Is Right-Wing Conservative Talk Radio Dying?

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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 shutterstock.com

21 Comments

  1. There a way more conservative talk show hosts than Rush Limbaugh. I myself like to listen to Michael Medved. Calm and reasoned.

  2. Well I have to say this is good news. Right-wing hate radio has been stinking up the airwaves for about 20 years too long.

  3. YES Medved is of a different class. There are some others but Limbaugh is sort of the flagship and reports now suggest some advertisers are trying to stay away from the kind of genre that will turn off customers who are insulted by the kind of talk some conservative talkers do.

  4. Is Right-Wing Conservative Talk Radio Dead?

    In lieu of an answer look at the top of the TMV home page you’ll see NewsMax top story stating: “Huckabee: Benghazi Will Cost Obama His Presidency”

    Huckabee, a one time semi-moderate religious conservative, is now sounding more like Limbaugh than Limbaugh… NewsMax is being NewsMax… A “The Moderate Voice” has them both on the top of the main page.

    My point is not to be critical of TMV, I love TMV… My point is that “Right-Wing Conservative Talk” is pulling out all the stops and will do whatever it takes to gain more and more exposure.

  5. ” His constituency is all wearing depends “LOL. Unless Rush picks up a huge following soon, the young executives of advertising are going to get tired of his not so profitable tirades. But I still don’t see him going away…..scary.

    As for conservative talk radio shows leaving?..never. As long as we have ANY kind of talk radio show, there will be political ones forever.

  6. Is Right-Wing Conservative Talk Radio Dying?

    Truth be told, radio in general is in a steadily declining state, and has been for quite some time. Music radio (full disclosure, I work on this end of the business) is facing significant challenges, but is in good shape compared to talk radio for a few basic reasons.

    Most talk radio is still relegated to AM, or as we like to call it “Ancient Modulation.” Some stations have transitioned to FM, but generally speaking FM talk radio has been a failure.

    Talk radio is expensive. In order to have a successful talk radio station, it needs to be anchored by either expensive syndicated talent, or expensive local talent. This cost could be offset by premium rates because such a station could deliver in the “money demo” of 25-54, but that situation has changed. Which brings me to something that has already been mentioned:

    Demographics. People at the younger end (and even the middle) of that demo have little use for talk radio, and no use at all for AM radio. Conservative talk, liberal talk, home and garden shows on the weekend, etc. are less and less appealing to those consumers.

    Finally, there is the interactive element. Part of the appeal of talk radio is that the listener could actually do some of the talking. Maybe you remember hearing Larry King saying “Terra Haute Indiana, you’re on the air,” and thought maybe that could be you someday.

    You can still call in to a talk radio show for the most part. If you get something other than a busy signal, you might wind up on hold for 30 minutes. You might get on the air for 30 seconds.

    But if you want to express your anger – right wing or otherwise – there are far more immediate outlets on the internet. Facebook, Twitter, reddit, etc. are places where you can get into a political argument with someone in a heartbeat. Why sit on hold with a radio station for a half hour when you can use your phone to post a comment that will show up immediately?

  7. cjjack…funny. I am sure you are correct. But..there ARE those morning and evening and late night work commuters and OTR drivers who would be crushed without their talk radio shows.
    Don’t know where I’d be without Art Bell at 1 am getting off shift and realizing I now have to worry about strange creatures seen in the trees at night that jump down on unsuspecting people and animals.

  8. Lived on Art Bell for years when I worked at night. Hot pastrami from a little joint on Overland Ave in West LA and the 30min drive home. Like a good shoe!

  9. I’ve listened to conservative talk radio.
    I’ve listened to Liberal talk radio.

    …For the most part, neither have anything useful to say.

    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    -William Shakespeare

  10. Never listened to either liberal or conservative talk shows..unless you count NPR. They have some great shows on occassion.

  11. The only talk radio I listen to is NPR and maybe some sports talk if I know something interesting is going on with the Chiefs or Royals. I will really miss Talk of the Nation when it ends this summer.

  12. NPR, in the car, on the radio … Usually less than a fifteen minutes a day.

    I fired ‘Cable TV’ two years ago… Life is good!

  13. One minor quibble/clarification:

    I don’t classify NPR as “talk radio.” I consider it to be more akin to what used to be known as “full service” radio.

    Back in the day when few stations were available, there was usually one which served multiple roles. News, sports, commentary, music, public service, etc. Some of these stations were still operating along those lines in the era before the consolidation brought on by the ’96 Telecom Act.

    WJR in Detroit was the full-service station of my youth. It was the first place I heard Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Beethoven and Charles Mingus all on the same channel. There was a show called “Adventures in Good Music” that was all classical, and at night there was nothing but jazz. When you woke up in the morning with your radio tuned to the station that put you to sleep, there was a personable morning DJ surrounded by news anchors and important guests.

    The only outlet that approaches that radio of my youth is NPR.

  14. Most of my radio listening is in the car and most of that is NPR. It’s the only programming that keeps me interested. Sometimes I listen to BBC at night unless there is some good jazz. I guess I don’t know what “liberal talk radio” is, I’ve never heard any around here.

  15. We can only hope it’s dying. It doesn’t play any constructive role in society. You can argue whether it reflects the listeners thinking or creates it. It’s a phony format with phony propaganda for people easily or willingly misled. The whole purpose is to deliver these people to advertisers. It is a completely cynical and totally irresponsible enterprise. We have far too many right wing loons in this country and this format is responsible for either confirming or creating many of these crazies. Certainly advertisers see the trends and will not want to waste their money. Perhaps this will end this daily assault on reasoned discourse and discussion more quickly than we can hope.

  16. Let’s hope people like Limbaugh are weeded out and we are left with saner radio.
    I only listen to NPR currently so I don’t know if there are many other nuts in the bowl.
    IMHO, we need a diversity of views so as not to become lemmings.

  17. I’m sure there will always be a market for numbskull authoritarians who want to be told what to do and think. Granted, there will be fewer, but as someone once said, no one ever went broke betting on the stupidity of the public.

  18. Beck, Levine and savage are crazier than Rush Limpbaugh. At least RL is entertaining…

  19. “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.” I certainly hope that’s true, and I certainly hope it means the coming end of the likes of Limbaugh, et al. However until he and his ilk actually leave the airwaves, I’m keeping the cork on the bottle.

  20. Slamfu said, “I’m sure there will always be a market for numbskull authoritarians who want to be told what to do and think.” That is probably the prime reason there will never be an end to right-wing bombast. Al Franken used to call the numbskull authoritarians “dittoheads.” If you close your eyes you can see them standing in a crowd, nodding their heads in unison to the right wing drumbeat…

  21. Actually the term “dittoheads” was what the fans of Rush would refer to themselves as. I never really got why they would like to be categorized as unthinking sheep, but the why became apparent to me as I got older. They are scary people.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.....itarianism

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