Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Air America's Mark Green responds to criticism from Seder's fans

When Air America Radio president Mark Green made the announcement that Lionel was hired to take over Sam Seder's late-morning shift and that Seder would move to a new Sunday afternoon show, loyal fans became very vocal. And they didn't mince words either.

This was a pretty big story, though it was eclipsed by another big radio industry story - the whole Don Imus thing. Throughout the 'internets', listeners expressed mostly outrage at the decision to remove what some felt was Air America's best host. And they even took the fight to Air America's own site (updated link).

Green took note of the outcry, and this weekend issued an official statement on the controversy, so as to help mollify enraged listeners. In it, he acknowledged that not every decision will ever be met with complete and absolute approval, and also threw his support behind Seder and his new weekend show. Here's the latest from his desk:

I want to thank all of you who took the time to contact us at Air America about the Sam Seder Show. It shows you care and are part of our extended Air America family, even if we can't agree on every lineup judgment.

I, too, think Sam is terrific and was eager to keep him on air. After we discussed various possibilities, I'm very happy that we agreed on a new show that's really unlike anything else on radio (or television). The three hour program, as I wrote in my posted "Message" earlier week, will focus on "networks and netroots" -- that is, a review of the Sunday political talkfests with mostly bloggers as commentators.

Please know that, consistent with my 35 year history as a dedicated progressive advocate and author, I'm devoted to keeping Air America as the leader in progressive talk and to taking it from the red to the black. Both.

I believe when we're done with all our plans for the new Air America 2.0 -- in terms on overall lineup, new platforms, better marketing, important collaborations (like our partnership with MoveOn this week broadcasting the "Virtual Town Hall on Iraq") -- you'll be as optimistic as I am that Air America will both survive and thrive after a roller coaster past year.

Mark Green
Air America

To Green's credit, at least he took the time to address the issue, something his predecessor failed to do in the badly-mangled dismissal of Mike Malloy last August. And Green and his crew do have a challenging task ahead of them, in rebuilding the network, making it viable, and helping to make it grow. And as is often the case in the broadcast industry, tough and unpopular choices sometimes have to be made. Am I defending Air America on this? No. Quite frankly, I would have liked to see Seder moved back to evenings, perhaps replacing Politically Direct and EcoTalk, two shows that are on the daily schedule due to cost-cutting from the old regime (both shows have their own sponsors). I think Seder plays better at night anyway.

For the future growth of the network, the hiring of Lionel was a good radio decision. Again, nothing against Seder, who I think has really grown in the medium and has attracted a dedicated following. But the midday slot is very important, and in order to attract more affiliates, they really did need someone with stronger mainstream credibility. Lionel has proven himself in the business, and has done well in talk radio, though his opinions and politics jibe with the usual talk radio fare. Does Lionel's hiring mean that Air America is becoming Air DLC? No, it doesn't. It means that the network is at least trying to build itself into a competitive force. And in order to do that, sometimes unpopular decisions have to be made. This is a move to win affiliates for that timeslot, and unfortunately, Seder, though extremely popular with fans, was not winning over radio station program directors. Again, I'm not defending Air America on this, but I do realize that radio can be a tough and cruel business, and the only way to succeed is to sometimes make unpopular decisions. Yes, there is a method to this madness.

And does Lionel deserve any of the blame for this? Of course not. He didn't really need the Air America job. He was doing well for himself at WOR. Taking this gig almost means starting over for him, since many of his current affiliates might not move with him. He was merely the guy that Air America pursued and hired. He had nothing to do with Seder's firing. The circular firing squad attacks on Lionel and Air America will do more harm than good, in my opinion.

So, what's ahead? Well, Seder aired his last weekday show last Friday. Until Lionel finishes his obligations with WOR and starts at Air America on May 14, the midday slot will be occupied by various hosts, including Lee Rayburn, formerly of WXXM in Madison. Other rumored guest hosts include KLSD San Diego morning host Stacy Taylor.


Unknown said...

Oh baby!

duck and cover!

there is so much more

to discuss, and bring out in the open.

Cat Chew said...

