Friday, May 18, 2007

Air America 2.0: But will it float?

Over the last week or so, there's been a lot of talk about the 'new and improved' Air America Radio. With a new web presence, new personalities and shows, and a new lineup, they obviously expect great thing to come of it.

Yesterday was a good start, as they launched the new website and logo with a press release, and even featured an in-studio chat between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former rival Mark Green, now president of Air America. The meeting of the former political foes was packed with New York-area reporters, and will air sometime next week.

But the question lingers in the back of everyones' minds: Is this whole 2.0 thing really going to work?

Lionel was the first addition, and a very controversial one at that. After a fairly successful run at late night radio syndication via WOR Networks, he moved his show over to Air America and late mornings. The goal obviously was to help the network gain new affiliates, or even bump time slot rival Stephanie Miller from a few. Less than a week into it, the results have been disappointing. Not only has Lionel not gained many fresh affiliates, he lost roughly a half dozen that carried Seder on delay. The only station he seems to have been added to is WINZ in Miami, on delay from 6-9P ET. Lots of stations still list him on their website schedules for his former show, but it is unknown if they are still running his new Air America show in those time slots. And judging by the response on various blogs, message boards and even Air America's own site, listeners are very vocal about "The Lionel Show."

Of course, time will tell if the show will grow and expand, and its up to Scott Ellberg and David Bernstein to make this happen. Particularly since predecessor Sam Seder actually improved his ratings on flagship station WWRL in the most recent Arbitron book.

In regard to the other changes, so far the only one that seems to be working is the move of Jon Elliott to three hours later. This was one move that made sense on paper, since it carves out a new shift for the network (Midnight-3A), gets him out of the way of Mike Malloy's 9-Midnight show, and many of Elliott's affiliates delay him to a later time slot anyway. In essence, Elliott's new shift is nearly competition-free, since Lionel is now gone from late nights and FOX News Radio's Alan Colmes wraps up his show an hour into Elliott's.

As a result, Elliott's flagship station, KLSD in San Diego, will now carry his entire show live, immediately following Malloy's, which gets a full three hour clearance starting Monday. Elliott has also been picked up by KQKE in San Francisco, KKZN in Denver, KPHX in Phoenix (ironically), KPTK in Seattle, KPOJ in Portland, KRXA in Monterey/Santa Cruz (which carries the straight Air America feed in overnights anyway), and other stations.

"The Air Americans" is the other new show coming to Air America. Basically, the Mark Riley-anchored show is a hodge-podge of various hosts at the station, including correspondents Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, David Bender and Laura Flanders. The four hour show essentially replaces two cancelled ones: "Politically Direct" (who's host Bender stays with the new show) and "EcoTalk" (which was going to die anyway). Thus far, no affiliate has announced their intentions of picking up "The Air Americans" and rumor has it not many people in the building are optimistic about its chances. Furthermore, there's a chance that WWRL may not even carry it, which in effect would kill the show, given that Air America all too often seems to be a bit too New Yorkish. Buzz about "The Air Americans" is not good. Nonetheless, they will promote the hell out of it, and even have some strong guests lined up.

For the weekends, the network has said very little about the changes and new shows that will debut. The only one we've really heard anything about is Seder's new Sunday show, but that's due to obvious reasons.

So, will Air America 2.0 be a success, or will it be yet another bit of bad luck for the much-beleaguered network? Only time will tell. Should be an interesting few weeks, so stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Only Ivory floats!

Following a time dishonored radio tradition, David Bernstein hired his friend Lionel, a guy he hired and put into syndication at WOR. I think hiring a PD with radio experience, who hired a talk show host with a track is a positive sign. I also don't think AAR should make programming decisions based on the demands of hard core activists who demand 99 44/100% ideological purity (and apparently could care less about either audience or sales numbers).

That said, I think Lionel is terribly miscast as a late morning/morning drive (depending on your part of the country), and even if that were not so, the guy is good but he's not in the same league as Stephanie Miller.

