It’s a sad day for fans of “The Bryant Park Project.”
The NY Times reports that National Public Radio pink-slipped the show that deliberately courted Gen-Xers through its “informal” tone and “robust Web presence.” And though the number of listeners was small, especially compared to the traditional NPR standbys, the BPP website did accrue millions of page views monthly. The cancellation has some fans incandescent with rage at National Public Radio.
The fate of the BPP brings to mind Christopher Lydon’s “Open Source.” Like “The Bryant Park Project,” “Open Source” attempted to transcend divisions between old and new media, aspiring to be a “blog with a radio show.” But as Doug Kaye so trenchantly observed, it was this very embrace of the new technology within the framework of the old assumptions that foreordained the program’s failure as a traditional “radio” program (a slimmed down “Open Source” lives on as a podcast):
Radio Open Source’s problem is just that: It’s a hybrid. It has the cost structure of a public-radio program — a $1 million/year budget — in a podcast-revenue marketplace.
Perhaps this is what ultimately undid The Bryant Park Project as well. The old thinking just doesn’t apply anymore. Public radio consultant Robert Patterson, seems to suggest as much. Mirroring Kaye, Patterson calls for a new economics:
The NYT mentioned that in April and May they had a million unique visitors on the web. This is brilliant. As a web based show you can build the audience until you have enough momentum to add more radio. I would also have made it easy for “members” to donate to BPP. What about the stations? I would have had a split. Try the new economics for real all the way. So what went wrong? The show was conceived as Radio! In St Louis, many of the best staff of the Dispatch left the paper and started a new one. The one thing they did not consider was using paper!
Regardless of the reasons, the show’s end is a clear loss for those of us trying to help create additional relevance for public broadcasting in this furiously evolving digital world. My greatest fear is that its cancellation may be taken as justification to throw cold water on further online experimentation.
I think that would be perilous for the future of public radio.
I would be curious to hear from some BPP fans—as well as those not too keen on the show. Share some of your thoughts about the program. What do you hold as the primary reason for its cancellation?