Favorite BPP reaction comments (so far)

When the announcement went out about the cancellation of the Bryant Park Project, the comments on the NPR site numbered in the hundreds. The counts I saw stopped around 600, yet there may be more (who wants to count?).

Now the comments are piling up in reaction to interim CEO Dennis Haarsager’s posting about the cancellation. I already gave my comments. What I find remarkable is that so many in the audience “get it.” Making NPR’s decision here all the more puzzling / frustrating.

Here’s a selection of comments and comment excerpts that I found compelling and instructive (they’re numbered here for reference, but are not numbered at the NPR site):

[1] First, while I realize that you [Haarsager] weren’t head of NPR when the show started, could they have realistically expected there to be much analog carriage of another two hour morning news program?

Even shorter programs not tied to a particular time period take years to build up carriage. …

I’m also surprised you didn’t at least keep the show going at least through the election. You’re reachign an audience that may vote in greater numbers than in a long time. And they need information.

While some of them will listen to other NPR news programs, it is clear from the comments people who don’t are listening, and more importantly, interacting with BPP. –Steve Rhodes

[2] 9 months isn’t nearly enough time, and they shouldn’t have begun the show if they couldn’t have made a significant commitment to its success. –G

[3] It seems to me, somehow, your [NPR’s] outlook on the BPP was more about the neat, shiny technology than anything else.

More focused on the “networks” than the “social.” –Carlo

[4] NPR should have availed itself of this opportunity to try direct funding because the current NPR funding model in unsustainable. I still support my local NPR station, but more out of a sense of duty than anything else. I have no love for them, their constant interruptions of national program with local crud, and their closed-door decision making (which rather reminds me a lot of the decision to cancel the BPP). Except for my dead of night BBC fix all of my listening is either streaming or podcast and I avail myself of every opportunity to support the shows I like directly. I’m about one recession away from dropping my support for my local station all together. NPR needs to allow me to contribute more directly to the things I like or risk losing my support entirely. –Dave Wiley

[5] You [Haarsager] said this: “But we can’t make those second-generation investments if we continue first-generation efforts that aren’t consistent with what we know about how media usage is maturing.”

The new face of media is not about sitting around and reading studies and reports before you make a move. You do something first, see if it works, and make adjustments. eBay wasn’t an instant hit. Neither was MySpace, or BoinBoing, or any of a hundred examples. But the secret is making a move, not sitting around waiting for an idea. The secret is trying a good idea, and then adjusting it to make it better. Not shutting the whole damn thing down and starting again from square one. …

…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. –Sky Bluesky

[6] As a reverted NPR listener, a listener who came back to NPR because of the BPP, I understand that the average NPR listener treats their show as a member of the family. Believe or not, the BPP community has an even greater attachment than that, not just to the show but to each other. This isn’t simply a show; it’s a community. Staff and listeners exchange with one another, sometimes on news items and sometimes on more personal stuff. There are many examples of personal and intelligent exchanges between staff and listeners, examples that, if you take some time to look at on the blog, you will find have a depth of affection not found in anything else NPR produces on-line. This is not to disparage those other shows but to show how special the BPP is as a community. –Matthew C. Scallon

[7] I am 74 and live alone. Local NPR stations are mostly music. I get on the net and listen to NPR talk. I just found BPP and enjoyed it very much, intelagent but not stiff. It gave me many smiles and was topical. I wish I could have been saved. The idea of internet show funding should be explored. The net lets me listen any time I wish. The way of the future. –John Riley

[8] Mr. Harrsager your message rings false. In life there is no hope, there is only do and don’t do. Either you will do what is necessary to move toward those second generation investments, or you will cower and fall back on stale programming that has served for twenty plus years. The BPP is a bold experiment in knitting together a community through all the available media of our day, and one that would continue to expand as the media does. Giving it less than one year to succeed would have been the equivalent of President Kennedy asking NASA to put us on the moon, and then canceling the funding a year later for lack of success. –Greg Gioe

[9] “We’re doing it at npr.org/music and …” um, ok. I want talk that isn’t directed to people much older and more conservative than me. Music isn’t why I care, I can get that anywhere. –AmandaJ

