In the Loop

NPR does one for the kids

Posted at 11:45 AM on July 6, 2007 by Jeff Horwich

With a little time to relax today, I gave a listen to the first hour-long pilot of National Public Radio's new morning show explicitly aimed at younger people (like me). By this, they mean younger than the typical 40-55 year-old public radio listener.

They're calling it (temporarily, I presume) The Bryant Park Project, and you can find it here.

headphones.jpgI'm not in a position to get into a detailed critique -- partly because we're kind of playing in the same game (though In The Loop has never put so fine a point on who our audience is supposed to be). And I'm going to keep a safe distance from commenting on the actual hosts!

But I had a few observations as I listened, and I'm curious to hear yours:

* Unlike some other recent attempts (like a program called Fair Game), NPR's folks aren't trying so hard to be funny. Thank goodness. Did I laugh out loud? No. Did I grin? Once or twice. Did I wince? Not really. They pass the wince test, and for that I give them credit.

* The hour did not require them to encounter any truly serious news events, with the exception of this week's pro-wrester-murder-suicide (see next comment). In other words, they left war, poverty, and the real nastiness of the daily news behind. As a prospective daily news show, I imagine they'll get to that in future pilots.

* Witness the danger of asking hosts to banter live -- Host 1: "Of course, I'm talking about pro-wrestler David Benoit, who appears to have killed his wife, his child, and himself in Georgia." Host 2: "Gosh, that's a sad story." Uh huh.

* Unlike many of the folks who commented on NPR's page, I don't have a problem with doing a Paris Hilton-related segment. But what bothered me is that they did it without doing it, with a segment that consisted of nothing more than a discussion of the decision about whether to do it. If you're going get into greasy pop culture, don't be cute. Try to add real value.

* This is more of a technical, big picture question: When it debuts later this year, we can safely presume the show -- running in the same slot as Morning Edition -- will be carried on very few stations (plus Sirius satellite radio). One has to also assume that they're hoping lots of folks will consume the show via podcast. But will many people have the motivation to keep up with a daily podcast? I listen to podcasts constantly, but personally I just can't hang with daily (maybe because there are so many others I want to listen to).

On the whole, I'm glad for NPR's effort. They believe, like we do, that if public radio doesn't get out there and experiment with what's next, the zillion other options that younger audience has will steal them away and never give them back. Together, I think shows like ours and theirs can collectively help establish to new audiences that there's something to stick around for.

Anyone else out there given this a listen? Reactions?

July 2007
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