The second thing we’ll be doing is being very smart about new media, digital media, Internet media because, while it costs X dollars to have good hosts on a box called radio, we’ve got to think outside the radio box and distribute that same content—it already exists—on the Internet by people streaming, download it onto iPods, satellite it around, videocast it so it’s on cable or your cell phone next. So we’re going to be working very aggressively to distribute our wonderful programming in a way that can make money in these other platforms.
~Mark Green, who shitcanned a show with great streaming numbers.

I, too, think Sam is terrific and was eager to keep him on air.
~Mark Green, explaining why he took Seder off the air.

I'm devoted to keeping Air America as the leader in progressive talk
~Mark Green, explaining why he replaced a progressive host with a "libertarian" one.

From the desk of Mark Green
TruthDig - Saving Air America
Mike Malloy on Air America:
SEDER's being incredibly gracious about the situation.
Me, I'm not feeling so generous.

Cat Chew said...

And they even took the fight to Air America's own site.

That link leads to this message:
Forbidden (403 Error)
Sorry, you are not allowed to view the requested page.

AAR has also removed the link to Green's comment about Seder from the front page.
You can still access it from there by going to "About Us/Press," but who knows for how long.

NYLefty said...

Mark Green, who shitcanned a show with great streaming numbers.

Great streaming numbers? Really? Your source?

I don't think anybody has "great streaming numbers,"although I suppose it's all relative. But the number of hours that people stream is minuscule compared to the number of hours that people listen to the radio -- and the radio numbers are what advertisers look at, not the streaming numbers, such as they are.

Cat Chew said...

Well, Terry, I guess it doesn't matter what my source is/was, because you have already stated that the information doesn't matter. Great pre-emption!

ltr said...

Thanks Cat Chew, I updated the link.

Furthermore, in regard to streaming numbers, AAR does well here. They are consistently ranked in the top 10 overall for streaming services, according to Webcast Metrics. Unfortunately, there are no publicly-available numbers in regard to daypart breakdowns. So, nobody outside of AAR and the radio business really knows if more people are listening to Seder or Randi Rhodes or whoever else. Add to that the fact that many people listen to AAR on the webstreams of their various affiliates. Seder was on only three of these (live), compared with many more for AAR's other hosts.

As I've said before, while AAR has a lot of potential with their internet presence, they are also working in old media, via over-the-air broadcast. And I am fully convinced that this move was made in order to gain new affiliates, which is something they haven't been doing much of lately. In fact, KHRO in El Paso just dropped them yesterday (yeah, I know - no big loss). Evidently, AAR is making a strictly business-related decision here. And in order to be taken seriously, heck, even survive, they need to take a business-oriented approach.

Again, nothing against Seder. I like him. But sometimes they've got to do what they've got to do.

Unknown said...

what's missing,

is that two way comm. with management/fan base.

the potential benefits were always there but have gone unrecognised.

Missy Zimmerman said...

I'd like to see the blogs fundraise to underwrite 15 hours of programming a week with Sam at the mic. The perfect spot would be The Majority Report's old spot at night, as LTR suggested. I'd write a check to help make that happen. AAR needs to keep Sam as long as they can. He's so talented. I think Sam would make a great White House Press Secretary in the tradition of Tony Snow.

Jill said...

Too freaking bad. Mark Green's first move out of the gate was to piss off the people who had been with AAR since the beginning. Not a good move, especially since there are no guarantees that Lionel's geriatric audience is going to move to AAR with him.

Sorry, ltr, I know you're trying to make lemonade out of the lemons, but I'm still cancelling my premium subscription. As long as Sam was on, I podcasted Sam and Randi Rhodes...but with no Sam, the hell with it.

Maybe Mark Green's gotta do what he's gotta do. But so do I. And I don't think this move should be rewarded.

NYLefty said...

If you're interested in streaming numbers, there's a good article at http://tinyurl.com/2h67sg

Notice that Air America's average audience for its stream is 3,500. Hopefully that will improve in the months and years ahead, but that's the average audience of a small market radio station.

ltr said...

Those ratings numbers are from Webcast Metrics. I've used them in the past, and since the 2005 report you cited, their numbers are around the 5-6000 range. This number is only from the various official AAR streams, but does not include individual affiliate stream listening, which would increase that number.

Unknown said...

Blah Blah Blah...

I cancelled my XM subscription last week. I'll sign up when Seder gets a daily show back.

The crap that Lionel does is the very reason I went to AAR in the first place!!

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