Rush Limbaugh is ailing. And so is the conservative talk-radio industry.

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vnatale
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Rush Limbaugh is ailing. And so is the conservative talk-radio industry.

Post by vnatale » Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:04 am

Rush Limbaugh is ailing. And so is the conservative talk-radio industry.


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Gauging Limbaugh’s audience has always been a matter of guesswork; the ratings tracker Nielsen and its forerunner, Arbitron, have never done a national audit of his listeners.

Limbaugh maintained for years that he attracts some 20 million listeners a week, a figure still cited in media accounts more than 20 years after he first asserted it. More recently, he has claimed he reaches 43 million people a week.

The figures are undoubtedly subject to a little Limbaugh-ian grandiosity. An industry trade magazine, Talkers, thinks the real number is somewhere around 15 million listeners. “It goes up and down with minor fluctuations,” Michael Harrison, the magazine’s publisher, said. “Rush has held steady. His audience is mega-loyal.”



Much has changed since then. According to Nielsen Research, news-talk is still the most popular of the many formats on the radio. During an average 15-minute segment in 2019, 9.5 percent of the radio audience was listening to a news-talk station, a slight decline over the previous three years. But the share falls precipitously among younger listeners: Only 6.7 percent of those ages 25 to 54 and 4.3 percent of those ages 18 to 34 listen to talk stations.

The economic, demographic and technological forces now converging on conventional radio helped push the two biggest station owners, iHeart Media and Cumulus Media, to file for bankruptcy-court protection in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The two companies had borrowed heavily to gobble up radio stations. They now own more than 1,200 between them.

The financial pressures on Cumulus and iHeart make them unlikely to invest in the one thing that might save political talk radio: local personalities, according to Brian Rosenwald, a University of Pennsylvania historian who wrote a book called “Talk Radio’s America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party that Took Over the United States.”

He noted that sports-talk radio has fared relatively well by featuring hometown personalities yakking about local teams. But hiring local hosts is an expensive proposition. Rosenwald said AM radio is “in imminent danger, unless someone comes along to invest enough to enable it to become a local medium again.”

All of this doesn’t mean the era of hyperbolic, confrontational conservative talk exemplified by Limbaugh is coming to an end. The medium might be in trouble, but the conservative message is already moving to new delivery systems.

“Right-wing media is still a massive growth industry,” says Hemmer. “When Limbaugh’s show goes dark, it will be the end of an era. But it’s hard to imagine that too much will change: It will take a while for [new] outlets to gain the type of trust that Limbaugh has . . . but all in all, we’re living in a political culture Limbaugh helped create, and it’s likely it will continue to exist long after his show ends.”
Above provided by: Vinny, who always says: "I only regret that I have but one lap to give to my cats."
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