Thursday, May 17, 2007

Extreme Makeover - Air America Edition

As mentioned the other day, Air America Radio's new management is looking to make their mark, and part of that is via a new web presence and new logo, in addition to the new schedule that launches next week. And it looks like they've delivered.

Could this be a farewell to those premium links at the bottom of the front page linking to old bits from Marc Maron's show? Or the schedule that still showed Sam Seder filling the midday slot and "The Best of Peter Werbe" on weekends. It looks like they've done gone hired someone to give them some web presence. Well okay, they've still got the ancient audio bits. So nobody's perfect.

According to Mark Green, this is the official beginning of the much-ballyhooed Air America 2.0:

In the past two months, we at Air America Radio have been working hard to re-launch a great idea -- that is, talk radio for progressive radio that's informative, opinionated, entertaining.

This coming Monday/Tuesday, May 21-22, we'll be presenting you -- our loyal listeners, streamers, podcasters -- with a new look, new line-up, and our new blogger on this web site. And we'll let you know exactly when over those two kick-off days our 12 hosts will be interviewing some 30 leading political and public figures in America. People like Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama, like George Stephanopoulos and Chris Matthews, like Robert Redford and Paul Newman (see ad above), like Eliot Spitzer and Mike Bloomberg, like Gloria Steinem and Ted Sorensen (and David Brooks and Ralph Nader). All only on Air America.

Fasten your seat belts. On Monday, you and millions of others officially become Air Americans.

As mentioned previously, the network is revamping the whole schedule, combining, canceling or adding shows to the lineup. Monday will mark the official launch.

Taking a quick browse of the new site, the nice, bold layout grabs immediate attention. And the news headlines on the left are a nice touch. However, glaring omissions stick out like a sore thumb. Staff and listener blogs are sorely missed here, and really are needed if they wish to compete with the likes of Daily Kos, Democratic Underground and Huffington Post (and if they don't do this, they're stupid). Nova M Radio has even moved toward this somewhat. Interactivity is the buzzword for the much-ballyhooed "Web 2.0" as sites like MySpace and YouTube have become significant forces in bringing people together to look at home videos and get friend requests from crappy garage bands. Allegedly, this is all in the works, and the network has even hired their own blogger as well, Nancy Scola.

Links to the individual radio affiliates would be nice, as opposed to just a mere listing (then again, I guess I'm one-up on them in that regard). Or perhaps a current schedule (like they had before), rather than merely links to hosts' individual web pages that are rarely updated.

And a 100% overhaul of their site still needs to be done, since I did actually find Al Franken and Mike Malloy links while doing a quick browse). The site still looks incomplete. Considering how much Green and company want to improve Air America's web presence, perhaps they should hire a good full-time webmaster, if they haven't already.

But overall, not bad. Seeing as how they've carved out a significant presence in the progressive web media, Air America 2.0 would be best served if they looked into implementing Web 2.0.

Oh, and update the "on demand" sound files. June 2006? I mean, come on! How about some free snippets from current shows, like Ed Schultz and his crew are so prompt with? Year-old talk radio shows are rarely entertaining.

This thing still looks like a work in progress. Nonetheless, you can take a look for yourself at And not to be outdone, Sam Seder, who's new weekend show debuts this Sunday at 4P ET, has overhauled his own site, which you can see here.


Anonymous said...

I agree, LT. The new website does seem to represent a victory of style over substance - design over content.
Then again, the missing elements mean we still need you, Baroosk and Air America Place.
The other missing ingredient in AAR 2.0 is programming. They are a radio service with a website (not the other way around). Besides Lionel, I see nothing new, better or different in AAR's programming here.
However, the sleeper story in all this is Thom Hartmann signing with WYD Media, the outfit which produces Stephanie Miller. Who owns the Thom Hartmann Show is not clear, but given WYD's history with Jones Radio, this opens the door that Thom might not be around for AAR 2.5.
Now if WYD or P1 can just get Randi maybe progressive talk radio can start to move without the albatross of AAR around it's neck.

Casey Buck said...

Thom actually owns his own show; this dates back to when he used to self-syndicate for awhile after IE America folded and before Air America added him to their syndication division.

On Thom's website, it says "News flash - Air America Radio and progressive talk radio personality Thom Hartmann has selected Ron Hartenbaum's WYD Media Management to manage his broadcast and other media projects. Longtime industry vet Hartenbaum also reps Stephanie Miller."

Does this mean that Thom will be leaving Air America completely, or will WYD be merely assisting in the show's production, with Thom's broadcast remaining on the AAR feed?

ltr said...

As far as Hartmann goes, I think you all are reading too much into it. I got word the other day on it (the press release came out Monday), but just couldn't find a way to work it in.

Basically, Hartmann has signed with WYD Media. They are basically a rep firm that also develops radio shows. The founder is Ron Hartenbaum, who used to work for Jones MediaAmerica. Their other big client is Stephanie Miller. I wouldn't read too much else into it. The press release says that WYD will "manage his broadcast and other media projects." In other words, an agent. As for his show, Hartmann has claimed that he is the owner. A few other AAR hosts own their shows as well. If AAR went away tomorrow, he'd still be around. But at the same time, AAR distributes it.

Again, it sounds like merely a representation and management deal. Just like Leigh Steinberg represents football players. I wouldn't read any further than that.

will_in_chicago said...

While the site looks good visually, it lacks a lot in functionality. There are no links to the weekend shows on the front, searches reveal many links for old shows that lead back to the main site, and I have to say that I am not impressed. Nova M's website has better functionality at this point.

I am still having problems linking threads to the site. (Not sure why. I enter the password and the pop up refreshes and clears itself.) I started a thread on this at the Unfiltered News Network called AAR 2.0 website is up:

Luther Blissett said...

The new website is an abomination, based on a Drupal frontend with numerous 'tweaks' by someone who thinks that XHTML is HTML without the freedom. The code is repeated, the CSS is bad and they're paying for the extra bandwidth from the repeated javascript clickthrus that appear to be missing the tracking URLs.

If they paid money for it to be developed, then need to get lawyers involved, as it's barely functional. From a technical standpoint, if anyone of my programmers produced this;

div class="block block-block" id="block-block-7

I'd cut their fingers off and use the blood to scrawl the word 'semantics' across their desktop. As someone with a decade producing websites I'm vastly irritated by 'web 2.0' appearing to consist of barely usable websites.

Incidentally, the technicalities of web 2.0 are to provide a rich user experience, the social interconection thing is approaching it's omega point (two 'social networking' projects cancelled in the last month).

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