A radio industry insider has confirmed the downward spiral of Rush Limbaugh on talk radio. Speaking on MSNBC's Ed Show, Holland Cooke said that Limbaugh's listenership has declined 36%, from a high of 22 million to a current 14 million. Cooke said furthermore that those who are still tuning in on a regular basis are fringe listeners looking for "survivalist" content.
The Flush Rush Facebook community has helped hasten Limbaugh's decline, holding a 16 month campaign to convince the controversial talk show host's advertisers to end their support for his bigoted views.
Ed: The right-wing echo chamber is in trouble. For the past 30 years, conservative talk radio has dominated the political conversation and guided the thinking of many lawmakers. Rush Limbaugh has been treated like a gift from God.
The people that listen to 10 hours of talk radio a week or more voted Republican by a 3-1 margin. Those are the people that elected the new congress. That's why this is the Limbaugh congress.
All right. Conservative talk is still dominant, but its influence is starting to fade. If you don't believe me, trust GOP messaging guru Frank Luntz. Luntz was caught on camera speaking to a group of young Republicans at the University of Pennsylvania. Listen to this.
(Frank Luntz on hidden camera) ... and they get great ratings, and they drive the message. And it's really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It's only on the Republican side. Democrats have got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what's driving it. If you take Marco Rubio's getting his [ bleep ] kicked. Who's my Rubio fan here? He is getting destroyed. He is trying to find a solution to immigration that isn't the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That's what's causing this thing underneath and too many politicians in Washington are playing coy.
Ed: Well, apparently, Frank Luntz didn't learn anything from Mitt Romney in the 47% mistake. He made the naive mistake of telling college kids with IPhones in their hands that the conversation was off the record. Really? Luntz, you need to get updated with how kids use technology. They have no loyalty, but only to the information. This is what they're saying behind closed doors. It's a good thing for liberals in America. For more on all of this, let's bring in talk radio consultant Holland Cooke. Holland, it's great to have you with us. Holy smokes, they are throwing sand in the sandbox. What's going on here?
HC: Of all people, you'd think a media consultant would know that the camera never blinks. And, Ed, you've known me long enough to know that I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist. But this is enough to make you wonder. U myself a media consultant with sympathies with Frank Luntz, because there is nothing more frustrating than you do the research, you formulate a plan, you outline it for the client, and then the client doesn't follow instructions. And the results are bad. So here's the conspiracy theory. Did Frank talk himself blue in the face trying to get the republicans to do the obvious, and then end run them by pretending that this whole thing leaked? He can't be so naive as to think that when he tells a roomful of college kids, now, everybody turn off your wireless phone. We don't want this recorded, that they'll all do it. His work is garden variety perceptual research. Reince Priebus released the post mortem after the election. Same thing there. This party of nothing is not selling. The negativity has worn thin. They lost the war on women. And they are extremely unfriendly to Hispanics who tipped the election. But talk radio is still the mantra.
Ed: Well, it's interesting. Is conservative talk radio leading the GOP down a path of destruction? I mean, have they really been -- have they been the ones who have forged this big divide?
HC: The short answer, yes. And you make an important distinction, because radio is fine. AM/FM radio has over 243 million people a week age 12 and above listening in the USA. It's talk radio that has a problem. Rush Limbaugh has 14 million listeners. Used to have 22 million. These numbers come from Talkers magazine, to which I contribute. The most widely quoted source for the big talk radio scoreboard. So do the math. 14 into 243 is about 5%, meaning 95% of people listening to the radio aren't listening. Glenn Beck has 7.5 million listeners, 3% of the radio audience. 97% aren't listening. Mathematically, this is fringe media. So who do you think they're talking to? The fringe, the tea party. And it's all of this survivalist and chicken little stuff that keeps their audience tuning in every day. But they're not talking to mainstream america.
Ed: And do you think that talk radio-- or should I say conservative talk radio make the turn before the midterm to make a positive impact on Republicans, to keep the House and win the Senate? I mean, do they have that same influence that they had back in the early 1990s?
HC: Well, the influence is there. But the message is all wrong. Frank Luntz himself is fretting that the GOP could lose the house because Limbaugh and this legion of sound-alike talk hosts, all the local stations, are saying ignore the research, steer hard right. So they seem to be on course.
Ed: Yeah, all right. Holland Cooke, always great to have you with us.
*Note--The Frank Luntz hidden camera story was broken by Mother Jones back in April.
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