Welcome to the new Hot Air!

posted at 10:12 am on February 18, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday was a travel day for me, so I missed a lot of the commentary on the acquisition of Hot Air by Salem Communications, the conservative radio network that features such luminaries as my friend and mentor Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and Michael Medved, and who bought Townhall from the Heritage Foundation several years ago.  The commentary ranged from the objective, in Andy Barr’s straightforward reporting at Politico, to the hysterical at The Atlantic Wire, where Max Fisher described our comment thread as “turn[ing] ugly” after someone remarked that selling Hot Air was like “Dylan going electric,” and someone else replied “Yeah, electric accordion.”  (I laughed out loud when I read that.)  I’ve seen more pungent remarks in humpbot threads; I’m not sure what was ugly about normal concerns that arise with any acquisition.  I’ve been through a few of them in my previous career, and change is universally unsettling.

If readers are unsettled, you can imagine how Allahpundit and I felt when we heard about the potential sale. After all, we provide almost all of the content for the site, and it’s not exactly a secret that we occasionally criticize the Right as well as the Left, and sometimes the center, too.  We offer offbeat content from time to time that may not be the favorite of a network that bases itself on conservative and Christian themes.  The questions being asked in the comments sections are the same that we brought to our meetings in Colorado Springs earlier this month.

What I can tell you is that Salem bought Hot Air because, if you’ll pardon a Sally Field moment here, they like us — they really, really like us.  After all, they aren’t going to spend a boatload of cash (and no, I don’t have any idea what kind of boatload that might be) just to turn Hot Air into something completely different.  If they wanted something completely different, they could have started something fresh with a lot less cost and competed against us instead.

When we negotiated our new relationships with Salem, both of us stressed the need to have the same editorial control and direction for Hot Air.  Not surprisingly, Salem readily agreed.  Now, they still own the business and can intervene when they see fit — just as Michelle could, but rarely if ever did — but they know us and our editorial choices.  We clarified the process and the direction to our satisfaction.  If we weren’t satisfied that we remained in position to maintain the current direction of Hot Air, neither of us would have stuck around.  We did, and we’ll be around for a while, too.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be changes, of course, but most of those will be to broaden our impact and reach.  Salem has a tremendous presence with its radio hosts, for instance, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see some synergy applied in that direction.  Townhall, now our sister site, will remain separate from Hot Air, but we’ll probably have some opportunities to participate more often in the magazine in the future.  I’m very excited about the potential for growth at Hot Air by being a part of the Salem family.

But that being said, I’m sad to leave Michelle Malkin’s family after two wonderful years at Hot Air.  I don’t think I’m revealing any secrets by telling readers what a caring, sweet, and big-hearted person Michelle is.   Working with her and her husband Jesse (who carried the weight of technical and human-resource management like a champ) has been the best professional situation of my life.  We both told the Salem execs when we first met with them that they had very large shoes to fill, but as great as they’ve been, it will never be quite the same.  Now we get to focus on being friends with the Malkins, and thanks to their many kindnesses over the past two years, we hope that lasts much longer.

For the best takes on the sale, read James Joyner and Jazz Shaw.  Jazz’ conclusion is spot-on:

So now a new owner will pay the bills at Hot Air. It sounds, from what I’ve found out, like a good deal for all concerned thus far. Ed and AP will retain their platform and possibly even gain some new exposure options in a large network. Malkin gets rid of a well loved but time consuming project which she branded as a leading conservative voice. Salem picks up another outlet which is widely read on the Right side of the aisle without dictating the tone. (If they wanted to do that they could have simply offered Ed and AP a column at Town Hall.)

Don’t read too much into this. Businesses change hands all the time and the names on ownership papers and paychecks shift every year across the land. Hot Air will remain and you can all be the judges as to whether or not the quality remains at the current level. I for one have no doubt but it will.

It’s going to be a fun journey, that much I can promise.


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Salem is a publicly traded company currently selling at $4.92 a share. We will see what a boatload of cash is when they publish their 1st quarter financial reports.

Congratulation to Michelle, but I wonder what other surprises she has for us? Does she own any other domain names she is keeping under wraps? Has she been in negotiations with Comcast about doing a show at 8:00PM on MSNBC?

These are interesting times we live in.

meci on February 18, 2010 at 12:07 PM

I am the CEO of a publicly traded company. When we do our acquisitions, we have to announce them in an 8K filing within a certain number of days after the fact. So you don’t have to wait for the quarterly filing, there will probably be an 8k filed soon.

karenhasfreedom on February 18, 2010 at 3:33 PM

I hate the new site and will never come back.

ClassicCon on February 18, 2010 at 3:50 PM

good luck and god bless michele…read her daily on her blog!

FloridaMike on February 18, 2010 at 4:01 PM

Our only disquiet about the acquisition of Hot Air by Salem Communications is a technical one.

