Is Right-Wing Conservative Talk Radio Dying?


Is conservative talk radio dying? In many of my posts here and in my Cagle and The Week columns, I’ve noted that conservative talk seems largerly rooted in the ingrained 1960s polarization fixations of Baby Boomer talk show hosts. Younger people often shake their heads with dismay at the talk show rage, yelling, demonization of someone or a different party, and the often exclusionary rhetoric. The Daily Beast’s political director John Avlon looks at the current Rush Limbaugh story (for background see this post and this post and The Week’s take) and puts it in a larger context. Avlon’s analysis needs to be read in full, but the most significant part is his original reporting. Some excerpts:

“We’re watching the end of right-wing conservative talk radio,” says Jerry Del Colliano, publisher of the radio-industry tip sheet Inside Music Media. “The genre is dying among ratings and dying among advertisers … Rush is at the end of his career. His constituency is all wearing Depends. And he’s getting himself into trouble he doesn’t need. So can you put Humpty Dumpty back together again? They have been able to improve their advertising picture, but they have not been able to come back.”

“Sandra Fluke was simply the lightning that struck and hit an old building that collapsed,” Colliano says. “She didn’t do it. She helped to bring it down at the end, but it was falling apart on its own.”

Rush slammed the 30-year-old graduate student Sandra Fluke last year, referring to her as a “slut” and a “prostitute” in response to her call to have her university provide insurance that covered contraceptives. He then doubled down on the attack in unusually creepy terms..

Avlon details Limbaugh’s way way WAY over the line comments and the resulting boycott. Then he writes:

“We’ve had concerned advertisers, and some have requested they not be placed in the Limbaugh show,” said an employee of one Midwest radio station, who declined to be named due to company policies. “But it’s more of an annoyance—a pain in the butt … It’s pretty obvious as a listener. You hear the same national ads over and over, like LifeLock and Dick Morris’s ObamaCare Survival Guide.”

The increasingly public posturing struggle between Cumulus and Limbaugh takes place as Rush & Co. seem likely to jump from the flagship New York AM station WABC—which Dickey took care to tout as “leading the pack in New York”—to the AM station WOR at the end of the year, when his contract expires.

But the larger issue is the declining demographics of the right-wing talk-radio racket. “Look at the millennial generation,” says Colliano. “There’s 80 million of them coming of age. They don’t see color. They don’t see gender. And they’re civic minded: they don’t like bloviating. They don’t like yelling and screaming. So you tell me: how’s right-wing talk radio working for them?”

A true assertion has never been spoken.

As in the past, the aging right-wing talkers—several of whom are represented by Limbaugh’s agent and brother David—will angrily dispute any decline in their profitability or ratings. It’s all become part of their self-serving kabuki, but Colliano dismisses their reflexive playing of the victim card. “They read the ratings the way they read the Gallup ratings right before the Obama victory. It’s their metrics; it’s their way. But its not backed by fact.”

Denial is a river in what country?

Tombstone illustration via