[10] Before leaving for work every morning, I’d sync the podcast to my iPod and listen to it on the subway, in my breaks, and on the way home again. Being two hours a day, the BPP pushed out nearly every other podcast I listened to during the week. And guess what? That was just fine! NPR had taken over my iPod, thanks to the BPP (and I’ve been listening to podcasts since before the word was coined). –Trey

[11] I do not think NPR completely understands what BPP offers. David states “A number of you have expressed concern that with this cancellation, NPR has forsaken its commitment to reaching younger audiences. That isn’t true. We’re doing it at npr.org/music and on many of our major news magazines, on the radio, online and via podcasting.”

Simply offering something in a new media does not mean that it is geared towards a younger audience. The younger audience you are reaching is not the skateboarding, granola eating jobless hippie. We are exactly like your older audience but with younger souls and different taste. We are the Daily Show generation. We vote. We work. We want our BPP. NPR is making a big mistake by cutting this experiment off so soon. A big mistake. –Eight

[12] I feel a little bad for Haarsager, as there is simply nothing he’s going to be able to say to make people happy. The decision to cut the BPP has probably been brewing in the main office since day 1. No reason to shoot the messenger for that alone. …

Thank you, Dennis Haarsager, for having enough respect for your staff and their fans to address our concerns directly. I have no issues with your comments themselves, but what it says about NPR’s ability to adapt to a changing marketplace really worries me. –disgruntled in OH

[13] Mr. Haarsager underestimates, I think, the level of loyalty among BPP listeners and their likely willingness to support a dynamic, vital program. I also sense no love (respect, yes, but no passion) in his comments for such a vibrant, hip show, so it’s no surprise that NPR was able to so easily pull the plug on it. Shame on you, NPR, for not trying harder to keep the BPP flame alive. Cut back here or there, try to direct fundraise, try anything, but don’t just walk away from radio magic. –A. Magni

[14] The overriding message seems to be that local affiliates would have a conniption fit if NPR donors were allowed to directly support specific programs, ostensibly because it will cut into the funding of their local operations. I’m an American ex-pat living in Sweden. There is NO LOCAL NPR affiliate to which I can write out a monthly check. In other words, nobody is going to lose a peice of the pie if I (and the thousands of others who can’t listen to NPR on a local radio station) were permitted to provide financial support directly to the BPP. –Sharon Bowker

[15] It appears to me that Dennis Haarsager did not get the message that I as a young BPP audience member was attempting to get across. I came to the BPP because I didn’t want another young baseless attention tracked music station. I wanted quality news radio that wasn’t so downbeat that young audience fall asleep to it. We grew up in an Era of commercials which move at such a high speed between frames/music changes that it is difficult to listen to traditional NPR news radio. The BPP was unique in that it offered similar content to the traditional NPR news radio at the pace of today’s young people. –Courtney Bonney

[16] Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m going to put it out there anyway. I only listen to the BPP on Sirius Satellite Radio, which I pay for. Where does that money go? –K Rice

[17] I am not pacified by the management blog. I live on NPR – on WNYC, on Sirius, and on the Internet. Although I’m a 57 year old out of demographic, I found the BPP a perfect companion. I listen at different times of the day and the program accompanied me through many multi tasking time periods. If NPR was really interested in its consumers it would have openned up this dialog a couple of months ago and been willing to consider listener ideas. I’ll miss the program, but more than that, I’ll miss the idea that I mattered to NPR. –Larry E

[18] While I do appreciate Mr. Haarsager’s comments to the BPP community it’s not enough.

Instead of saying, “Wow, a lot of people love this show we should try something different to save it.” we get “We can’t do anything, don’t get mad and stop listening to NPR. Try our other products that you aren’t that excited about.” –Mark Guyer

[19] I won’t comment on the CEO’s post directly, other than if the same approach were taken with ATC when it first started, we would not have it here to day. 9 months? Even PRI gave Fair Game a longer attempt! –Michael Black

[20] I read this over and over again, looking for another way to interpret it. Instead what I keep seeing is this:

“We’re cutting Bryant Park Project because we don’t actually need that new content to reach younger audiences, just new delivery mechanisms.”

