Inside The BPP

Gettin' Our 'A' Block On

We tried something a little different in the "A Block" of our show today. The "A Block" is what we call the first 16 minutes of the audio broadcast — it includes our open, the lead story, the newscast and a topical, talkable news interview.

Well, we blew that up today. There was no featured lead, no segmented newscast and no news interview. Instead, it was a mix of news from the morning and the weekend told with soundbites and excerpts from stories culled from the NPR newsroom.

I'm going to talk more about why we decided to do what we did tomorrow on the show, but before I do I want to know: what did you think?

Click on our handy flash player to give a listen — and don't forget to leave a comment.





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I like the "BPP Newscast" format(or "Headlines" or "Top of the News"...whatever it's called): a quick blast of what's happening. The "A Block" has more of an "NPR" feel to it; it is a bit dry and it lacks the banter and unique insight that sets this show apart from other news radio and other NPR shows. I don't think offering the "A Block" as a separate podcast is very attractive, nor does it represent what I've come to know this show to be, IMHO. This coming from someone who listens to the entire show time delayed through the podcast. Overall, it's a great show, and I'm glad there is a willingness to experiment and make it even better.

Sent by Mark | 5:20 PM | 3-3-2008

It was strange not to hear "the big one" or, er, whatever y'all call the big story of the morning. I listen to the podcast and admit that I kinda zoned out during this part of the show. . . I'm glad you are trying new things out, but this new formula didn't really hook me.

Sent by eliz. | 5:54 PM | 3-3-2008

Did you repeat it in the second hour, too? I could swear today that I hear the same exact things twice -- if I was right, that's very obvious (and annoying) for listeners who listen to the entire show.

Generally speaking, news media outlets seem to program for viewers/listeners with ADD. Just a guess, but I'm pretty sure they don't think people view/listen to more than 6.2 continuous minutes of a given program.

Please don't turn into that!

Spontaneity is a lost art...

Anyway, for me, I don't like the new format all that much. BPP is great because it's not-news, and this makes it seem so much more newsy.

(I probably should clarify -- it's not that I don't think you all have journalistic creds. I do. It's just that what I like about the show is that it's unconventional, and the new format seems much more conventional.)

Sent by carlo | 6:16 PM | 3-3-2008

I liked the old A-block more than the new one.

I subscribed to the A Block podcast about two weeks ago to get a daily news podcast that has a faster pace and a younger vibe than the traditional 10AM News Summary podcast offered. I agree with Mark, the new A block feels a lot more like traditional NPR, and it makes the BPP lose its uniqueness.

Sent by Yanik | 6:17 PM | 3-3-2008

Here's my dirty little secret. I skip the news about half the time. I listen to the intro and then jump 7 minutes forward. By 9:00 am, when I am listening to your podcast, I've already heard the headlines at least twice... three times if I wake up early enough to catch the BBC. Two more times through the headlines, especially when the news is bad, is more than my sensitive constitution can bear. (Sorry, Rachel.) I wonder how many people use the beep to supplement other NPR/news listening as I do and how many use it as their primary morning news source? I'm not suggesting you change anything. Maybe one day Colorado will get hip, start carrying your show live, and my habits will change. I dare to dream.

This being said, I like the new format better. The old way was overly structured. It reminded me a bit of the three intros and two outros NPR always bookends "This I Believe" with, but not quite that extreme. (Just read the darn essay already!) Also I lived in dread that the "big story" would be something that had already been done to death like "Clinton said something mean about Obama", "Obama said something mean about Clinton" or, God help us, "the Superbowl" then I would know that the next two minutes would only serve to facilitate ulcer growth.

I think what the BPP does best is bring unique angles to stories that aren't necessarily that big. This makes the ramble and the most fit in well. My favorite pieces are the topical/political interviews with people in various parts of the world, the not so topical/political interviews like Jill Homer and Summer Ash, the music segments, and even the bake-off.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 6:19 PM | 3-3-2008

Sorry to be blunt, but I thought it was boring. It does have the "NPR" feel that Mark wrote about. The reason I like listening to BPP is the fact I don't get bored throughout the whole 2 hours. I caught myself nodding off listening to your "A Block."

