The "W" is gone. WGBH is now known as GBH, ringing in a new era of to one of America's most recognizable media brands. GBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with GBH President and CEO Jon Abbott about the change and what it means for the company. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: I want you to know before anyone else tells you this in the hallways or on Zoom, I let a couple of "W's" slip in my first hour today. But I think I'm getting it.
Jon Abbott: I imagine I'll probably do the same. You know, many people spent 50 or 60 years doing it. You mentioned it's an iconic brand. It's known not only in New England but across the country, since we're the largest producer for PBS and do a tremendous amount of work of course on radio and audio, and then a lot of work with our teachers all around the country — over a million teachers that we work with. So I have a feeling it'll be a little bit of a habit that folks are going to have to get used to in the new name: GBH.
Mathieu: Yeah, there's some muscle memory here, but that's OK. This is a big deal, though, Jon Abbott. What message are we sending with a rebranding?
Abbott: Well, I think the exciting thing that's gone on for all of media, and more so really in a special way for public media, is this transformation to digital platforms and the ease with which we can get our work to people across all of these new platforms in a much more convenient way. Tremendous amount of facility for getting video programs on demand, work in social media, audio with streaming GBH Radio or our podcasts. It means that our reach is substantially increased and much more convenient because people can find what they are excited about and interested in with greater ease. And by dropping the "W", what we're doing really is leaving behind the vestige of being a broadcaster on WGBH Channel 2 or on 89.7 That's an old convention. East of the Mississippi, you had a "W" in front of your call letters and West, you had a "K". But now just going by GBH, which colloquially I think a lot of people just call this GBH anyway.
Mathieu: That's true.
Abbott: And so what it does is it signals that we are a public media content studio and newsroom that is serving audiences in Boston, New England and all around the country every day with literally millions of impressions for our work. Now we find, Joe, that half of our impressions — more than half of the reach of our work — is actually on digital platforms. So this matches our moment.
Mathieu: Well, tonight's a good example. We'll have special primary coverage, of course, here on GBH Radio, where you would expect. But also on Facebook Live and in our other online platforms, where we'll be interacting with our listeners as we're creating this first draft of history. And it's pretty exciting to think about it that way. I know we can't show people on the radio, Jon, but the GBH logo is changing, too.
Abbott: Yeah, it's a crisp, bright look with the GBH. We've kept the shadowbox look that'll be very familiar with people. So I think that there'll be a lot that's familiar and beloved about the new logo, but the W drops and we're going to a rich color purple, as well, that I think is going to show up on devices on your phone or on your computer in a crisp way that will be easily displayed and found.
Mathieu: We will get used to it. And don't worry, by the way — some things, like this sound, will not be changing.
Mathieu: Man, everyone just woke up, Jon.
Abbott: That's probably the biggest question we get is the sting, as we call it, on television. Our production team did a beautiful job. You'll start seeing that sting at the end of our television programs. It's bright, energetic and crisp, and I really love what they ended up accomplishing.
Mathieu: I have to admit I feel five years old every time I hear it, like "Sesame Street" is just about to begin. What were you saying, Jon?
Abbott: Well, I was saying good luck tonight for the coverage of the congressional races and primary day. My own recollection of the use of the digital platforms, our colleague Adam Reilly did all of the interviews with the candidates for the Congressional Fourth last week and across multiple evenings on Greater Boston. I caught up with every one of those. I was on the road for half of them, but then I listened to all of them [and] watched them all as a group on the website. So I didn't miss a moment of Greater Boston because this new digital environment made it easy for me to catch up with Adam's work and the coverage of the Congressional Fourth, which is going to be an exciting race tonight.