Too Beautiful to Live

NPR CEO Has Something to Say

According to the blog of NPR's interim CEO, someone on our staff asked whether we could continue the Bryant Park Project as a website. CEO Dennis Haarsager responds:

"In this case, radio carriage was inadequate and web/podcasting usage was hampered — here's the relearning part — by having an appointment program in a medium that doesn't excel in that kind of usage. . . .

"I'd like to see good minds like those of the BPP staff think about how we can do good journalism delivered via the web using techniques beyond just throwing up another portal-type web site and expecting people to come to it. Our new open API release is a great tool for that. The realities of how people use the web, how web audiences grow through search, and technologies for tracking attention and tailoring content delivery to match how people spend their attention all need to be considered. Portals still have a place, just as their close cousins radio transmitters do, but we can no longer put all our eggs in that basket.

"NPR will, I hope, be a leader in a new generation of news delivery over multiple platforms, including ones we've never conceived. But we can't make those 2nd generation investments if we continue 1st generation efforts that aren't consistent with what we know about how media usage is maturing."

Comments

 

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What??? Honestly, huh?

Wow, this provides some insight. He really didn't get it. If that's the word from the CEO's desk, I'm thinking the BPP was *decades* ahead of its time for NPR.

Sent by Maura @m_a_u_r_a | 2:27 PM | 7-22-2008

i feel sick to my stomach. Am I way off base by feeling insulted by this post?

Sent by ashley l | 2:29 PM | 7-22-2008

Wow! Can't really express what BS that memo was. He asks the "good minds" of BPP staffers to think of ideas, but didn't he can y'all?

Clearly, reading between the lines and corporate-ese, they didn't like your show and killed it. They have no plans to resurrect it in any form.

I'm sorry guys. You were worth the effort of at least a fighting chance and NPR refused you that. I think they should go to work at FOX, scheduling and canceling great shows within the same season. They seem well suited to that task.

Sent by David M. | 2:34 PM | 7-22-2008

Haarsagersayswhat?

Does that guy speak engrish? I have no idea what he's talking about and other than my ongoing prediction that I was about to encounter the word "synergy," had difficulty following.

I take it that his answer was no.

Sent by KC in Boston | 2:40 PM | 7-22-2008

I have satellite radio and have tried listening to NPR on the sat. radio but the programing for the west coast is not what is on the radio. No "Morning Edition" in the AM or "All Things Considered" for the drive home.

I have been without the satelite radio for the last month or so and have thoroughly enjoyed BPP.

My recommendation: Put a BPP channel on Sirius instead of having two channels that don't have anything I would listen to on satellite. When I switch back to my old vehicle with the satellite radio I won't hear NPR again because my debate over BPP via radio and satelite radio... well you solved that!

Sent by Matt Vollmer | 2:41 PM | 7-22-2008

198 words. Zero content. Mr. Harrsager has given no valid reason for this cancellation in his brief blog statement. So because something is not an instant hit it is done away with? What technology are you waiting for, the ability to beam programs directly into people's minds? If you wait too long you will become irrevocably obsolete.

Sent by Greg Gioe | 2:42 PM | 7-22-2008

Sir, I am an extremely loyal member of the BPP community. I refer to myself as this rather than as a listener because it is a community of people listening, viewing, commenting, blogging, tweeting, etc. It is the most accessible, interactive, addictive, enjoyable news source with which I have ever been involved.

In your post you say: This is not meant to diminish BPP, but Morning Edition and All Things Considered have more younger podcast listening than does BPP, and way more radio listening, simply because wide radio carriage delivers awareness of both.

I accidentally stumbled on Bryant Park Project. It was not promoted or discussed on other NPR programs to my knowledge. I believe that the other programs you mentioned have a lot more exposure through local public radio stations and you sell products with their names in your NPR product shop. If the only NPR program you are familiar with is the one you heard your parents listen to while driving in your car, then that is the podcast you will choose to download or stream.

Consider how quickly BPP caught on and how "rabid" the fans are. If that were true of "Tell Me More" or some of the other programs that continue, they would be astronomical success stories.

Please consider leading in this area and restoring BPP in a relevant form to your programming. If you do, the BPP community will promote it by word of mouth more than you probably expect we would.

Thank you for your consideration,

Sent by T. Weiss | 2:46 PM | 7-22-2008

That's CEO speak for, um, something.

