Believe it or not, program directors, the gate-keepers of public radio, almost universally hate the name 'Philosophy Talk' -- whatever they think of the program Philosophy Talk. Even PD's who seem otherwise to like the program quite a lot, sometimes say they hate both the 'talk' part of our name and the 'Philosophy' part of our name. But folks seem particularly to hate the combination of 'Philosophy' and 'Talk'. A PD at a very major station on the West Coast hated our name so much that he/she even cited it as one reason for not putting us on the air when we were first starting out.
Because we get this a lot, we've been thinking about changing the name. We're just starting to brainstorm about possible new names. We're thinking about having a "Rename that Radio Program" contest on the air and via our blog and our website in order to involve our listeners in this potential rebaptism.
What's in a name, you say? Well, apparently a lot. The "talk" part apparently makes us sound to some PD's like we're trying to be the "Car Talk of Philosophy." That's apparently a definite no, no. "Can't tell you how many times I've been pitched a program purporting to be the Car Talk of X" says more than one PD dismissively. The "Philosophy" part is also apparently pure death to some. 'Philosophy' apparently connotes to some PD's staid academic discourse. And they believe that that is what it would connote to their listeners as well. They think that will be a turn off to the listener and will prevent the listener from even sampling our program. One PD wrote to us that he/she has seen no research suggesting that he/she should put 52 hours/year worth of philosophy programming on the air.
When you tell people like this, "Well lots of people have sampled the program and love it," they are not always impressed. They may suspect that we have only a niche audience and that the name stands in the way of our breaking out of the niche. [Of course, they never ever acknowledge that one thing that prevents us from reaching a wider audience is their own unwillingness to give us access to their air.]
Okay. So you see what we're up against? See why I sometimes get frustrated by the "business" side of this whole affair? I firmly believe that we are offering something that millions crave. But I guess I am willing to acknowledge that though people do crave what philosophy has to offer, they don't necessarily crave it under the rubric 'philosophy', if you know what I mean. That may have been what the surely well intentioned PD who cited the lack of market research justifying 52 hours/year of philosophy on the air was getting at. But who knows, really?
My very dear and usually wise wife told me that we should just stick to our guns and not change our name. But some professional publicity and marketing types, who work in the trenches, say that if the name is a problem for the gatekeepers, then it's a problem that needs to be overcome.
Anyway, got any ideas? We'd love to hear them.