Ed’s written about it and Michelle’s planning to write about it so I’d feel odd if I didn’t write something myself. Frankly, I don’t have much to add to what Ed said earlier, although he did leave out the part during negotiations where Salem demanded that I stop writing about polls, Palin, and atheism and I reminded them that that’s, like, 97 percent of my content. (I’m joking. Or am I?)
He’s right, of course, that this was unsettling at first, partly because of the speed with which the deal came together and partly because we were uneasy about moving from what was, in essence, a family business to a corporation. But, all idle flattery aside, when we flew out to Colorado and met with the Salem team, they couldn’t have been friendlier or more accommodating. The gist of it is that they like the site pretty much as is and believe they can do a better job of promoting it and monetizing its ad potential than Michelle could. Which is certainly true: Whereas MM had to pay third parties to handle advertising and tech infrastructure, Salem already has experienced people in house to deal with that. They also have many more servers on which to host the site, which, as our regulars know, became a major issue on the night of Scott Brown’s election when the traffic load caused us to melt down. With the midterms coming up and traffic expected to keep popping, the need for more server space to keep the site online would have driven overhead up dramatically. That’s not a major problem for a corporation, which enjoys economy of scale, but for a very small business, it’s a dilemma.
Long story short, the biggest change to the site that you’ll likely see is uninterrupted service on very high-traffic days. Beyond that, things should look familiar: Same Ed and AP, same URL, same basic design (although some tweaks, especially to manage ad space, should be expected). As Ed mentioned earlier, to our great relief, there’s been no attempt to limit what we can or can’t write about. Which means, quite simply, that there are no great downsides to this transaction. Or rather, almost no downsides.
The difficult part of this is having to part ways with Michelle. Superficially, it’s no big deal: She rarely posted to the site and was content to let Ed and me run things here as we saw fit. But Hot Air was, as I say, essentially a family business, and the family has now split up. After the deal, I joked with MM that I felt like a kid whose mom had just dropped him off at the orphanage — a really nice orphanage, to be sure, but still. Cliched though it may be, I do remember like it was yesterday meeting with her and her husband in 2005 to brainstorm about the new site, hearing them describe how Michelle wanted to do daily vlogs called “Vents”, how they were thinking of a two-column format to help promote popular posts, how they needed a name for the site that would reflect its emphasis on video — something with “Air,” perhaps. And now, somehow, I’m the only original contributor left. It’s not lost on me, nor will it ever be, that she could have chosen many other, better bloggers to help her launch Hot Air, particularly since I’d quit blogging at my old site more than a year before she conceived the idea for HA. But she chose me, for whatever reason, and there’s no way I can ever repay her for that, even though it’s a comfort to think that Salem’s offer helped.
Ed wasn’t kidding this morning when he said we told Salem at our meeting that they have big shoes to fill in replacing Michelle. We really did tell them that. But the early signs on that front are good and I’m optimistic that they’ll remain good — which is a hard thing for a famously mopey eeyore to admit. Here’s to an exciting and profitable future for all of us.