Air America Declares Bankruptcy

As you may have heard, Air America is going down the tubes:

“So can the progressive radio network Air America recover from Friday’s bankruptcy filing, at which it detailed $41 million in losses since March 2004, $20.2 million in debts and just $4.3 million in assets?

AA says yes, and it isn’t alone.

“I think they’ve got a good shot,” says Tom Taylor, editor of the radio trade mag Inside Radio. “They made mistakes, like all startups, and this could provide a breather to fix some of them.”

But Michael Harrison, editor of the trade magazine Talkers, says AA needs to rethink some things, and fast.

“They don’t seem to understand this is a business,” he says. “If you can’t pay your bills, none of the rest matters.

“I have nothing against Air America, but when you seem to think you don’t have to pay your creditors because you’re on a higher mission that’s more important, you lose my sympathy.”

You know what Air America’s real mistake was? Trying to take a business that should have been created from the bottom up and putting it in place from the top down.

Everyone thinks it’s easy to do a radio show, but it’s not. It takes an enormous amount of preparation — and everyone isn’t cut out for it. There are some people who make great columnists, who don’t make good radio hosts. There are some great radio hosts, who aren’t great columnists. Then there are some cable hosts, like Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough, who aren’t good at what they do for a living, much less at radio. So, the idea that Air America could select a bunch of liberals, some of whom had minimal radio experience, syndicate them all over the country, and then wait for the money to roll in, never really made any sense.

On the other hand, successful conservative hosts like Rush Limbaugh got the ratings first and then got syndicated all over the country. Rush and his ilk proved that they could create and hold an audience in one area, then they got put on in the next area. Then, over time, conservative radio started picking up speed when there were enough popular conservative hosts to build a whole station around from top to bottom. In other words, conservatives weren’t handed their success in talk radio, they had to prove themselves every step of the way.

Had Air America gone that route and tried to build a successful line-up on a few stations first, things may have turned out differently — or maybe not. The conventional wisdom is that liberals just don’t perform well on talk radio and if anything, Air America has just cemented that impression in people’s minds.

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