Will Huckabee’s new radio show bring down Limbaugh?
If David Frum is correct, it appears that all those awful leftist partisan bullies aren’t the ones endangering Rush Limbaugh’s lucrative king-of-the-hill status on talk radio after all. //sarcasm
Mr. Frum provides an intriguing peek behind the curtain of the talk radio world, and explains how Limbaugh might be brought down by one of his own on the right. I’m extremely curious to see what’ll happen in April. It’s a good read, don’t miss it.
Over 25 years in radio, Rush Limbaugh’s dominance of the AM dial has become a fact of American life.
Until, maybe, now.
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.
To understand the power of Huckabee’s challenge to Limbaugh, you have to understand the strange economics of talk radio. 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.) Those three hours will include 54 minutes of ad time. That ad time is split between the radio station and the show: each gets 27 minutes to sell.
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.
Here’s how this operates in the real world. Limbaugh knows that his share of big markets like Dallas or Atlanta has dropped from his old 5 percent in any given hour to, say, 3 percent. But if he can entice that 3 percent to listen twice as long, he can more than make up the loss.
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.”)
This background may explain why so many of Limbaugh’s advertisers bolted for the exits when the Fluke rampage went wrong for Limbaugh. It wasn’t social conscience: Limbaugh has said offensive things before. It wasn’t social media: Facebook and Twitter existed back in 2009, when Limbaugh explained how the Obama presidency had emboldened black schoolkids to beat up whites on schoolbuses.