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In an article that speculates on who might be Rush's next competition in talk radio (Mike Hukabee), David Frum covers the Free Market economic reasons Limbaugh's and other rightwing talk shows' top advertisers are deserting in droves: Limbaugh’s business model is crashing around him.

Most talk-radio programs offer radio stations this deal: we’ll give you three hours of content for free. (Some programs—cough, Glenn, cough, Beck—actually pay radio stations to accept their content.)

...Limbaugh is unique. He actually charges radio stations for his content: up to $1 million a year in a major market. Plus, he charges the highest ad rates in the business...those revenue streams always depended on Limbaugh upholding his end of the bargain...

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.

Rush has compensated by doubling down for his base, throwing them the highly-toxic red meat that keeps the hick geezers listening longer.

Few things boost TSL [Time Spent Listening] 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.”)

Time Spent Listening is usually something advertisers and stations are willing to pay for, but not so much with reichwing radio, recently. Going after women was Rush's big mistake:

Limbaugh’s audience not only skews old; it skews male. It was already 72 percent male in 2009—more male than that of almost any other program on radio or TV. Advertisers are not nearly as interested in talking to old men as to middle-aged women.

But why now, surely Rush has been talking misogynistic trash for over two decades?

The difference this time is that Limbaugh’s advertisers and his stations had already begun to feel ripped off. To quote my station-manager friend again: “I don’t mind paying for content. But I do mind paying for trouble.”
Rush -- and right wing talk radio -- aren't dead yet, but unless their tone (and charges) change, they're on their way out.
the overpriced Limbaugh program is highly vulnerable to economic shocks. “If just one station in a top-20 market replaces Limbaugh with [the milder-mannered] Huckabee, it’ll be an earthquake,” remarks a veteran of the radio business.

The Rush effect is slopping over on the rest of reich-wing radio:

CNN: All right wing talk radio suffering from Limbaugh fallout
From What Rush Limbaugh Is Not Telling You About His Advertiser Losses:
Now it’s time to let you in on a dirty little secret about radio that you find out the first day on the job. Radio stations do not exist to educate or even to entertain you. They do not exist to play new, exciting music. They do not exist to support a particular political ideology or add to any sort of cultural conversation. They exist for one reason: to sell commercials. You can screw up many other things when working as a DJ. You can talk way more than playing music. You can play long blocks of music with almost no banter. You can interrupt and talk over songs. But, never, never miss the commercials. If they could get away with just selling and playing commercials 24 hours a day, they would do it. But, no one wants to listen to sales pitches all day. They want to be entertained in some way. So, stations research and decide what kind of entertainment/programming would best attract people in their area to their radio frequency instead of the competitor’s. If the answer is “talk radio”, they do that. If the answer is “country music”, they do that. If that answer changes, they change the programming. It’s all about selling and playing commercials. Understanding that helps you to see why the loss of advertisers at any level is important, despite Limbaugh’s cavalier statements to the contrary. It helps you to understand why all those local and regional advertisers that he seems to not care about are actually far more important even than his national-level advertisers.

There are tons of companies out there who would fall all over themselves to give Rush Limbaugh their money to advertise on his program at the national level, even if he were the most reviled man on the radio. The level of “class” in those advertisers might drop, but opportunists will attach to a scandal in a heartbeat. The trouble is, the vast majority of hometown and regional advertisers won’t. And, boycotts and protests are most effective at the local and regional level.

If a person who heard what Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke got an emailed list of local advertisers whose commercials aired during the Limbaugh show, that person can pick up the phone and call each local or regional business on that list. They can tell them, “I will not be eating at your restaurant for as long as you advertise with that man. When you stop, I will come back. And, by the way, I am tweeting, emailing, and Facebook messaging every person I know to tell them the same thing. We’ll be listening tomorrow to see if you are still supporting him.”

Limbaugh may not care about that, but the restaurant owner sure does, even if he likes Limbaugh. If even a few people make that intention known, that owner will call the radio station and demand that his ads be pulled out of the Limbaugh show and spread elsewhere. He may even post a sign on his door expressing his support for Limbaugh, but he will eventually move his ads. In order to not lose that ad business, the station will quickly comply. Eventually, if enough advertisers bail on the program, the program gets replaced. No more Limbaugh in that town.

Limbaugh himself said it yesterday, “They’re just saying they don’t want their spots to appear in my show.” Exactly.

Limbaugh’s website says he has over 600 stations in his stable. Calls from individuals, especially people not even in the listening area, will have little effect on the decisions a station makes. But calls from the advertisers are treated like messages from God. Limbaugh may think say that those advertisers are like a few french fries. But, the local stations do not. There are people at those stations whose job it is to beat the pavement and sell ads. They work on commission. They build relationships with those advertisers. It is in their best interests to keep those advertisers informed about where their money is best spent. If there is a huge stench around a program, local and regional advertisers will abandon it. Stations will then eventually drop it, not on principle, but out of economic necessity. And thus, the listener base dwindles. They simply won’t have it to listen to unless they subscribe online. Then, the chain effect begins. The cost of regional ads drops due to a smaller listener base. So, ad sales people have to sell more commercials to recover the lost revenue. No one wants to support a sinkhole. Eventually, the show folds.

Limbaugh can put on a brave face and act like those national level advertisers are all he cares about. But, that’s disingenuous. Even if he never lost a single one, the local and regional markets can dry up around him. He will be a tree falling in a forest.


So do your bit in contacting advertisers. Here's how:

Especially, contact your local advertisers:

List of National Limbaugh advertisers:

and/or sign these petitions

Originally posted to freelancewoman on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 02:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by Sluts.

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