I feel like he is saying that BPP didn't get big enough, fast enough. But great shows don't work like that. An audience has to be built over time. I think BPP could have been an excellent way for NPR to grow its audience over time.

Sent by Stephanie | 2:54 PM | 7-22-2008

I only heard BPP on occasion(Sat Radio/podcast), so I am neither a fan or someone who believes that NPR can continue as they have and thrive.
I think we all need to break out of the one program for one demo, another for another demo model. How about taking 1/2 hour of ME and ATC each day and producing it with BPP style, tone and/or staff. For a start. Make it appointment radio/ doable podcast each day(not too long).
The smaller things Steve I does to be a bit less formal on ME are a start, but why not improve/change ME and ATC and get out of this box.

Sent by Craig Kenworthy | 2:58 PM | 7-22-2008

If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull****, I guess.

Sent by Cinder Conlon | 3:01 PM | 7-22-2008

huh?

Sent by Tom Kulenski | 3:03 PM | 7-22-2008

Yeah, sounds like a "No" with a hint of "screw you" and a touch of "hey, you kids, get off my lawn!!!"

Makes me sad :(

Sent by Sandra Y. | 3:07 PM | 7-22-2008

Oh, lordy, I don't know whether to feel relieved or sick to my stomach that I wasn't the only one who did not understand what that man was trying to say. What do you say to that kind of crazy talk? Again I say, give listeners a chance to vote with their dollar, where's the online pledge drive? Show me where to support until then you are not walkin' the public radio walk.

Sent by robin | 3:09 PM | 7-22-2008

Its so strange to me that in this new social media revolution, a innovative program design like the BPP isn't seen as just that,innovation. And like many forms of innovation it takes time to figure out a sucessful business model to go along with it. Look at Twitter, the company is valued at like a bigillion dollars and is still figuring out a way to make money off their site. So I find it disheartening that the CEO of NPR is that naive and short sighted. Depressing to find out that a media source you admire and trust is run by this man. I guess that just shows my youth.

Sent by Jennifer Mueller | 3:10 PM | 7-22-2008

I read the entire comment on his blog and it gives specific reasons on why the BPP was canceled. I don't know how to judge those reasons because I don't fully understand the metrics involved but I do believe that this excerpt does not represent his entire reasoning.

I don't like the way he concluded with a challenge to the BPP folks. I know from personal experience that those challenges can be a way of passing the buck. I don't know how he can compare the listener base of Morning Edition and All Things Considered, shows which have been staples of the public's routine for two generations, to a show which has been on for nine months trying to gain market share. That is where the real discrepancy lies. What was NPR's marketers doing to help the BPP measure their success? Did the 2 million dollar budget include anything to measure the shows' impact? Is nine months really enough time to make a reasonable and accurate study or measurement?

Sent by Lisa Ormerod | 3:20 PM | 7-22-2008

Your comments, sir, do a great disservice to the staff of the Bryant Park Project and its listeners. Not least because they are gibberish and corporate double-speak. I, like many, apparently, stumbled upon BPP while surfing the NPR webpage, since it was not promoted. It was new, it was fresh, it was cool, hip, breezy, listenable, suprising and all those good demographic buzzwords. So much better than the new "Take Away", with its burbly, oh so twee, blip noise before taped material from another public radio network, and not the same old-same old from NPR's other programming. As someone just getting to like radio again, I say you have blown it, really blown it with this cancellation.

Sent by Leslie | 3:27 PM | 7-22-2008

Now that I've recovered from banging my forehead on my keyboard, I have to say, what a crock! It's almost as if this dude believes that the strength of the BPP was its web site, and look! We have a new API! It's also on the web!

Still, though, as much as I lurve the show, it's hard to argue against the radio carriage numbers - especially in an organization where the member stations have considerable weight, but I thought the Globe and Mail article someone posted up there really nailed it.

Sent by Ken Y | 3:28 PM | 7-22-2008

Waitwaitwaitwaitwait!

Mass media -- even the Internet -- are not about technology, demographics or website-tracking methodologies. The point of radio, television, print and the Internet lies in people making connections with other people.

The point is in building community . . . in sharing information that fosters the better functioning of all aspects of how we live together in some form of commonweal.