A better move have been to give Lionel Malloy's old slot and maybe keep some of his current affiliates. As LT indicates, most everybody is delaying his show anyway.

AAR has completely divorced itself from Jones and now seems more worried about fighting Jones and Nova M than with developing programming and building the progressive talk format. Right now AAR has only two viable show (Randi Rhodes and Thom Hartmann) and they keep insisting on sticking to the "network model." The Greenies might as well flush money down the toilet.

Ego still rules at AAR. And the company is still more focused on the competition (now defined as other progressive talk providers) than on the customer. No surprise: Democrats have historically been more concerned with fighting other Dems than beating Republicans.

Casey Buck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Casey Buck said...

I suspect that the only affiliates that will clear "The Air Americans" are the turnkey stations, which are either too lazy or unable to use another network's feed for programming. The hosts are fine, but the concept just seems slapped-together.

Mike Malloy will likely gain from this move, simply because I believe that affiliates would rather carry a more traditional (albeit more controversial) single-host 3-hour show, rather than a multiple-hosted and weaker 4-hour show. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if XM 167 preempts most of The Air Americans for Malloy (who, coincidentally, is supposed to return to XM this month).

In regards to Lionel, I honestly couldn't care less one way or the other about him. 9 AM-noon ET is the "death slot" for Air America, since there have been three shows in that slot, and all of them have failed against Stephanie Miller.

The Wrecking Ball said...

I think the "Air Americans" show is a fine idea. I like the idea of many voices. They could easily create a nice roundtable type show with these folks, or have revolving hosts. It's a better idea than what they've had for evenings since they canned the Seder/Garofalo show.

I won't be listening to Lionel. I'm sure he's a well-intentioned guy and all. I've heard his show and found him to be not what I'd personally like in a liberal talk show.

Here's the winning Air America formula, if anyone cares:

Funny show for morning drive a la Morning Sedition. If Maron doesn't want to do it or they can't pay enough money for someone of Maron's status - they can get someone. It was a great show that AAR never promoted.

9a til 12 ... The Turks would go well here. So would Jon Elliot. They can't go after Stephanie Miller - Miller's too popular. So they need an alternative to Stephanie's show that's not comedy based. Humor should be a part of it but it shouldn't be straight ahead laugh-in/hee haw for liberals.

12n - 3p I'd have put Rachel Maddow and David Bender here - with Kent Jones (NOW) for comedy relief.

3pm - 6pm Randy's popular here. I'd keep her.

6pm - 9pm Here's where Thom Hartmann should be.

9pm - 12m Dr. Laura Flanders

12m - 3am Malloy for the conspiracy minded paranoid types up listening in the middle of the night - competetion for Coast-to-Coast's Art Bell/George Nouri tandem.

3am - 6am repeat Malloy for the overnighters who missed it.

That's it. That's the winning formula. It'd work if they really gave it a chance.

Ned said...

That's the new logo? Seriously? Why did they make New England look like a dog's leg raised against a tree during a nice piss?

will in chicago said...

I tend to be doubtful that these moves will work. The only show getting new clearances is Jon Elliot's, in a slot with no effective competition. (Nova M could perhaps put in a nighttime show to follow up Malloy -- and perhaps promote both as a package deal)

I am stunned that Air Americans has no clearances so far. It has incredibly talented hosts, but the lack of clearances does not look good at all. As for Lionel, I thought his discontinuing the weekend show was a mistake. The lack of clearances is disturbing, and I fear that we will see more changes down the road. So, for the present, I have to be doubtful that AAR 2.0 will float.

Only three shows are really getting a good number of clearances -- Hartmann, Rhodes, and Maddow. So, I think it will be back to the drawing board later this year or early next year.

I linked to the blog entry at the Unfiltered News Network in a thread, AAR 2.0: Will it float? :

So far, the answer seems to be does not seem likely. Expect Malloy and Miller to do well, and possibly Jones or Nova M to offer competing programming to go up against the new shows.

Anonymous said...

