Air America Again

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Ok, I really don't think Ezra Klein understood how unintentionally funny he was here. He blames the demise of Air America Radio on – NPR.

Recent opera-related disagreements with Jonah aside, I think this argument he highlights as explanation of Air America's tumble into bankruptcy is pretty sound (conclusion, of course, excepted): The liberal radio market was actually quite crowded, mainly due to the overwhelming popularity of NPR. The impacts of Pacifica and so forth strike me as quite small, but radio wasn't a wasteland for lefties before Franken and Co. signed on — indeed, nearly every liberal I know listened and listens loyally to NPR. Hell, half of them own NPR gear. And very few of them were looking for something more pugilistic, sharp-edged, or even exciting to replace their beloved public stations.

You really do have to read the whole thing. Especially the clarification:

Clarification: To be clear, I don't believe that NPR is liberal, I believe liberals listen to NPR. The two are not the same.

This is one of those cases where there is a distinction with no difference. If there was no resonance with the liberal listeners, would they be listening? How many liberal people listen daily to Rush Limbaugh? How many own Rush Limbaugh gear? Now Marc Cooper (Cited in an update by Klein) understands the radio business failures of Air America Radio. That is worth a read as well. (Incidentally, I suspect Cooper is dead on here. Some people will fund AAR until after the election, then "phhht", gone like the long, drawn out breaking of wind that it was).

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2 Responses to Air America Again

  1. Three points…

    Many Liberals, unlike most Conservatives, actually enjoy or are just curious to hear the Hate Radio morons. I’ll confess. I do it too. We are actually curious to know what the “other side” thinks, does and says, and sometimes it’s just fun to listen to the ranting and idiocy. Besides, it gets your blood up. It’s like professional wrestling. Unfortunately, Liberal talk can just make you depressed. That’s why the most popular Liberal talkers tend to do a lot less news and politics and just have fun – and it’s they who get the bigger audiences. And so, as most Conservatives disdain listening to oppositional arguments, or trying anything new, or accepting anything at odds with there world view, it would stand to reason that Liberal talk radio will be at a loss for the broader audience of Conservative talk radio. This is common knowledge and common sense, and most liberals know it. Conservatives will tell you that the audience numbers are a measure of the message of Conservative talk radio, while it is the very lambaste and insanity of it that lures Liberal listeners.

    It could just be that the demographics of AM radio listeners are such that there simply isn’t enough audience for a big, national, Liberal talk/”news,” commercial radio syndicate. Liberals, preferring a little more maturity and responsibility in our real news talk, have had Pacifica and NPR for years now, and they’re doing just fine. They are not commercial, which we like, as most Liberals, and certainly myself included, really, really, really hate commercials. So yes, they won’t make the money of their commercial competitors, but they’re still far, far, far better as far as Liberals are concerned. Also, commercials obviously mean a quid pro quo as far as the content goes. Would you buy a car based on what a radio host tells you right after he’s done playing a commercial for that car? This is why Liberals buy their cars after reading non-commercial Consumer Reports, and Conservatives go with the likes of Car & Driver. Righties will tell you that the lack of commercial success is a measure of the failure of Liberal fare, while it’s the very commerciality of most talk radio that precludes Liberal talk and audiences.

    But then, it may well be that Air America itself is the problem. Conservative talk radio has been around for a long time, slowly building its audiences, slowly developing its shtick. Air America toggled unto the cultural scene with a full-blown national network where none had been before and fared untested products into deeply entrenched demographics. Fox didn’t become popular overnight. They lagged behind the Big Three for years before they finally built up a durable audience. And Fox had massive, international News Corporation, starring Rupert Murdoch, behind them. Air America was slapped together by a bunch of like-minded comedians and ex-pols. There are plenty of Liberal talk hosts out there in niche markets all over America. Some are popular over broader networks. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are giants on the tube. And the country seems to be moving back to the Left these days anyway. Perhaps talk radio just can’t sustain an Air America right now, or even ever. Conservatives will tell you that Liberal talk is wrong and so therefore it fails, while Conservatism itself utterly fails right before our very eyes.

    We Liberals don’t need to be told all this. We already know what to think for ourselves.


  2. BubbaB says:

    Save the watch, and hold your breath!

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