 AM on July 16, 2008


NPR Looks to Developers for Help Distributing Shows -- Nonprofit wants to see some interesting widgets and applications that will help them share Morning Edition and All Things Considered with the Web."
posted by ericb at 1:39 PM on July 17, 2008


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