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.