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June 25, 2006
Conservative Convergence Coming

Newsweek has an interesting article on a project about which CQ has long known: the conversion of the durable Townhall website into a merging of conservative talk radio, weblogs, and opinion leaders to create an unprecedented media convergence. When Salem Radio bought Townhall, Hugh Hewitt and Salem dared to dream big, and that dream is about to launch:

Hugh Hewitt is a master of multitasking. Week after week, the sanguine, persistent pundit hosts his "center-right" talk radio show from a nondescript office in Orange County, Calif.—and more than a million people tune in. Two computers flank his mike. While on the air, Hewitt uses the first to surf news sites, then swivels to the second during breaks to update his well-trafficked blog. "Both spoken words and written words are powerful," he says. "Acting in harmony, the effect is exponential." Just ask Rick Santorum. In May, he urged Hewitt's listeners to fork over campaign funds, and the host, ever eager, posted a link. Donations shot up 500 percent.

Chances are Santorum won't be the last candidate between now and November to benefit from Hewitt's brand of blog-broadcast synergy. On July 4, Salem Communications, one of the country's largest radio-station owners, will relaunch an old Web war horse called as a hub for its stable of stars (including Bill Bennett, Michael Medved and Hewitt himself). The hope? That "Web 2.0" wherewithal can transform what was once an op-ed clearinghouse into a single nerve center serving the separate conservative communities of talk radio and the Internet. To Hewitt, a valuable White House ally, the math is simple: add 6 million Salem fans to Townhall's 1.4million unique monthly visitors and you've got an audience six or seven times the size of liberal site Daily Kos, the Web's biggest political blog. "We will overwhelm them," he says.

Full disclosure: This project also involves CQ, indirectly at least, in my role as a co-host of the Northern Alliance Radio show on Saturdays. Our podcasts will now come through the new Salem portal, and our blogs will also get links from the site. So far, that has been the limit of my direct involvement, although that may evolve later.

Hugh has always been a visionary in the revolution in communications. Among nationally-syndicated talk show hosts, Hugh first realized the force multiplier that blogs represented for his efforts. As far back as 2003, Hugh made efforts to encourage his listeners to start blogging to build conservative strength on line. Our association in Minnesota began that year; in fact, I was the last member added to the Northern Alliance of Blogs in November 2003, after a series of gag initiation rites that included photoshopping James Lileks with a Hummel and writing an epic poem mentioning at least ten other blogs and insulting Fraters Libertas.

One of the qualities people miss the most about Hugh is his sense of humor -- and that sets him apart from most other talk-show hosts, as well as his ability to parry live with his ideological opponents. Hugh strikes a tone that attracts thoughtful bloggers and repels dishthrowers, and that sensibility will no doubt be reflected in the new Salem portal.

It has a huge head start, thanks to Salem's clever and fortuitous purchase of Townhall. Originally, Salem wanted to start its own portal from scratch, which would have taken more effort to attract new readers, even with its high-powered talk-show lineup. Now it will leverage the existing readership of Townhall and the listeners of Salem, combine it with blogging heavyweights, and create a powerful force for conservative activism. And make no mistake, Hugh and Salem intend on creating a site that will produce activists and not just passive readers.

Will this overwhelm the Kos-Armstrong activist efforts on the Left? It would have that potential. Kos and Armstrong reach hundreds of thousands of people, but Salem Radio has millions of listeners even without the combined forces of the blogs. With Salem marshalling that audience, it can transform itself into a powerful political force -- more powerful than any group or think tank in the field today. The Left simply has no analogous media outlet to compete with it.

What does that mean for conservatives? Looking at the Salem line-up, it portends a strengthening of the center-right rather than conservative extremism. The hosts on Salem tend towards that direction, especially Hugh himself. Dennis Prager and Michael Medved also offer shows that rely on dialogue with opposing views and focus on finding common values to reach larger consensus on political issues. Bill Bennett has a more socially conservative slant, and Laura Ingraham tends towards hard-line conservatism, but the thrust should enable the center-right and put a positive face on the Right.

I'm excited to have a small part in this project.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 25, 2006 10:54 AM

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» Wach: Hugh Hewitt and Salem Communications Team Up for Conservative Activism from FullosseousFlap's Dental Blog
Newsweek: The Right: The Next Big Thing? Conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt marries the power of talk radio with the reach of the ‘netroots.’ Watch out, Kos. On July 4, Salem Communications, one of the country’s largest radio-station ... [Read More]

Tracked on June 25, 2006 12:46 PM

» The Creation Of A Conservative Media Convergence from Liberty and Justice
I can imagin that it was quite difficult to set this project up. Of course I don't know this about the US, but here in The Netherlands organizing ourselves is not exactly a 'conservative thing'; we tend to be more on ourselves, while the socialists are... [Read More]

Tracked on June 25, 2006 1:43 PM

» Dueling Blogospheres from Betsy's Page
Newsweek has two stories about the blogosphere. They expand the media fascination with Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the Kosman himself. The old media just loves talking about Daily Kos and their followers. They're glomming onto the fact that writers like D... [Read More]

Tracked on June 25, 2006 3:33 PM

» Dueling Blogospheres from Betsy's Page
Newsweek has two stories about the blogosphere. They expand the media fascination with Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the Kosman himself. The old media just loves talking about Daily Kos and their followers. They're glomming onto the fact that writers like D... [Read More]

Tracked on June 25, 2006 4:36 PM

» Means Business from The Real Ugly
I asked Mary Katharine Ham about the launch of the site in our interview a couple of weeks ago and she wasn’t ready to commit to a date. Well now they are and Hugh Hewitt who will be the managing editor of the new site comes out with... [Read More]

Tracked on June 26, 2006 7:15 PM


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