What matters in radio is Monday through Friday, 6am to 7pm. That's when radio has an audience. That's when radio makes money (or doesn't). No other time periods matter.

What matters most is morning drive. That has always been AAR's big problem. The dominant right-wing talkers have strong local shows in morning drive. Except for a few markets like Portland, San Diego or Denver, progressive talk in general and AAR particularly, have always been weak in morning drive: Weakest when they need to be strongest.

Some of you are fans of Maron, I know. Some of you may like Bill Press. Neither of them is the solution.

AAR needs to stop programming for turnkeys: Weak signals in small markets with no audience. If they want to be big league, they must act big league. Premiere, Jones and other talk syndicators mostly stay clear of morning drive but they do offer prep services. AAR needs to the same; they need to encourage stations in developing their own morning shows and provide material for them to use in those shows (in return for spot clearances on the local shows).

And they need to stop pretending to be a network and start selling individual shows.

And stop wasting money trying to fill dead times in the evening and weekends. Encourage stations to run ballgames in the evening and music on the weekends, programming that will expand the stations' reach. I.E. America was smart enough to realize liberals are interested in more than politics; the dominant full service talk stations know that, too. AAR needs to learn it.

Casey Buck said...

Hold the phones: Looks like "The Air Americans" will have at least one clearance...from 2 AM-3 AM Pacific on KPOJ in Portland. They're sure brimming with confidence with that show, aren't they?

More info at:

Essentially, their lineup next week will be almost exactly the same as it is now, except that Jon Elliott will be an hour longer.

Gilbert said...

Great story.
Keep up the good work.


hashfanatic said...

seder on sundays is NOT broadcast
on aar's "flagship" wwrl in new york

i am listening to an infomercial

mark green evidently believes
we need fish oil more
than we need information

i'm streaming sammy right now
but i'm so disgusted at the greens

ltr said...

WWRL is not, I repeat NOT owned by Air America. They are merely an affiliate, albeit one that AAR pays to clear shows, which is the only affiliate as of now where that kind of arrangement exists.

Per the agreement, the station is not obligated to carry any AAR weekend programming prior to 7PM. Meaning that WWRL can sell all the infomercial time they want in their hours if they see fit. They can also do their own morning show, not uncommon among AAR's affiliates. This is why NYC listeners hear Sammy and Army in the morning. As I said before, they also aren't obligated to carry "The Air Americans" if they don't want to. We'll see on that.

Just wanted to clear this all up. Mark Green does make a convenient scapegoat these days, but the affiliates are on their own. They just run the shows, and can pick and choose whatever they want from a variety of syndicators or local options.

ltr said...

Just a little update here...

"The Air Americans" can be heard on-air in Detroit, Austin, Madison, Portland (one hour) and probably a few other places (particularly the two or three or so that air the straight AAR feed - if any still exist).

WXXM in Madison adds Mike Malloy (see today's Rayburn post).

And many of Lionel's former WOR Network affiliates have added Alan Colmes in his place for nights. Colmes has picked up quite a few new stations. And allegedly, one of them may be WWRL in New York, his former flagship. We shall see...

Casey Buck said...

From reports on various forums, it looks like WWRL is pre-empting "The Air Americans" for a replay of the "Sammy and Army" morning show.

ltr said...

I had the stream open while I did a little work on the 'puter, and I noticed Sammy n' Army on WWRL as well.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear Colmes come on at 10PM there. They've been running promos for it all day. Then again, I did get an anonymous tip from someone in the building last week, saying that WWRL was not going to carry the new show.

And interestingly, AAR did put up a page and blog for the show. Unfortunately, because they neglected to put the correct link on the front page, I'm probably the only person outside the building who actually found it. And of course, I couldn't resist leaving my calling card on their 'open thread' inaugural blog post. As of this writing (9PM ET), mine is the only comment on there.

I'm gonna have some fun with this one. I won't divulge the page's addy. Let's see if any of you can find it. And if you do, leave a comment. :)

Let this be a lesson to AAR - you can't have a party if nobody knows where it is.

hashfanatic said...

