Thanks & reflections from The Boss Emeritus
posted at 10:46 am on February 21, 2010 by Michelle
My thanks to Salem’s David Evans, Jonathan Garthwaite, Tom Perrault, Bob Mesrop, and especially Rick Killingsworth, for their work on the acquisition, for recognizing the value of our company, for understanding what makes Hot Air tick and click, and for having the vision and skills to take Hot Air to the next level as a conservative multimedia powerhouse with the 2010 and 2012 elections just around the corner.
Thanks to attorney extraordinaire Eric Costello ([email protected]), who represented Hot Air in the acquisition negotiations. Thanks to Hot Air’s current advertising sales management firm, Intermarkets, and past advertising reps, Blogads and Pajamas Media.
Old-timers will remember that we flipped the switch on April 24, 2006 at 4:15am. The folks at The Blog Studio came up with the clean, simple, user-friendly format that you still see today. Our technical crew has been led by WordPress guru Mark Jaquith, who has worked with Ed Burns and Erik Tamplin to keep the site running smoothly. Thanks to all of them for their creative energy and hard work through the years.
Thanks, most of all, to you.
I can’t begin to tell you how grateful we are to each and every one of you for your continued readership, comment participation, links, tips, feedback, encouragement, and support over the past four years. You are what keeps Hot Air rising.
Initially, Hot Air featured original daily videos called “Vents” (many of which you can still watch and enjoy on YouTube or track them all down here) while the indefatigable Allahpundit held down the blogging fort. It was a blast to produce the Vents (here’s the highlight reel from year one) — which ranged from original reporting in Baghdad; to pop-culture commentaries, including an exposé of R&B singer Akon that was yanked from YouTube under pressure from Universal Music Group and restored after we successfully challenged the DMCA abuse with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation; to some of my favorite shows mocking the Cindy Sheehan Diet Plan, creating a conservative alternative to The View, and smacking back at Keith Olbermann’s smears. We also featured original video from several guest show hosts, special correspondents, and contributors, and we thank them all for their contributions.
But while the original video production side of Hot Air was an immensely fun and creatively satisfying outlet, it was not a viable business model. Video ad revenue did not materialize; viewership numbers didn’t grow. Things might have turned out differently today with the advent of the iPhone/smartphones and increasing numbers of people watching Internet video on their TVs. Perhaps we were just a little too ahead of our time. In any case, it taught me one of the most valuable lessons we learned as a small, independent start-up company:
To survive, we needed to adapt, respond to market forces, and adjust the business focus to meet readers’ revealed preferences.
Like the teleprompter reader-in-chief always says, “Change is never easy.” I made the decision to redirect our resources away from original video reluctantly. But we looked at the metrics, we looked at the bottom line, and we listened to you. You wanted a 24/7, up-to-the-minute, one-stop, all-purpose conservative blog and aggregator. You wanted an Internet water cooler to hang out with your friends — a place where you could find all the political coverage you needed, but also a place where you could get comic relief, humpbot videos, the latest “Duuudes” and “Hmmms” and “Heart-aches,” and off-beat stories of the day.
From the time he burst onto the Internet scene in 2003, Allah has understood the value of creating community. His willingness to absorb the slings and arrows of commenters piqued over his atheism or his Palin coverage or whatever other positions he took that were deemed unorthodox or “candy-ass;” his intensely personal and elegiac memories of how 9/11 changed his life; his resistance to cult politics of any kind; his intellectual honesty; healthy skepticism; and self-deprecating humor combined with the sharpest, fastest, one-man synthesis of breaking news you will find on the Internet– all of these have been hallmarks of his Hot Air blogging from day one. While traffic skyrocketed, Hot Air managed to maintain the vibe and intimacy of a small blog. It’s not just a resource for radio and TV producers looking for show prep material. It’s a cool place to hang out. This is no small feat with more than 22,000 registered commenters of all backgrounds, ideologies, interests, and agendas. And it is inextricably tied to the uniqueness of Allah’s personality and voice on the right side of the blogosphere. Intensely attuned to the reader/participant experience, Allahpundit also came up with the invaluable “Headlines” and “Green Room” features, which expose readers to a wide range of voices and views.
