Thursday, August 11, 2005

Warning to conservative talkers: objects in the rear-view mirror may be closer than they appear.

Rush Limbaugh better not look in the rear-view mirror because he might not like what he sees coming up from behind. Despite fictitious and cherry-picked press releases from Rush Limbaugh's syndicator Premiere Radio Networks, Rush Limbaugh is faltering across the country.

In Florida, Limbaugh’s home state, the trend is even more pronounced, as the newly formed "liberal talk radio" station Air America Radio is exploding in popularity almost overnight.The most recent
Arbitron ratings are out for the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market and they spell bad news for Rush Limbaugh and other “conservative” talkers. The Arbitrons are by no means definitive proof of the success of a business venture, but they can be a good indicator of the general trend in the audience and market share of a radio station.

In the Spring 2005 reporting period, Rush’s station WIOD-AM has a 2.8 listener share, down a whopping 33% from his 4.2 share in the Fall of 2004. Air America Radio, on the other hand, has a 2.0 share in Spring 2005, up a grand total of 66% since the Fall of 2004. While Rush Limbaugh fans may take solace in the fact that he still maintains a narrow advantage in Florida over the upstart, liberal Air America, one must also consider that he has had a 20 year head start to build a listener base, which is traditionally slow to develop in AM talk radio.

Adding to Rush’s woes, aside from his doctor shopping criminal prosecution, which is still pending, is the fact that the Arbitron statistics are rolling averages that represent data from past ratings periods as well. Thus, for the newly formed Air America Radio to already be posting significant gains in such a short amount of time says a lot about the devotion of its ever-growing listener base. Moreover, the data included in the Spring 2005 Arbitron includes time periods where Air America Radio was off the radar, which overall should skew the data downward and makes their increase to a 2.0 share an understatement.


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