By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Hidden in plain sight

While we wait to hear whether Christopher Lydon’s radio show, “Open Source,” can survive being dropped by WGBH Radio (89.7 FM), have a look at Mark Glaser’s MediaShift column on how “Open Source” uses its Web site to develop program ideas.

“Open Source” producer/co-creator Mary McGrath writes: “Alas, we never stopped running into people who didn’t know we were on the air in Boston at all.” I’ve heard the same thing, and I’m not sure why. “Open Source” has been on the air Monday through Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. for about two years, and people still occasionally ask me if I know whether Lydon is up to anything these days. A shame.

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  1. webcastboy

    I mentioned this on ROS’s website…but a lot of people not knowing Chris was back on the air is because he was on WGBH and not WBUR There’s just no getting around the core branding of each station: WBUR is Boston’s NPR news station, whereas WGBH is Boston’s NPR arts and culture station.But it just takes time to garnish an audience. You can speed that time up a little with a multimedia ad campaign (print ads, billboards, taxi tops, etc), and I do wish ROS had done more of that. But admittedly I have no idea how much that would cost…quite possibly more than it was worth. Anyways, it just takes time to build up an audience. Many people lambasted Air America Radio for trying to do things too fast…the same principles that led people to say that are the same principles that meant it would take three to five years to really build up an audience. It took Tom Ashbrook and On Point five years to surpass The Connection in (weighted) ratings…and that was with a mega-news-event (Sept.11th) driving listeners to the show.

  2. Anonymous

    WGBH Radio = doomed to fail.

  3. Anonymous

    It seems incongruous that the kind of person interested in Chris Lydon would not know that he has been on the air for the past two years.

  4. Anonymous

    I think people know Lydon is on the air They just don’t listen. Can’t blame them for that. Rick from Dorchester

  5. Radio Fan

    Lydon should now make a deal with WBUR.The Wicked Witch (Christo) is gone…replaced by the more affable Paul Lacamera.WBUR has not had a new sucess since Lydon left. Lydon has not had a sucess since he left.Put them together again….Voila!~Can they come to agreement on terms? Will Lydon give up his wish to “own” the show? Will WBUR give up it’s insistance on “owning” everything?Will Chris Lydon overcome his obstinacy and pick up a steady paycheck.I recall his final salary offer from WBUR was $400,000. ALthou, I imagine it would be much less to start all over again…

  6. Anonymous

    We listened to Lydon’s program on ‘GBH a few times, and I’ll have to admit that it was boring. It wasn’t nearly as interesting as his old Connection program.I’d be surprised if ‘BUR would pick up Lydon’s program for their evening schedule. They are obviously in a retrenchment mode, since they have been merely repeating Ashbrook’s morning show in the evening, and seem to be relying more and more on NPR and the BBC news service.–raj

  7. Anonymous

    I agree to what the people above won’t say. Lydon’s a good guy and a decent broadcaster but his self importance ruined his career. He and his overpaid producer ruined his career. Stop carrying water for the guy. It’s boring.

  8. Man who's a public radio fan

    Hey Raj, I won’t say I agree with your assessment, but if you’re willing, I’d love to know more about why you thought Lydon is more boring now than when he was on The Connection. I mean, it’s still more or less the same Chris behind the mic, and it’s the same Mary McGrath in the control room.The most major differences are that Radio Open Source is in the evening instead of the more ideal 10am slot, and that the show doesn’t take live callers anymore. I don’t deny that those are important changes, but I’d be curious to know your analysis to see whether those changes are applicable.FWIW, many people…our esteemed Mr. Kennedy among them…said they’d be happy if Chris just came back and essentially did The Connection again; they didn’t really care about the grand blogging experiment. Would y’all say that has or has not happened?

  9. the sak

    WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook needs to do more original thinking than redigesting press releases about guests. He should be asking more challenging questions of guests. It would be great if WBUR could get someone more original as a host. Chris Lydon is more original but even he could be even better in challenging guests. The screening of callers should be a more open process where the technology used should be explained more openly along with explaining the techniques of the producers taking calls.

  10. Anonymous

    I too am a public radio fan. But the whole ROS thing is wearing on me.After a little sleuthing, I have discovered that Mary McGrath is NOT in the control room during the show, as she is involved in the daily show formation. Perhaps THAT is one factor of the show’s lack of flow or direction?One comment deemed Chris as “self-important.” Perhaps that is true. Why didn’t ROS ask for funding from its base back when UML pulled their funding back in December? Was Chris thinking that the program was so valuable, that he was so good, that certainly SOMEONE would see the importance of just throwing money at ROS? To me, there appears to be an arrogance in the management of ROS that kept them from acting in a timely manner.Also, ROS is not as “open source” as their name implies. They no longer take live listener calls (or even pre-recorded ones). They no longer have a designated “blogger-in-chief” that reads from their site in real-time during the show.In short, the show is devolving into just another talk show. With Lydon doing all the talking. (Have you ever really listened to one of his minute-long, self-aware, rambling, four-point questions to a guest?)It took Lydon and Co. five years to get this deal. They blew it in almost two. NPR and PRI have gone longer with programs that have done far less. Lydon’s public radio and television broadcast credibility is nil. At least in Boston. The question is, has it traveled farther than that?

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