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Posted by on Mar 13, 2012 in Media | 2 comments

Mike Huckabee’s Excellent Timing

Rush Limbaugh’s problems continue: reports that Premiere Networks, which syndicates the Rush Limbaugh show, told its affiliate radio stations that they are suspending national advertising for two weeks. Rush Limbaugh is normally provided to affiliates in exchange for running several minutes of national advertisements provided by Premiere each hour. These ads are called “barter spots.” These spots are how Premiere makes its money off of Rush Limbaugh and other shows it syndicates.

But without explanation, Premiere has suspended these national advertisements for two weeks. calls the move “unusual.” The development suggests that Rush Limbaugh’s incessant sexist attacks on Sandra Fluke have caused severe damage to the show.

But David Frum thinks Limbaugh’s biggest problem may be Mike Huckabee.

Yes, Limbaugh’s tirade against law student Sandra Fluke has been a problem, inspiring more than 30 advertisers to flee his radio program in the past two weeks. But on April 2, Limbaugh will face a more-serious challenge. That’s when the new Mike Huckabee show launches on 100 stations in Limbaugh’s very own noon-to-3 time slot.

Huckabee’s competition threatens Limbaugh not only because Huckabee has already proven himself an attractive and popular TV broadcaster, but also because Huckabee is arriving on the scene at a time when Limbaugh’s business model is crashing around him.

Limbaugh’s business model is unique – most talk radio personalities split ad revenue with stations to run their shows but Limbaugh charges up to a million a year.  Limbaugh also has a demographic problem:

As The Daily Beast’s John Avlon reported last week, the audience for right-wing talk has been shrinking since 2009. In some urban markets, Limbaugh’s audience has dropped by as much as half over the past three years. Limbaugh and other right-wing talkers have responded to this economic squeeze by a strategy familiar to Republican politicians: they have played to the base.

But even more than the total size of the audience, radio advertisers care about a measure called TSL: time spent listening. The people who listen longest are of course the most ideologically intense.


That imperative explains why Limbaugh kept talking about Sandra Fluke for so long. He was boosting his TSL to compensate for his dwindling market share. Few things boost TSL like getting the old folks agitated over how much sexy sex these shameless young hussies are having nowadays. (And make no mistake: Limbaugh’s audience is very old. One station manager quipped to me, “The median age of Limbaugh’s audience? Deceased.”)

The problem is advertisers aren’t all that interested in old men which may explain why they were quick to bolt.  In the past the advertisers came back because they had no where else to go:

However, Limbaugh’s calculation that his core advertisers must return always rested on the assumption that there was nowhere else to go. Suddenly, in the worst month of Limbaugh’s career, somewhere else has appeared: a lower-priced alternative, with big audience reach and a host an advertiser can trust never, ever to abuse a student as a “slut” and “prostitute.”

The new Huckabee show’s slogan is “more conversation; less confrontation.” “I don’t want it to be a show that every day, every hour, pushes everyone’s buttons to raise their blood pressure,” Huckabee says. “I figure the cost of high blood pressure is enough already.”

Is it the end of Limbaugh? Probably not but…..

Rush Limbaugh won’t vanish from the radio of course. But the overpriced Limbaugh program is highly vulnerable to economic shocks. “If just one station in a top-20 market replaces Limbaugh with Huckabee, it’ll be an earthquake,” remarks a veteran of the radio business.

And you can already hear the first tremors.

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Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • God I hope he’s right.

    When Limbaugh first hit the airwaves in the late ’80s I found him amusing, entertaining, a refreshing change of pace, agreeing with him about 50% of the time and still finding him engaging and funny the other 50% of the time.

    As time went on it got boring, and he got more radical and irrational, and I finally couldn’t take it anymore.

    On the occasions when I would listen to him again it was the same way: amusing for a few minutes, but usually in fairly short order repellant.

    A year or two ago I was stuck in a part-time mostly-volunteer job where a (good friend) listened to Limbaugh (and Hannity) constantly, incessantly. It obviously pushed his buttons and made him angry and he was somewhat addicted to that anger. I was mostly repulsed by it but I would sigh and, instead of gritting my teeth and getting upset, would take a sort of zenlike “ok, this is the way some people think, I don’t have to” and mostly tune it out.

    It’s hard not to like Huckabee even when I disagree with him. The big question will be whether he actually CAN get a big enough audience.

    One thing politics has proven to me over and over again, in the blogosphere, in print, on TV, on radio, wherever, is that infuriating people sells. There was a while in my own blogging career when I was angry a lot and vented that anger online and that got me an audience. At some point I realized this wasn’t any good and started losing people. And I also realized I was happy to lose them, because my choices were to (A) compromise integrity, whore myself out, and feed the rage machine, or (B) stop, be ethically who I really was, and let people either come and read or not.

    (B) gets you a smaller audience, in my experience. Which I’m fine with, but does it work as a business model? Maybe. I hope so. Hate merchants, left and right, have discovered it’s a fast way to fame and cash. Will that ever go away?

  • JDave

    I’ve always liked Huckabee even when I don’t agree with him.

    It won’t be the end of Rushbo, but here’s hopin’.

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