Monday, December 18, 2006

The continuing adventures of Air America

This weekend, Time Magazine announced their much-anticipated recipient of "Person of the Year" for 2006. The choice? You, silly. No seriously. It's you. And me. All of us. Or at least the ones who actively use the internet for things like blogging, MySpacing, YouTubing, Facebooking and whatever else. In short, the people have become the New Media, further pushing the 'professionals' into the background. A flurry of articles regarding Air America Radio over the weekend sheds some interesting light on this notion somewhat.

The blogosphere, including your favorite Liberal Talk Radio blog (ahem!), has been all over the goings-on at Air America for months, with traditional news sources giving a recap every so often, sometimes with actual fresh information provided. And the relationship between the open source internet media and the press do often create a neverending cycle of sorts.

Giving credit where credit is due, there was some original information given in major articles about the struggling network in articles from the New York Times, Newsweek and the Associated Press, though much of it has been floating around the blogosphere for several weeks. To their credit, though, the Newsweek and NYT articles are both examples of some of the better writing about Air America as of late. Both rely more on actual reporting and less on lazy bias or just repeating tired rumors and untruths. The AP article consists of five paragraphs of the same 0l', same ol', which we have more or less grown to expect.

Unfortunately, one problem with 'Web 2.0' is that the internet media often regurgitates relatively old information, creating an 'echo chamber effect'. The Drudge Report cited the Times article, and pulled out of it the tired rumor about Al Franken leaving his radio show. Drudge should just stick to reproducing GOP talking points releases and gossipy tidbits about catty celebrities, since that part of the Times article is just a regurgitation of what we already know, in essence creating that 'news echo'. Of course, look for the whole cycle to repeat itself, as more reports about Franken's radio retirement make the go-round once again. Gotta love Drudge.

As regular readers of LTR know, a sale agreement is still being hashed out, and due to the sensitive nature of the whole deal (not to mention the ridiculously secretive atmosphere of Air America itself), nothing has been officially announced as of yet. Spokeswoman Jaime Horn says the company had reached a tentative agreement with a buyer, but a final deal was not in place. Douglas Kreeger, an initial investor and former chief executive who has been rumored as of late to be one of the network's buyers, confirmed to the Times that there is “a signed letter of intent” and that he is “likely” to be a part. The lead equity position would be taken by Terry Kelly, of Madison, WI, a former board chairman and one of the network's original investors.

Kelly said that the investor group included a new strategic media partner he declined to name, and both men would not predict when a deal might come to fruition.

"Any number of things can happen," Mr. Kreeger said.

The article in Times is recommended reading, as it goes into more specifics about the troubles and trials of Air America. It also gives a good assessment of the entire format. Newsweek shows the many ways that the network screwed up, including being too top-heavy with executives, the lack of a program director, squabbles between staffers, the cancellation of shows such as Morning Sedition and Mike Malloy, and various front office clashes between people who saw strong business potential and ones who pushed it as merely a political cause.

As for the future of Air America, all connected see the future of the network in a positive light. Kreeger cites Air America's deal with XM Satellite Radio and the network's web site, which he said had "absolute untapped potential for 24/7 online streaming that has never been effectively monetized." "It will be up to us to really create compelling content," he said. Kelly agrees, saying he would like to see the new ownership group expand the Air America brand into other areas, such as television.

Kreeger disputes the idea that Air America “was a vanity project,” but acknowledged that things may be done differently in the future. “I have come to understand very clearly that the radio component of this requires a radio professional,” he said.

In closing, I'd just like to say that it is indeed an honor to be chosen as Time Magazine's "Person of the Year". I couldn't have done it without all of you. Thanks.


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