By what measure has the Bryant Park Project failed in this basic mission? Translate Dennis Haarsager's tortured prose thus: "We had NO flippin' idea how to market this thing and, hell, we couldn't even figure out how to gain clearance on the NPR stations where Bryant Park Project would have been a natural fit. We're a bunch of morons, and you get to pay the price for that.

"Thank God Morning Edition and ATC have enough decades of momentum to coast for a while."

NPR is thinking demos and spreadsheets. It's telling that not once did Haarsager use the words "social network," "social media" or anything similar.

That is where BPP has excelled, and those techno-nerd terms are nothing more than new labeling for an old concept that radio (when it's done correctly) has done magnificently since 1920 -- allowing one human being in front of a microphone to make a connection with another in front of a loudspeaker.

You know what else (for what it's worth)? The BPP wasn't on my radar screen until I read on Twitter that it had been canceled.

Then I checked it out online (which is the only place I can hear it) and thought "DAMN!" I've been listening every day since. And will until the end.

It wasn't the BPP staff or the BPP concept that were deficient. The problem lay in those who can't promote and can't sell.

Sent by The Mighty Favog | 3:30 PM | 7-22-2008

"It's not you, its me"

xoxo - Dennis

Sent by Meg | 3:30 PM | 7-22-2008

"Portals still have a place, just as their close cousins radio transmitters do, but we can no longer put all our eggs in that basket". Isn't this a contradictory statement? If you shouldn't "put all of your eggs in one basket" wouldn't it make sense to allow programs that thrive in one forum over another co-exist? BPP would continue to gain and retain listeners if allowed to remain on the web. Similarly, Prairie Home Companion and its 75 year old age demographic will always fare well on an old-school FM radio and would not, I assume, be listened to by older Americans on line or downloaded to their ipods?

Sent by Katie | 3:34 PM | 7-22-2008

What? I went to school for English and it took me 4 reads before I think I understand what's being written. Apparantly I should have studied corporate English, too (>_<) Correct me if I'm wrong since I barely grasp this.

First paragraph: Podcasts, audio downloads, and NPR's radio stream aren't good enough to get a news show to the public simply because it's a news show. Also, not enough local stations would carry the show.

(my response: First, the BPP doesn't have to be a morning show; any station could have aired it around noon and it would have been great. Also, in case you've been sleeping for the past 2 years straight, podcasts are very popular. I remember before Alison left on maternity leave she announced that the BPP cracked the top 25 on iTunes. Things get viral and apparantly that's what the interim CEO wants to happen?)

Second paragraph: Interim CEO wants a way to do the show that's not just a website with a podcast because there's no advertisment involved. He wants to utilize those wacky search-a-majigs that track what you like and will suggest the BPP or other appropriate news shows in place of advertising.

(my response: What is this "Portal" he speaks of. Is he talking about *shock* a WEBSITE? If so, those happen to be very popular right now and that's pretty much the best way to do things. Unless the BPP wants to put their daily Rundowns on HULU and YouTube. I also don't like those wacky search-a-majigs that try to read my mind. It's often unsuccessful. Plus, the BPP audience can't fit neatly into a box. We have ages 19-54+, the extremely conservative and extremely liberal, those who like Batman and those who don't. What kind of search-a-majig could find a common denominator for a BPP listener in that?)

Paragraph three: We can't do 2nd gen radio without taking into account what we learned with 1st gen radio.

(my response: First generation radio was radio. Yup, that's it. Now we have blogs about the programs, an online rundown and the ability to listen to specific parts of the program. The BPP took all that media stuff and upped it to the next level by introducing more online media. I'm not sure what Mr. Interim CEO was getting at since the natural progression is from radio to internet and that's exactly what the BPP was doing. Perhaps if he had listed the items we've learned from 1st gen radio I could have a beter grasp of what the heck idea he's aiming for. Though the link for Haarsager's blog is blocked at work and there may be more there that will help me be less confused.)

Suggestions: Okay, so the gentleman wants (or seems to want) more advertising but apparantly NPR isn't supposed to do it since the only time I heard about the BPP was when Luke Burbank was a guest on Wait Wait and he was introduced as the host of NPR's new morning news show. So ... YouTube? Perhaps wacky ominous, ambiguous trailers should have gone up. I'm imagining a rather funny one for The Ramble.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 3:38 PM | 7-22-2008

I work in the media industry (higher education publishing) and I know that in this industry you have to take risks. For instance, we published a book that had a different pedagogy than anything else out there in the feild of Anatomy & Physiology and it is now one of our biggest sellers.

