From a reader:
Jonah, I agree that Air America failed because people didn’t listen but I disagree with many conservatives on why people didn’t listen. Many conservatives believe Air America failed because their message was unpopular. I agree that it isn’t AS popular nationally as right leaning views but there are certainly a lot of liberals out there and it seems reasonable to assume there are enough out there to support a radio network based on liberalism. Air America’s problem was the competition they faced. Unlike Rush Limbaugh and his many conservative copycats, Air America was competing against a significant competitor for liberal ears: NPR. Conservatives had no such competitor when they entered the radio space (not to mention no significant competitor in any medium, besides National Review of course!). Air America was a victim of their own policies of big government and government involvement in everything, including radio. Why should a liberal living in the Village who gets the New York Times, watches Katie Couric, and listens to NPR make the attempt at figuring out how to switch their radio to AM?
Me: I don’t really disagree with this analysis. But I don’t think it contradicts my point either. The assumption behind Air America was that there was this enormous untapped market for “progressive” radio. The fact is that market is already satisfied. Its boosters don’t want to believe this because they think the Mainstream Media has moved demonstrably and dangerously to the “right.” Seriously, stop laughing. In response, I gather, some Air America types moved even further left into Pacifica Radio territory. The problem? Pacifica Radio already exists. Conservative talk radio met a demand in the market that wasn’t being satisfied. That’s why copy-catting the right is such folly for liberals across a wide range of fronts. They don’t understand that they already control universities, for example. But they see conservative success with think tanks, so now they’re investing in think tanks. Their dilemma is not that they lack a medium, it’s that they lack a compelling message. Unwilling to accept this, they think better megaphones will change everything. It’s “but this goes to eleven” thinking.