Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Crusty News Veterans

Here's an interesting slice of radio news from Washington, DC. All news WTOP sold the naming rights to its main studio to Ledo's, a local pizza chain. Industry observers are wondering how the competition is going to top this move.

WTOP already had a unique way of talking about its studio. It's often referred to on-air as "the glass-enclosed nerve center" of the station. Now it's "The Ledo Pizza Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center." Read more at www.dcrtv.com. Scroll down to the WTOP blurb. You can also hear an MP3 of what it sounds like on-air.

This reminds me of a fundraising spot I wrote for the Car Guys a few years ago. It never made it to national distribution but the hook was that "everything is for sale" these days. In the spot, one of the Car Guys had the bright idea to send a bill to the Ann Taylor clothing company every time NPR newscaster Ann Taylor said her name. After all, why let them have free publicity?

Then they take naming rights to the extreme. Carl "White Castle" hamburgers. Robert Spiegel catalogs. Cory Lintoff could front for one of those sticky-roller companies. The obvious Nina Totenberg joke was included too.

It was a good gag at the time. One that looks less and less funny these days. Just about everything really is for sale.

Commercial broadcasters continue to lower their standards to make money. The temptation in public radio will be to follow suit. Rather than setting high standards and maintaining them, many will want to take the money as long as public radio looks good by comparison.

I really hope we'll avoid that trap. Last time I checked, "we're not as bad a commercial radio" wasn't one of public radio's Core Values.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Man who hates commercial names on sports venues said...

Sorry John, but you're a day late and a dollar short on this one...

Wait Wait Don't Tell Me always says they're in the Chase (Bank) Auditorium in downtown Chicago.

Living on Earth starts every show by saying they're "From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley studios in Somerville, Massachusetts"

WERS (Emerson College) makes no secret of the fact that they broadcast from the (Ed) Ansin building, owner of local Ch.7 WHDH.

Selling the naming rights to various locations has been a hallmark of the academic world for decades, and public broadcasting's close academic ties have led them down the exact same path.

It's not quite as extreme as WTOP, but it's mostly indistinguishable to the average listener.

Although admittedly on the commercial side it tends to get into the "mouthful" range. Here we have the "WBCN T.D. Banknorth Patriots Rock Radio Network" for the local football flagship. Say that ten times fast!

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, lest we forget, Marketplace comes to us from the Frank Stanton Studios.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Man who hates commercial names on sports venues said...

Ooooh! Good one! I forgot about Marketplace. I'll bet there are several others, too.

4:45 PM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

Two items. I'm more concerned with the commercialized sound of this more than the editorial issues. Giving an individual donor naming rights and putting a sign next to the studio door is one thing. Putting it on the air, I believe, is another. It makes public radio sound more like the commercial stations listeners tell us they are seeking to avoid. The larger issue for me is the justifcation that is used to take the money. "It's not as bad as commercial radio" isn't the point, but it appears that's how some of these decisions get made. Where's the vision and leadership in that?

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Man who hates commercial names on sports venues said...

Well, all the examples we cited were instances of the donor's name being included on the air.

Come to think of it, for many years Marketplace's own theme music was specifically composed to include the GE/General Electric theme. Yeesh.

This feels "apples and oranges"-ish. It doesn't have anything to do with vision and leadership, it's just about a way to make much-needed cash, and very easily I might add.

Nobody's going to turn down the easy money unless there's a compelling reason not to do so. Editorial issues are USUALLY that compelling reason, but if that's sidestepped then little is going to stop this phenomena. In a sense, why should it be stopped? It's all about striking a balance, is it not?

If you make your overall sound of your station seem 10% more "commercial", but the listener tolerance threshold is 50%...and that 10% gets you a quarter of your annual budget to put towards better editorial control which then reduces that "commercial" sound even more...why is that such a bad thing?

11:58 AM  

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