Some have wondered why I hired Allahpundit despite our stark differences on many social and policy issues. Are you kidding me? The phenomenal success of Hot Air speaks for itself. I valued diversity of thought on the site. The traffic and popularity of the site — from 0 to more than 25 million page views a month last fall in the short span of four years, with plaudits too many to track — show that you do, too. More to the point: No one has been more fiercely dedicated to this company than Allahpundit — from conceiving the Hot Air logo/flame that you see every time you come to the site, to hounding our tech team at the first sign of any glitch or hiccup, to combing over traffic and revenue statistics, to posting your “Quotes of the Day” at the end of every night and making sure you have a fresh set of headlines when you wake up first thing every morning.
Which brings me to another invaluable lesson that my experience running Hot Air has imparted:
Loyalty is a precious commodity. So is industry. Like gold, they have many imitators. Never take the real things for granted.
(Resisting Allah-style urge to insert “Stay gold, Ponyboy” clip here.)
On February 25, 2008, we welcomed Ed Morrissey aboard. Like Allah, he is an O.G. of the blogosphere. He founded Captain’s Quarters in 2003. As I wrote two years ago:
Ed has been a friend and kindred spirit since I entered the blogosphere. He brings keen political insights, boundless energy and optimism, and invaluable investigative skills/enterprise reporting to the team. His pioneering citizen journalism helped expose government corruption in Canada and brought down a rotten Canadian Liberal Party administration. He’s been the subject of moonbat cartoonist Ted Rall’s class bigotry and a target of Vanity Fair jerk James Wolcott’s snobbery. Ever the gentleman, Ed joked in response: “Success is when all the right people hate you.”
Hot Air now has two of the hardest working men in the blogosphere on board full-time– and one very lucky boss. As has been the case from launch, we’ll agree on many issues. But not all. We have an eclectic mix of conservative-to-libertarian perspectives, distinctive interests, life experiences, and styles. What unites Allah, Ed, and me: Hot Air’s company goal of informing, entertaining, and keeping you plugged in with piping hot blog commentary, headlines, political analysis, original reporting, video and other multimedia offerings all day, every day.
With his daily web shows, exclusive political scoops and analysis, and constant good cheer, Ed has increased Hot Air’s stature and standing enormously. He has earned the utmost respect of his peers and of the Right’s biggest names. Ed’s energy is on display every week. He covers it all from Obamateurisms of the Day, to film reviews, tax policy speeches, radio broadcasts, and the NFL. I’m ceaselessly amazed by Ed’s ability to squeeze the most out of every day, multi-task like a Swiss Army knife, and take care of and enjoy his wonderful family. When opportunity came Ed’s way, he grabbed it, hit the ground running, and has never let up. I’m forever grateful for his boundless optimism and initiative.
Which brings me to the next lesson that founding and managing Hot Air has reinforced:
Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero. ( “Seize the day, counting as little as possible on tomorrow.”)
Last but not least, as I did on the sixth-month anniversary of Hot Air (far too long ago), I want to say a public thank you to my hubby, Jesse. Behind the scenes, he served as human resources manager, payroll clerk, accountant, tech liaison, and CFO. He kept an even keel through the birth, growing pains, and evolution of the site. He wore the green eyeshades and took care of every last numbing clerical task of running the company so that the editorial staff could work without sweating those details.
Which demonstrates one last lesson of my tenure as Boss:
Every good hot air balloon needs strong anchor ropes. The pilots may get all the glory, but it’s the hidden support that makes all the difference between successful flight and crash-and-burn.
It’s been a great adventure and the adventure continues. Hot Air readers remain in excellent hands with my best blog friends Allah and Ed as co-pilots. The company is now in excellent hands with Salem’s superb New Media team manning the anchor ropes. And I am just a click away.
Exit send-off: Not “Au revoir,” but “Bon voyage, mes amis!”