Since Salem took over Townhall the site has been difficult to download. Often, columns that run over two pages have been unreadable because the second page won’t come down in both Explorer and Firefox. We can’t tell you how many ‘halves’ of columns we’ve read. It also refuses to open pages in new tabs. The pages simply don’t come down.

We’ve only ever had this problem on Townhall.

– Nick and Nora Charles

The Thin Man Returns on February 18, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Tammy Bruce says conservatives are like herding cats. The range of opinion and volume of material are much appreciated and, I believe, natural for people who think for themselves. I hope the new owners continue this tradition. Thanks to Michelle, Ed, AP, and the HA crew for making Hot Air the must-click-first site on the Internet.

Feedie on February 18, 2010 at 4:34 PM

I wouldn’t mind seeing AP in the bread line. He’s a hypocrite of the first order.

…he threatened to ban me for referring to Zero’s blue lips.

Mr. Grump on February 18, 2010 at 1:18 PM

Too bad he didn’t.

FloatingRock on February 18, 2010 at 4:38 PM

Now, do we get to see the Salem/Hot Air handshake deal photo op? I’m curious if AllahPundit went there with one of those terrorist ski masks over his face.

Sultry Beauty on February 18, 2010 at 1:20 PM

I’m hoping for a paper bag or one of those flashy Mexican wrestling masks….

FloatingRock on February 18, 2010 at 4:41 PM

I wouldn’t mind seeing AP in the bread line. He’s a hypocrite of the first order.

…he threatened to ban me for referring to Zero’s blue lips.

Mr. Grump on February 18, 2010 at 1:18 PM

–What did you refer to them doing?

Jimbo3 on February 18, 2010 at 5:53 PM

Salem is a publicly traded company currently selling at $4.92 a share. We will see what a boatload of cash is when they publish their 1st quarter financial reports.

Congratulation to Michelle, but I wonder what other surprises she has for us? Does she own any other domain names she is keeping under wraps? Has she been in negotiations with Comcast about doing a show at 8:00PM on MSNBC?

These are interesting times we live in.

meci on February 18, 2010 at 12:07 PM
I am the CEO of a publicly traded company. When we do our acquisitions, we have to announce them in an 8K filing within a certain number of days after the fact. So you don’t have to wait for the quarterly filing, there will probably be an 8k filed soon.

karenhasfreedom on February 18, 2010 at 3:33 PM

–It’s four business days afterwards, but only if it’s material (which generally means about ten percent of assets or revenues or significant line items). Salem has about $200 million of revenues annually, but is losing money. I suspect this is not materials for revenue purposes, but it might be that the cost is material given the losses at the bottom line.

Jimbo3 on February 18, 2010 at 6:01 PM

If readers are unsettled, you can imagine how Allahpundit and I felt when we heard about the potential sale. After all, we provide almost all of the content for the site

Really? I had thought those of us in the Green Room added just a little, but I guess I was wrong.

Howard Portnoy on February 18, 2010 at 7:09 PM

Ed,

Thanks for the update. I feel better now and am excited to ‘keep on keeping on’ with you & AP.

Malkin is my fave! I saw her on FNC a year ago and strolled over to her site. I adore her smarts, humor, and that she calls out the Left and the Right whenever they stray. I wish her all the best!

Now. Where can I purchase a Hot Air bumper sticker & T-Shirt??

TN Mom

TN Mom

TN Mom on February 18, 2010 at 7:15 PM

I can only hope that HA doesn’t turn in to a townhall. I understand they need advertising to pay the bills, but townhall is so over run with pop ups, pop ins, pop undeers or what ever all the ads are, I won’t go there any more. I love coming to HA because it has great writing. I’d hate to stop coming because it gets over run with ads like town hall.

roosterman on February 18, 2010 at 7:21 PM

…conservatives are like herding cats. The range of opinion and volume of material are much appreciated and, I believe, natural for people who think for themselves. I hope the new owners continue this tradition. Thanks to Michelle, Ed, AP, and the HA crew for making Hot Air the must-click-first site on the Internet.

Feedie on February 18, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Speaking of herding cats: my all time favorite Superbowl commercial–ironically promoting Ross Perot’s EDS.

Herding cats applies to just about any independant thinking group (I’ve often said this is why I don’t want to manage a bunch of independant contractors [Realtors])!As conservatives…thank God we are not all in lockstep with one another!
As to the HA acquisition, I think Ed’s post is articulate (as always), warm (as is usual), thoughtful (ditto) and gracious (again always).
Best of luck to all and I hope Michelle made a boatload of money on this! Capitalism at its best.
You snarky commenters, you are just green…and I don’t mean environmentally friendly. Keep in mind, as Kermit the Frog so famously crooned, “It isn’t easy being green.”