I guess what I am trying to say, NPR, is that sometimes a business has to take risks in order to be successful. A business, especially in the media industry, cannot simply do everything the same way its done it for many years and not expect to grow. I agree with the other posts that ME and ATC should stay, but NPR needs to promote more interactivity w/ its shows. Otherwise, your audience may not grow.

I know that this post is extreemly baised, but this is just how I see this situation.

Sent by Julia from Denver | 3:41 PM | 7-22-2008

Sir,
Why must I be condemned to listen to my parents NPR? I have been listening to NPR for nearly twenty five years and other than a handful shows, it has remained pretty much the same. BPP is one of the few shows that breaks the mold and brings a young, intelligent and energetic new voice that can only grow as it matures. The longer it stays on-air the better chance it has of increasing its audience. On that note, I randomly came across the BPP surfing the NPR "portal," proof that these "portals" do have a use! If the show were to have been advertised better than maybe we wouldn't be having this sad discussion. I can't imagine what will happen when your veteran crew from All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Fresh Air (to name a few), decide to retire. I would say NPR has been putting all of its eggs in one basket for decades. The time to cultivate new talent and explore now formats is now. For the time being, I will enjoy what little time is left with the good folks of BPP while I too imagine how else they could "do good journalism delivered via the web using techniques beyond just throwing up another portal-type web site and expecting people to come to it"... wait a minute, that's how I found the BPP to begin with!

Sent by Jose from Cambridge, United Kingdom. | 4:29 PM | 7-22-2008

A series of responses:

You can't make those second-generation efforts succeed if you kill off the attempts to create "new media" before giving them a chance to succeed. I can't believe that you would cancel the BPP - a slap in the face to all associated with the project - and then ask its braintrust to come up with ideas on creating online content. They had a brilliant idea, and you've euthanized it.

You suggest that the BPP was an example of "putting all your eggs in one basket". But later in your piece, you demonstrate that you haven't put all of your eggs in one basket: you're podcasting, you've got the new NPR Music website, you've got the API, and you've got the BPP. It seemed to me that the BPP was part of a strategy - not the be-all/end-all of your new media strategy. There must be a way to keep the BPP going in some lower-cost format, since is it your most adventurous and most successful venture in 21st generation media to date.

The comparison to Morning Edition and ATC's audience - even in terms of podcasts - is unfair. Those programs have a thirty-year record, and they are essentially "destination programs." When people are trying to find NPR programs, they look for Morning Edition and All Things Considered. They don't look for News and Notes. They don't look for Tell Me More. They don't look for the BPP. This is a problem of branding and marketing, not of the BPP's quality or content. This is an external problem, not an internal one.

Despite that, the BPP built a passionate audience of a million people - on air, online, on Twitter, on Facebook, on the blog - in less than ten months. Morning Edition has an audience of thirteen million, after thirty years.

T. Weiss has it exactly right: BPP is part of the long list of programs on the NPR website, but without some strategic cross-marketing, of course it's not going to succeed. Morning Edition and All Things Considered should be promoting the BPP regularly, in the way that they regularly use stories from programs like Youth Radio and other outside projects. (I can't find a single instance of a BPP story appearing on ATC. Not one.) There needs to be a strategic effort to build cross-brand interest. You don't just send a new project out there to sink or swim - it has to be nurtured and supported, or else it will inevitably fail.

Sent by Sky Bluesky | 4:32 PM | 7-22-2008

I agree w/Julia from Denver. I work in elementary/high school publishing, and they are putting the books online, putting lesson and book reviews and quizzes online, etc. It grows everyday. There's interest in books w/interactive qualities on cartridges such as Nintendo DS since the players are everywhere. First company to do that will be crazy popular and awash in cash. Lots of risk taking. That's what NPR needs before it becomes disengaged from all the social networkers/tweeters/bloggers/news fans out there.

Sent by T. Weiss | 4:32 PM | 7-22-2008

Judging from the comments and reactions, here's what I've discerned: While the BPP may not attract the same number of listeners other popular NPR shows do, I'd venture to guess that a solid 80% of BPP listeners are highly involved in the variety of media presented by the BPP. In other words, many of us are not simply casual listeners, but rather are a very focused and attentive audience. I think the BPP truly is, as I heard it described by many of its staff, not simply news. It truly is a conversation, and it's absolutely ground-breaking. I miss the show desperately already.

