Thursday, January 21, 2010

Air America Goes Off the Air

How is it, at the height of the Obama Presidency, Air America goes off the air:

Air America, the liberal talk-radio network that helped boost the careers of Al Franken and Rachel Maddow, said Thursday that it was declaring bankruptcy and going off the air.

The company, founded in 2004 and based in New York, strove to provide left-leaning commentary and call-in programs as an alternative to such popular conservative radio talkers as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage.

It was troubled almost from the start. The company had difficulty lining up affiliates and attracting a sizable audience. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection just 30 months after its inception and was resold to an investor group in early 2007 for $4.25 million.

Charlie Kireker, one of Air America’s principal owners and its chairman, said in a memo to employees Thursday that the company was done in by “a perfect storm” of plunging ad revenues, intense competition, high debt and poor prospects for new financing. A search for new investors, he said, has been fruitless. The company declined further comment.

It helps to actually understand the radio business before you attempt to go into it. No one at Air America understood the radio business. First and foremost, you hire professional radio talent. Then, you develop that talent. If people are buying your ideas and if they’re accepting what your talent has to say, it’s gravy from then on. All they would have had to do is copy—copy—the way successful broadcasters do business. They survive based on their talent. Can they hold the interest of someone listening? Can they speak a common language that the listeners can understand? Can they interview a guest? Can they talk about a subject with some degree of knowledge?

If not, they will fail. There are more Democrats than Republicans in this country, but no one was buying what they were selling. No one on Air America was so compelling to listen to that people would do whatever they could to hear what they had to say. Their stable of talent—God bless them—went on to do things like MSNBC and the United States Senate. At least, that’s what two of them did. Where’d the rest of them go? I have no idea. And neither does anyone else. That’s because they were nobodies, sir. Nobodies.

I hate to say this, but,  by going with amateurs, half-assed celebrities, and unhinged personalities, they wrote their own obituary long before today.

And I’ll say this until I am blue in the face: if you have nothing but contempt for middle America, guns, hunting, fishing, sports, country music, and just plain old corn pone, then that’s exactly the kind of audience you’re going to have. You’re going to attract three or four people who have nothing but contempt for a good number of Americans who listen to the radio. And, if you can’t get the people who listen to radio to listen to you because your talent can’t do anything except talk down to people and act like high and mighty jackasses, watch your business collapse into a damp heap of nothing.

Oh, and this will kick your ass, too:

In October 2006, ABC Radio Networks, then under Disney’s ABC, told its stations to black out all ads from about 90 companies that did not want to have their ads on radio stations that carried Air America Radio. The internal memo from ABC Radio Networks to its affiliates was headlined “Air America Blackout” and was addressed to the Traffic Director who handles advertising for the affiliates. The memo states, “Please be advised that Hewlett Packard has purchased schedules with ABC Radio Networks between October 30th and December 24th, 2006. Please make sure you blackout this advertiser on your station, as they do not wish it to air on any Air America affiliate.”

The memo then goes on to say, “Please see below for a complete list of all advertisers requesting that NONE of their commercials air within Air America programming.” The list includes large corporations such as Wal-Mart, General Electric, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Bank of America, Fed-Ex, Visa, Allstate, McDonald’s, Sony, and Johnson & Johnson. Also on the list of advertisers that did not want their commercials to be on Air America Radio were the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Postal Service.

The complete list follows:

Allstate | American Heart Association | Aventis | Avon | Bank of America | Bayer | BMW Motorcycles | Chattem products such as Capzasin penetrating rub, Gold Bond for skin care, and Gold Bond Foot Spray | Cigna | Cingular (now AT&T Mobility) | Clorox | Coke | Coty | Dean’s Morningstar Food’s | Dell | Denny’s | Discovery Channel | | Epson | | Exxon Mobil | Farmers Insurance | FedEx | Foot Action (under Foot Locker) | Frito-Lay (under PepsiCo) | General Electric | Gillette Venus (under Procter & Gamble) | Goodyear | Heineken/Amstel Light | Hershey | Hewlett Packard | Home Depot | Hormel | Hyatt | Interstate Batteries | J. C. Penney | Johnson & Johnson | Kohl’s | Levi’s | Masterfoods USA (under Mars) | McDonald’s | Men’s Frontline | MGM | Michelin | Microsoft | Morningstar | National Cattleman’s Beef | Nestle | Nissan | NYSE | Office Depot | Outdoor Life Network | Procter & Gamble products Bounty, Charmin, Febreeze, Iams Dog/Cat Foods, and Pepto-Bismol | Paramount (under Viacom) | Pepsi | Philip Morris | Pier 1 Imports | Red Lobster (Darden Restaurants) | Re/Max | REI Sporting Goods | Rent-way | Robert Half | Schering-Plough | Sherwin Williams | Sony | State Farm | Toys R Us | | True Value | United Healthcare | U.S. Navy | USPS (U.S. Postal Service) | Visa | Walgreens| Wal-Mart | Welch’s | Wrigley | Wyeth

Whoops. I forgot that. If you can’t get the United States Navy to advertise on your radio network, brother, you’re not long for this industry.

Anyway, wow. Goodbye, Air America.

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