Air America Digital Chief Departs

After around a year, Air America’s first chief digital officer is leaving the liberal media firm. Michael Bassik’s last day with the company is today. He joined Air America last October, and was tasked with helping the beleaguered company become a global media brand with a focus on digital multimedia — in addition to its original terrestrial radio business.

Perhaps the most significant undertaking during Bassik’s relatively brief tenure has been a redesign of the Air America Web site, which the firm launched in beta in October. The redesigned site takes on a look reminiscent of HuffingtonPost, one of its key rivals in the arena of left-leaning digital media; an oversized news image greets the user at the top of both sites, for instance.

The departure of the firm’s first chief digital officer after such a short period of time does not reflect well on the company, nor does the fact that Bassik will not be replaced directly by a new CDO. Rather, he told ClickZ News that Director of Technology Jon Irvin and Director of Digital Strategy Jen Nedeau “will be assuming added responsibilities.”

Some observers have suggested that Air America missed an opportunity to become what The Huffington Post has — the de facto multimedia hub for liberal political news and commentary. Instead, while Air America struggled through ownership changes and a bankruptcy in 2006, competitors like The Huffington Post and Politico grabbed the audience it could have built.

According to Quantcast, HuffingtonPost.com garnered 17.9 million U.S. users monthly on average in the past year, while Politico.com attracted 4.9 million per month in that time. In comparison, AirAmerica.com saw 137,000 users on average each month in the past year.

Air America clearly hopes the site overhaul helps it gain traffic. It may be helping. According to Bassik, in the six weeks since the site redesign launch, its unique visitors rose 55 percent, and pageviews are up 71 percent.

Bassik will move on to join Global Strategy Group, which handles market research and strategic consulting including interactive services for political, advocacy, and corporate clients including Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, American Red Cross, and Chase Bank. The new position seems more in line with Bassik’s previous role as VP of interactive marketing for political direct marketing firm MSHC Partners.

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