Sent by Charlie | 6:22 PM | 3-3-2008

Thanks for all these comments everyone -- please keep them coming. And no reason to apologize for being blunt, Charlie. Thanks everyone.

Sent by Matt Martinez | 6:28 PM | 3-3-2008

What this takes the most, from my perspective, is context. Of course, I have none at the moment. I usually only get to hear the last half hour of the show (Z block?) while I'm driving to work. So, I have no idea what the beginning of the BPP sounds like.

With that said, this is great if I'm completely out of touch the entire weekend and need to know what's news and why it's news, right away. At some points, the clips and commentary got a little lengthy for what I imagined this would be. At some points, the clips reminded me almost of the ones I'd have to use in my j-school radio class. Neither good nor bad.

I think the more you take this route, the better it will work for you. That and I've now resolved to ditch the local AM station that is on in the morning before I leave for the office. The whole point of getting navigation in my car along with Sirius is so I wouldn't have to listen to local radio just for traffic and could enjoy more stuff like the BPP while some anonymous British woman is telling me there is a "traffic disruption." That and you won't have overly useless comments like this.

All in all, good things Matt. Hopefully this wasn't what caused you to forget to pay your rent, haha.

Sent by John Ratcliffe-Lee | 6:54 PM | 3-3-2008

Wither the Pink?

I know you guys don't owe us a rundown, but I do enjoy it's seductive and surprising entertainment value and miss it so when it is gone. Today in particular, however, I came back to the blog many times so I could see for myself Tricia's vibrant outfit mentioned during The Most, but there is no rundown to be found. Did the bodacious pinkosity cause a camera malfunction? Was Win unable to stare directly into the pink pulchritude? Was Matt so busy tweaking the top of the show that you guys forgot about tomrrow?

Sent by Dave Wiley | 7:33 PM | 3-3-2008

Dave -- no Rundown today. It was a hectic day, for various reasons, and we TOTALLY FORGOT. Actually, Tricia remembered but sent me an email about it as she ran out of the building. (Quitter!) I apologize to all Rundown fans, it will return tomorrow.

Sent by Matt Martinez | 7:38 PM | 3-3-2008

Sorry Dave - It will be back tomorrow.

Sent by Win Rosenfeld -- NPR | 7:41 PM | 3-3-2008

the new format seems to have lost that "hammish" intimacy that makes it more up close and personal...if you want to capture more top news quickly you might try...and now for the bpp's 2 top stories...the new way is too much like the traditional shopping list...good luck!

Sent by jayn | 7:41 PM | 3-3-2008

I'm changing my name to "pink pulchritude!"

Sent by Tricia, NPR | 7:47 PM | 3-3-2008

Hi jayn -- should have mentioned in the post that this is not the "new way." We were experimenting. That's why we want to know what everyone thinks. (Thanks for the suggestion!)

Sent by Matt Martinez | 7:49 PM | 3-3-2008

I like it a lot. The pace is really good - quick but not hurried. It's a nice balance between the very brief news bits and the longer interview.

Feels like more knowledge is getting between my ears in the same amount of time and that's always good. (Note that I really mean more actual knowledge, not just more topics like if I had my local TV news on.)

Sent by Maura | 8:05 PM | 3-3-2008

As long as it allows Rachel Martin to remain as co-host I'll accept anything you throw at us.

But getting into the actual content, I guess I liked the traditional NPR style of the "new" opening. It allowed me to get a good feel for what is going on in the world, only in a more organic and professional "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer " manner. That there is less A-block host banter was beneficial I thought, and made me more inclined to continue listening to the show (not that I was initially disinclined or anything... just very busy).

Especially liked how you kept referring people to the NPR site and blog for more info. A lot of people will be listening to this show on the radio as it expands, after all, and may not be aware of the many offerings.

Sent by Will G | 8:10 PM | 3-3-2008

First off, thanks for trying something new.

However, I got lost quickly. While I enjoyed the meshing of the sound bites with the narrative, there were so many voices to keep track of. With Alison, Rachel, Cheryl, and then that other lady at one point, who was talking? Further, why separate Cheryl's piece about Obama with the tidbits about Obama's weekend stumping? Obama tied those two stories together, why separate them so?

