No matter we had it first. It's just sad.
The New York Times is now reporting that NPR suits will tell staffers Monday morning that Bryant Park Project is being canceled.
The last day will be July 25.
(photo: Stewart & Burbank. by Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times)
The experimental weekday morning news for a younger audiences, launched with co-hosts teevee news reporter Alison Stewart and localite Luke Burbank was an expensive attempt to lure listeners who had moved online to public radio.
The live, two-hour show was a conversational and off-beat treatment of news and culture and is said to have fallen prey to an economy that's hurt public radio underwriting as much as commercial radio's advertising shortfalls.
But there's a lot more.
The Times says "Bryant Park Project had a rocky start when one of the original co-hosts, Luke Burbank, quit just before the debut. (He ended up staying through mid-December.) Ms. Stewart went on maternity leave in April, and the news anchor, Rachel Martin, left for ABC News in May."
(Burbank of course came home to Seattle and under the aegis of Bonneville International has developed another experimental show on AM radio that's aimed at a younger demographic, Too Beautiful to Live, KIRO m-f, 7-10p).
Although the program is heard over the air on just five radio stations and available on 19 high-definition digital channels, NPR officials said publicly in recent months that “Bryant Park Project” was attracting the kind of Web audience they had hoped for. One NPR employee, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the program had one million individual, or “unique” listeners in both April and May.
Stewart told The Times: “From what I understand, we are obviously in extra-tough economic times, and it is a financial and strategic decision,” she said. “I was told it had absolutely nothing to do with the quality or content of the show.”
But there was some heavy NPR politics working against the show long before the recession had shown its teeth.
BPP's champions, CEO Ken Stern was fired in March; senior programming veep Jay Kernis, departed for CNN in January. They'd developed the concept as part of a larger attempt to bring the slow-moving public network into digital reality of the modern era.
Stern had argued that the old way of doing radio wouldn't work forever. There were too many other new options: cable teevee, online news, iPods, video games and social networks. All were pulling audiences away from traditional radio stations.
He argued that NPR had to be available on whatever platforms people wanted to hear them.
But the local affiliates hated the idea of new platforms. (Many thought platforms were a type of shoe from their disco days, and said, "No way!").
Stations rely on shows like Morning Edition and Car Talk to generate pledges. But if listeners could catch these shows podcasted or live-streamed from the NPR website, they argued, it would cut out the stations, and end station loyalty (read fundraising). They were probably correct.
BPP is the only NPR show that live- streams from the site-- it drew fire from the stations -- Oregon Public Radio in particular had a fit over BPP.
Stern failed at convincing local stations that there was a place for them in his vision of a digital future.
Ken Stern was cut loose. Bryant Park Project is dead.