The former CEO of Air America, Danny Goldberg, has been kind enough to provide us with some comedy entertainment in an article, Air America Radio, RIP -- It Didn't Have to Be This Way. Actually, Danny, it did have to be that way due to those market forces at work that you castigate. However, we all owe you a vote of thanks for coming up with several incredibly lame but laughable excuses to explain away the failure of Air America in particular and "progressive talk radio" in general.
First the donor quality excuse:
Democracy Radio folded in 2006 as a result of a lack of financial support from progressive donors.
Some blame bad management for the failure of both Air America and Democracy Radio, and since I spent one unhappy year midway through Air America's life as its CEO I suppose I am one of a dozen or so who are in that category. But if progressives really wanted to address talk radio they could have started competing companies with different management. Instead, most of the monied progressive community did the opposite of their conservative counterparts and bought into the notion that media should stand or fall based on media market forces.
Um...actually there were no conservative donors. Conservative talk radio shows such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham were (and are) based entirely on "media market forces." And now for some more blame placed on liberal donors:
Perhaps the major liberal donors are confused because they became accustomed to focus groups and polling, which are useful tools in predicting short-term public reaction to political messages. They can tell you if a particular TV spot will turn off swing voters two weeks before an election. But long-term political ideas have a more complex and uncertain creative path. Conservatives understand the need to focus on both long- and short-term political communication. Or maybe media advisers and consultants who advise labor unions and an assortment of progressive groups on media strategy are culturally uncomfortable with the crude language of AM talk radio and other mass culture, or are nervous about losing control of their "message."
Oh, yes. Liberal donors are somehow too refined to understand the "crude language of AM talk radio." Not too condescending of an attitude there, eh Danny?
Here is Goldberg getting a bit closer to the ugly truth of the success of conservative talk radio in stark contrast to the utter failure of their "progressive" counterparts:
Rush Limbaugh was able to use his considerable broadcasting skills to attract millions of them as an audience and revive the economic fortunes of AM radio stations around the country.
...Many of the radio executives who programmed the right-wing radio stations and produced the shows did not agree with their politics, but like most business people, they gravitated to the easiest path to make the most money the quickest. These radio people understandably were not going to be motivated by an ideological agenda, even one they agreed with. But activists and public interest groups are supposed to be motivated by ideology.
GASP! You mean radio execs were motivated by profit? How dare they not volunteer to lose money by continuing to broadcast radio shows like Mario Cuomo and Jim Hightower!
And now Goldberg cries us a river over the pressure created by profits:
The pressure from wealthy liberals was not to create a long-term strategy as conservatives had done, but to show a business model that would turn a profit in a year or two.
Hmm... And wasn't Rush Limbaugh turning a profit in much less than "a year or two?" Perhaps we should give Cuomo and Hightower yet more time to hone their "incredible" radio skills?
Thus, several ill-fated iterations of Air America were driven by delusional projections of traditional business viability. Consequently they misled themselves and staff regarding what resources would be available and then inflicted onerous cuts on a business that was already underfunded.
Underfunded? If the Air America hosts had attracted a large radio audience, the advertising revenues generated would have prevented that situation. Unfortunately for Air America they were almost entirely dependent upon liberal donors whose ATMs had a limited lifespan.
One final Goldberg blast at those "cruel" market forces that doomed Air America:
Thom Hartmann, Bill Press, Randy Rhodes, Stephanie Miller, Ron Reagan and many other liberal radio survivors deserve all the credit in the world for their resourcefulness and their commitment. But the broader progressive community should not be leaving them to a Darwinian world...
Hey Danny, you should be thankful for NPR which doesn't rely on that "Darwinian world" of market forces. In such a non-Darwinian world, failure is not only an option but also ignored.