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the "commercial radio" like pace and mixture of sound, but there seemed to be no clear boundaries from story to story. Those seemed to blend together into one confusing piece of sound. Maybe you could put a sound effect in between each distinct story to divide them for the listener...

Thanks for experimenting though.

Sent by Steve Petersen | 10:24 PM | 3-3-2008

I think I loved this. It sounds wonderful to hear the voices of the network's reporters. Especially if you can cherry-pick the pieces that complement the both the interests and sound of BPP. On the other hand, I guess it has a TV sound-byte thing going on and that can make people glaze over. So much depends on whether listeners are coming to BPP as their first source for news each day.

Sent by Lo Spo | 11:24 PM | 3-3-2008

Erm. I listen to the BPP while working. I zone out the news 75% of the time. Mostly because it isn't always relevant to me. Living in Holland, I don't really care so much about regional/national news (e.g. the endless story on Illinois politics in today's A-Block). I do like the international news and human interest stuff.

I really don't have a strong opinion of the new A-Block just that it seemed newsy...which is good for my work productivity, I guess.

What I love about the BPP and can't get enough of:
Music reviews
Movie reviews
Human interest stuff (Iditarods and eating!)
International News
Make me care
Bake offs
"Cultural" Items (translation: All things gay men like(teehee))
The blog is fun.

Sent by Nathan in Holland | 4:07 AM | 3-4-2008

I take back what I said about not having an opinion on the new A-Block.

I relistened to it and I hated it. SNORE!

Sent by Nathan in Holland | 4:16 AM | 3-4-2008

yeah if I wanted the big news, I'd listen to Morning Edition or something. I don't need the big headlines in depth. It's the smaller in depth stuff I like. There's no other news show on NPR I would go out of my way to listen to, because it's exactly like new A-Block.

Sent by jenny | 8:45 AM | 3-4-2008

Important thing is that you try new things. If they work, great! If not, try somethign new. Even with cghange in the A Block, BPP remains refreshing. is more about the people and the feel than the format.

Sent by David Hollis, Hamilton, NY | 8:58 AM | 3-4-2008

I listen through the NPR media player after the show has been aired live. since I listen at work I often get intrupted or distracted and have to go back to the beginning of the segment. With this new big block layout I could not simply click on "Top of the News" or the BBP Big Story- I had to rewind and try and guess where I stopped listening. yesterday I seemed to do this a lot within the 16 minutes so I guess it did not keep my attention that well. I also often play back segments for my spouse in the evening or email stories. This is harder to do with the rambling effect.

Sent by Janene | 8:59 AM | 3-4-2008

Yeah, I didn't really like the new format. The reason I listen to the BPP every day is because it sounds different from other NPR shows. It was nice getting 'serious' news in a more relaxed format.

The new A block sounds a lot like the NPR hourly news summary (which is what I would listen to if I needed my news quickly).

Sent by G | 9:08 AM | 3-4-2008

I did not like it either. Way too repetitive for someone who listens to both Morning Edition and the BPP. I liked the other way much better.

Sent by Stacy | 11:03 AM | 3-4-2008

I listen to the NPR Itunes Radio feed. I have been listening since the beginning by accident. I had been flipping between Y-XPN and NPR. The one day there was The Park. I was listening to the many hosts that started out the show, and I must say Trisha and Alison make 4am on the West Coast incredible. Thank you for the ever evolving show, you cover it all. From NPR-style news (which I have to say I have heard already a few times by 4am PST : -)

Sent by Jonathan Klein | 5:18 PM | 3-4-2008

I noticed something was different and just thought you guys decided to nix transitions. It confused me since I listen at work and sort of listen on auto-pilot for key phrases like "bpp's big story" and "more news headlines" to clue me in on what I should really be listening to. It seems like I kind of skim-listen to the news.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 10:05 PM | 3-4-2008

I don't come to BPP for the headline news. I go to other sources for that, and BPP has their own niche in my very limited listening time, so no, I don't like this new format. Thanks for trying new things.

Sent by Cat | 2:34 PM | 3-5-2008