To the amazing BPP staff: Thank you so much for everything you do and everything you've done. I'll miss the BPP immensely, and hope you all get to work together to maintain or recreate this amazing show very soon.

Sent by Phil | 4:38 PM | 7-22-2008

There were many reasons why I gravitated to NPR and BPP - it is a rememberance of home and my childhood, it provides a different approach to news, and IT DOESN'T HAVE CORPORATE SPEAK.

Apparently those who run the organization don't actually listen to or learn from the incredible caliber of employees in their company. The reason why we as a species/nation/etc. cannot change for the better is not because of lack of desire, or motivation. It is because of short-sighted individuals who do not understand something, and in fearing that, decide to cut a beautiful life short.

I'm sorry BPP. You will be sorely missed.

Sent by Increasingly depressed | 4:49 PM | 7-22-2008

Huh?

Sent by Neil | 6:17 PM | 7-22-2008

He states, ""NPR will, I hope, be a leader in a new generation of news delivery over multiple platforms..."

Keep hoping!

I'll cross my fingers for you NPR!!

Or...... you could TRY allowing the BPP community to DONATE MONEY to keep the ONLY program that already accomplishes all of your stated goals....

Sent by Gail | 7:04 PM | 7-22-2008

WTF?!

Guess what NPR? You just lost a donor.

Sent by Sarah | 9:27 PM | 7-22-2008

coughcoughbull****coughcough....what a lame-ass response.

Was that the worst case of corporate speak you've ever heard?

198 words to say jack squat....man, this guy would NEVER make it on Twitter!

Sent by Julie in North Carolina | 9:31 PM | 7-22-2008

The galling thing is that it's clear that this guy doesn't understand the concept of the podcast.

I have hours' worth of BPP podcasts in my iTunes going all the way back to October. When I listen to them, the only parts of the show that are outdated are the top and bottom of the hour newscasts. And why is that? Because the majority of the content on the BPP is not time-sensitive.

I'm sorry he doesn't understand what he had. I'm even more sorry that he doesn't care what he had.

Something I'm not sorry for: I used to split my public radio support each year between WBUR and WGBH here in Boston, WMBR in Cambridge (MIT's music station, which carries no NPR programming) and WFMU, the freeform station in East Orange, NJ, which I listen to online. NPR's loss is WMBR and WFMU's gain, because now they're getting ALL of that $1000 a year, not half of it.

Sent by Stewart | 9:50 PM | 7-22-2008

I'd like to see good minds like those of the BPP staff think about how we can do good journalism


CEO No Name - if you plan on paying these hacks to sit around and daydream about your silly little assignment I'm writing a complaint letter to the CPB. It's bad enough I have to pay their unemployment, the last thing I want my tax dollars to do is subsidize their moronic idiocy.

Sent by Mark Batisah | 2:32 AM | 7-23-2008

I'm in an instructor teaching Koreans English online. I've been devoutly listening to your radio program for a month now. I always enjoy your show and it bolsters my self-esteem because I feel like I speak better English just by listening. Other NPR radio shows doesn't seem so entertaining and informative...BPP staff, I'll be praying for your CEO's better sense.

Sent by Sam in Philippines | 8:04 AM | 7-23-2008

Wow, NPR will never get any of my $$$ support in the future. Your loosing an entire generations respect.

Sent by E. Strassberg | 8:14 AM | 7-23-2008

Pathetic, just pathetic. Did this giblet head use a corporate mumbo jumbo generator to write this? Look I can do it too:

Through a top-down, proactive approach we can remain customer focused and goal-oriented, innovate and be an inside-out organization which facilitates sticky web-readiness transforming turnkey ideas to 24/365 brand paradigms with benchmark turnkey.

Sent by Jeremy | 2:50 PM | 7-23-2008

Podcast, schmodcast. I pay for Sirius satellite radio and listened to the BPP every morning! I am hoping you took THAT platform into consideration. At the loss of The Bryant Park Project, I will now be taking NPR off of my presets...

Sent by Sara Bartholomew | 4:22 PM | 7-23-2008

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