Chewy the Lab on February 18, 2010 at 7:39 PM

Dang, can’t get the link to load…and I love that commercial. Can anyone help?

Chewy the Lab on February 18, 2010 at 7:44 PM

both of us stressed the need to have the same editorial control and direction for Hot Air

Is this really enough?

Ed, you may want to watch the movie Extract for some strategy ideas on how to handle this situation. If the people who do all the real work (you and AP) aren’t given any cash from the acquisition, you should think about starting a writer’s union and going on strike. Given your conservative outlook, this move is the last thing management would ever expect and you’d catch them completely unprepared. Heck, you could even form a picket line with signs that quote relevant biblical passages. It’s the kind of attention that a publicly traded company would want to end quickly and quietly.

bayam on February 18, 2010 at 8:29 PM

I hope,there are no changes as to how,and what
commenters have to say,those that have been on for
awhile,no the limits,and verbage that allows good
snark,and flies under the moderation radar:)

canopfor on February 18, 2010 at 9:16 PM

Speaking of herding cats: my all time favorite Superbowl commercial–ironically promoting Ross Perot’s EDS.

Chewy the Lab on February 18, 2010 at 7:39 PM

Chewy the Lab:Here ya go:)
========================================
cowboys herding cats
————————-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk7yqlTMvp8

canopfor on February 18, 2010 at 9:20 PM

Congratulations to Hot Air, Ed, AP (and his cats) and all who contribute. In the immortal memory of “The Jeffersons” You’re “Moving on up”. Seems like you finally got a piece of the 3.14

viviliberoomuori on February 18, 2010 at 10:57 PM

I wouldn’t mind seeing AP in the bread line. He’s a hypocrite of the first order.

…he threatened to ban me for referring to Zero’s blue lips.

Mr. Grump on February 18, 2010 at 1:18 PM
Too bad he didn’t.

FloatingRock on February 18, 2010 at 4:38 PM

I second that…it showed it’s smarts after calling Laura a troll!

lovingmyUSA on February 18, 2010 at 11:01 PM

I think the message has been sent. If Townhall is being touted as a great ad site and good technological support, we really could see some changes that don’t work.

That site is unapproachable, frankly. I’m surprised. I’d heard about it, but when I went, it was unreadable.

AnninCA on February 19, 2010 at 9:26 AM

Congradulations Michelle, on the sale of Hotair to Town Hall. I am a fan of both but not so much today.

I went to you article about the Tea Party Scape Goates and my computor locked up twice. I then restarted everything and decide to avoid your article because it caused me a lot of hassels that i did’t need, So Charles article was up and I clicked that. I should have known that it was another TH post because it locked me up just as my TH sessions did before.

Not sure if this will be a problem into the fture but I always liked the seemlessness of your sit and will not hav the patience to stik around if this becomes the norm.

Thanks for letting me vent. Hope you (TownHall) get you act together.

SayNo2-O on February 19, 2010 at 4:42 PM

the problem – I hate Townhall.


On one hand, I’m glad for Ed and AP because it’s nice to have the financial security. On the other, it sucks. Corporate practices tank online. If they didn’t, Salem wouldn’t be buying established properties.
budfox on February 18, 2010 at 10:47 AM

I avoid Townhall like the plague. However, I am happy MM has made a good deal, because she created a very special forum, and installed great talents who have the ability to maintain conversations.

MM deserves rewards and accolades for her creation, as do her talented crew

I always felt what held HA together was the overlord (overlady) Michelle. Her rock hard convictions and eagle eye for details were like the godfather’s presence at a convention of the Family. Everyone knows the MM is in charge and behaves accordingly. Even some of the bad boys acting up, did so under the shadow of MM, and that created the electricity

I have lost two favorite sites to corporate acquisition. Eventually the creative owner has to retire and business types move in to capture what seems to be a profitable product, not understanding the product is sum total of the audience who will bail in a minute if the control freaks decide to ‘improve’ the site

Garden Web was a treasure trove. It is still a good site, but not what it was before the changeover. Similarly, the Taste of Home Recipe site was filled with church ladies who shared the worlds greatest home recipes, until Readers Digest bought the site out, and an anti religious entourage moved in to do battle.

Time moves on. I hope everyone fares well. But I am not happy. I love the simplicity and readability of HA. (I have a hard time reading MM’s site with my bad eyes). The physical format is as much as I want. Bells, whistles, talking ads and too much color burn me out.

A small change is a big change in blogs. Add another column, or require checkboxes, rating systems, etc and it becomes a burden. HA is fast too. As I said, Townhall sucks but,
C’est la vie

Best wishes and I hope things remain ok through the next Presidential contest, but one never knows. Often, a web site becomes a useful purchase when voices on the site affect public opinion. This has been a great platform

Take care all

entagor on February 19, 2010 at 10:53 PM

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