NPR Discovers ‘Zack’

20070321zach.jpg

Meet Zack. He's young, he's hip, he's in the know, he's got money to spend, and he just loves listening to National Public Radio. There's only one drawback to the advertiser's wet dream that is Zack, and it is that Zack is a figment of NPR staffers' imagination. (Perhaps he lives next door to the Baileys?) He recently made his debut in a company memo, "NPR Zack: A New Space for Younger Listeners," trumpeting new ways in which public radio can entice the slipping 25-to-44 demographic. Those ways, according to the memo, are, well, music and news. Except, you know, cool. Like, for instance, news will be delivered throughout the day by "newshounds."

The Zack Attack comes as NPR's rival public-radio syndicate, Public Radio International, prepares a morning show to compete with NPR stalwart "Morning Edition," and Chicago Public Radio launches a new station targeting not just a younger but a multiracial audience. Which means it's well time — if not past time — for NPR to consider such things. But one question remains: Why "Zack"? Was the name focus-grouped as a slightly ethnic riposte to ClearChannel's successful "Jack" format? The truth is much, much lamer. As an insider explained to the Boston Globe's Alex Beam, "We thought Zack is exactly the kind of name NPR staffers would give their male children."

Public Radio Seeks a Breath of Fresh Air [Boston Globe]