"WWRL is not, I repeat NOT owned by Air America. They are merely an affiliate, albeit one that AAR pays to clear shows, which is the only affiliate as of now where that kind of arrangement exists...."

And I realize this.

However, are you telling me that Bishop and Co. are totally unaware of Sam's popularity, particularly in the New York area?

I am sure that WWRL management is well-informed regarding listener trends in the tristate area. Surely you do not believe that there are more New Yorkers that more interested in fish oil infomercials, than they are in Sam Seder's new show?

Also, it's a little hard to believe that Sam would be preempted off New York's flagship station without Green's concurrence...indeed, I've seen no promotion of Sam's show whatsoever on AAR's supposedly groundbreaking website. Doesn't that sound a bit strange?

This excuse-making for the shabby treatment Sam has received from AAR really strains credulity.

hashfanatic said...

WWRL's site is streaming the Army rerun....AAR is, I believe, streaming Riley.

ltr said...

Again, AAR has no control over what is run on WWRL. Access.1 owns that station. They air what they feel like airing, though AAR does lease some time on it. Not defending AAR here, just stating the facts. If AAR owned the station, then we'd have something to talk about here.

WWRL also airs lots of infomercials and paid programming on weekends. Lots of talk stations do this. Blaming Mark Green for this is akin to blaming Karl Rove for it.

As far as the website goes, that thing is all kinds of screwed up. Supposedly, nobody at AAR knows what the hell is going on, and there's still quite a few shows that have no pages for it (including Green's new show). The new weekend shows are all slated to debut this Saturday and Sunday. Seder's early debut must have been a bit too complicated for the folks over there. And as we all know, AAR has always done a half-assed job on their website.

I doubt it's a slight of Seder. They don't even have a link to Mark Riley's much-ballyhooed new show on the front page, even though, as I mentioned before, it does exist.

Here's the link to the new show, which, as of this writing, you can only find here:

hashfanatic said...'s just not possible that they could invest in such an operation and take WEEKS to revamp their website, such a vital tool in today's Internet-rich landscape, announce it, and then show off such a poor example of one (even Seder's new site, which I don't think is that great either, looks a hundred times better.)

They cannot possibly be starting off that cash-poor.

Also, it's possible that WWRL's Seder snub might be a holdover from the Williams crisis last year. I would think that, to WWRL, the morning show is far more essential to WWRL's vision of survival in the future than any AAR programming could be. The signal is totally insufficient for the market AAR is in....perhaps WWRL management regards AAR 2.0 about as dubiously as it did the former, and sees the relationship with AAR as a temporary one anyway (one certainly couldn't blame them for being pragmatic about it).

I simply cannot accept that AAR would not make the Seder show unavailable to an area with such a concentration of avid listeners (half the Upper West Side would tune in to that show on a Sunday...)

Randi sounded very annoyed with all of the goings-on today (but she carried the guest interviews wonderfully, like the pro she is).

Hartmann also dealt with the whole "relaunch" shtick still all contrasts vividly with the first startup under the Drobnys, with such well-publicized programming, far more clarity regarding start times and station cohesiveness. With this new, dumbed-down programming, it's just sad for me to remember what was, and what could have been...

Forgive me. I'm rambling...I guess the staffers will do the best they can with what they're given...

Anonymous said...

According to their website, WWRL runs:
4-5 Randi Rhodes Rebroadcast
5-9 Sam & Army* (no Young Turks)
9-12 Lionel
12-3 Thom Hartmann
3-6 Rachel Rhodes
6-8 Rachel Maddow
8-10 Sam & Army* Encore (no Air Americans Pts 1-2)
10-12 Alan Colmes (no Air Americans Pts 3-4).
12-4 Nothing Listed (no Jon Elliot?)

*Note: Remember Army was the guy taking payola from the Bush administration for shilling for their education program.

Jill said...

Considering how much you hate Randi Rhodes, it's hardly surprising that you get her first name wrong. ;)

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