And yet, if you did read half the comments here as you claimed to, you would understand that’s 100% not the case. The compelling programming drew people to the show, not the delivery method, or at least in addition to the delivery method, and in some cases DESPITE the delivery method (as in no easy radio access). Offering up npr.org/music is patently ridiculous. This gives me news? I don’t even have to look there to see the answer.

Commitment to younger audiences doesn’t just mean podcasting and blogging the same old content. That’s where the Bryant Park Project comes in. It’s an offering that has, as far as I’ve been able to find, no equal anywhere. Sure, I suppose I could get my news on Morning Edition, with its numerous bits that I increasingly tune out, but I go out of my way to hear the BPP because it’s more enjoyable.

I don’t see any indication in this post that NPR understands what it has here. Instead there’s still the old-way stumbling block:

“BPP was created as a two-hour program primarily for satellite radio and the Web”


“Radio carriage didn’t materialize to any degree”.

Hm, way to set yourself up to fail, yes? Where did you expect the radio carriage to come from? Apparently “materialize” is the perfect word there. –Greg

[21] When you hear a disco beat sample looped inanely behind the news reporting, you’ve got to wonder who let the kids into the studio. –Chris G

[22] …if you don’t invite kids into the studio, they’ll take their games (and their money) elsewhere. Thank you for your brave quest to keep NPR safe for the town from Footloose, but the rest of us are hoping for a change. –still disgruntled in OH

[23] And now time to use my new favorite BPP inspired catch phrase that I hope to pass on to my friends NPR, get off my lawn. –Sarah Lee

[24] Mr. Haarsager, I feel like you are reliving Hillary’s experience in a Howard Dean/Barack Obama world. Have you been to Barack Obama’s website? It has a community of people who feel involved in an experience of making him president of the United States. Have you been to the BPP’s website? They too have a community of people who feel involved in an experience of making a wonderful radio/satellite/internet broadcast. In both places, we feel like our ideas matter and are heard.

When Barack Obama asks for more money, that community of people reaches out and gives $52 million with an average donation of $68 each. When BPP asks for money… Oh, I’m sorry, you hadn’t tried that out. –Kathy Fisher

[25] I listen to BBP on HD radio in Lexington, KY. I love the program, although I am not the demographic you envisioned for the program as I am 66 years old.

BBP is witty and refreshing. I also like the fact that they deal with real content. I often discuss the segments with others — both peers and my children and their friends — and even attempt to retell some of the jokes.

While it is hard to get around the it-costs-too-much argument, I suggest you reassess priorities. BBP was designed to appeal to thoughtful young people, who are interested in world affairs. It plays on the strengths of NPR. –Philis Alvic

[26] I think the producers of BPP should try to shop the show elsewhere. I’d gladly pay money to be able to still have this community. –jen

[27] I challenge Mr. Haarsager to write another letter explaining in detail why the decision to cancel the BPP was precipitated, without just blaming the costs. –Emily

[28] This is NPR’s Balk of the Nation. It is sad abandonment of investing for the future. When Haarsager mentions carriage, I can’t help of thinking about buggy whips. It is clear to me that this is a short sighted fiscal decision meant to shore up the status quo. –John

[29] You expect to pull in a younger generation by giving us some baby boomer’s music selections [on NPR Music] of what’s ‘hip’ for my generation? –Jeremy

[30] “BPP was designed to help us explore the complex, undefined digital media environment and, we hoped, to establish new ways of providing content on unfamiliar platforms….”

And in the same paragraph:

“Ultimately, we recognized that wasn’t happening with BPP. Radio carriage didn’t materialize to any degree: right now, BPP airs on only five analog radio stations and 19 HD Radio digital channels.”

Am I confused, or is that a contradiction? “We want to target non-radio platforms, but didn’t get into enough radio stations…”

Huh? –Glenn Wonacott

[31] Thank you [Haarsager] for responding to us directly. Like the others who’ve posted, I appreciate the difficulty of your position, but I am not satisfied with your choice. –Julie Morton