Liberal Radio Execs Hopping Mad
'South Park Conservatives' Author Attacked Over Op-Ed
(Fresh Air America Ratings Data: Monday Evening, April 25)
The oldest trick in radio's book is manipulating ratings to support wild claims about audience sizes.
That's precisely what I've been accused of by the left since starting this debate over Air America's performance several months ago. But I was ready for it, because I know how the game works, having worked in radio.
That's why I stuck to the broadest, fairest, most complete yardstick for gauging liberal talk radio's performance: Arbitron's Monday-Sunday 6am-midnight figures for persons 12 and older.
Another was that, because 12+ data is available to the public with links, there'd be no way to refute the facts at hand.
Sure enough, however, liberals weren't happy, they wanted to make vague claims not supported by data, that specific breakdowns would tell a different story.
To this day, I've never seen them provide real, factual information, to back up contentions that liberal talk was experiencing significant audience growth.
This site conceded from the beginning, that Air America was doing well in Portland, Oregon and later revealed Seattle's affiliate beat KIRO to take third place among talk stations in the market for adults aged 25-54 during the 10am-3pm time slot.
Beyond that, there isn't a shred of evidence, backed by original Arbitron data they are willing to supply, that shows where these programs are performing anywhere else in America.
If they have it, pass it along to us for examination.
Countering the liberal talk radio hype machine was my goal in kicking off this debate with a January piece in WorldNetDaily.
Earlier this week, South Park Conservatives author Brian C. Anderson wrote an op-ed essay for the LA Times, which referenced my work.
In Saturday's edition of the paper, liberal programmers, including Air America CEO Danny Goldberg and KTLK/ Los Angeles programmer John Quinlain, fight back.
I'm sure they won't mind if we reprint their letters here, followed by my analysis:
(LA Times Letters, 23 April 2005)
Re "Why the Liberals Can't Keep Air America From Spiraling In," Commentary, April 18: Brian Anderson's attack on Air America Radio is petulant and inaccurate, an indication that conservatives are having a hard time dealing with a robust alternative to the monopoly they had on talk radio since the 1980s.
Regardless of how much Anderson and his ilk whistle past the graveyard, there is a large and growing audience for liberal talk. Every one of the original stations that picked up Air America has experienced dramatic increases in ratings. Our audience more than quadrupled what it was just nine months ago. We are on in 53 markets, including 16 of the top 20.
A recent study by the independent Paragon Media showed that in markets where we are on the air, the names Al Franken and Air America have a greater familiarity than any other talk-radio names except Rush Limbaugh. Our Internet stream reaches 1.3 million separate listeners a week, more than any conservative show. Is Air America having an impact? Ask Tom DeLay.
CEO, Air America Radio
Goldberg keeps his rebuttal vague enough for breathing room. Audience growth of 400%? There's another old radio trick: sure, from their tiny starting point, Air America probably has grown that much.
But that isn't impressive to anyone in radio.
And Paragon Media, far from "independent", is a consulting firm with major radio corporations and others as clients.
One customer, listed on Paragon's web site, is Jones Radio Networks, which is involved in the syndication of Ed Schultz and other liberal talk programming. Not a shock, then, to see the glowing report on liberal talk's future.
Isn't it funny when Goldberg boasts of Franken's high public familiarity? Could "Saturday Night Live" or his books have anything to do with that?
If Air America's public awareness factor is indeed just below Limbaugh's, that's understandable, given the huge amount of publicity it's generated in the last year. Doesn't that mean, then, that ratings ought to be higher than we've seen?
Next, KTLK-AM/ Los Angeles General Manager John Quinlan gets nasty:
Anderson's negative rant was a reckless manipulation of facts and a large dose of truth stretching.
It is not fair to compare conservative pundit Bill Bennett's talk show's success with that of Air America. There are several hundred conservative talk stations across the U.S., and for Bennett, an established name in conservative circles, to land on 124 of them is not that big a deal.
For Air America programming to be heard on any radio station, that station must first take the significant step of changing its format. Stations have switched from all-Caribbean formats (WLIB in New York) or all-sports (KTLK in L.A.) or nostalgia (KQKE in San Francisco) to carry the Air America programming.
Anderson wrote: "In the liberal meccas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, Air America is doing lousier still." The truth is in San Francisco KQKE AM has been on the air only six months and has shown steady increases in a market with the some of the strongest talk radio competition.
In L.A., KTLK AM has not been on the air for a full ratings period, thus making the "lousy" claim a bit premature.
The truth is, like it or not, Air America and Progressive Talk radio are here, they are flourishing and this is only the beginning.
Station Manager, KTLK
Quinlan's off his rocker to say it's a big deal to switch a station's format, particularly on AM, when listeners know it happens frequently, all over the country.
AM stations have few format options left, one reason why Air America has found the stations it does have: they're hard up for programming of any kind.
The point about Bill Bennett, one I originally made, was that he found twice as many stations in his first year and you didn't hear about it. Air America's launch warranted some of the coverage received, but liberal media types have showered it with roses and love notes, from coast to coast.
Quinlan's letter doesn't back up these ratings claims with facts, which may lead to chuckling in San Francisco, where rival radio operators aren't exactly worried about KQKE's future prospects.
So far, there's been no growth that we can find for Air America in San Francisco. Remember, our source is Radio and Records Magazine and we documented everything here at the time of the releases.
The Radio Equalizer has been able to obtain the full version of Quinlan's letter, which the LA Times edited down (perhaps they had trouble getting his assertions verified?):
Re: "Why The Liberals Can't Keep Air America From Spiraling In" by Brian C. Anderson April 18: Mr. Anderson's negative rant sounded like every other conservative commentator or radio talk show host. That is, reckless manipulation of facts and a large dose of truth stretching.
First, it is not fair to compare conservative pundit Bill Bennett's talk show's success with that of Air America. There are several hundred conservative talk stations across the United States and for Bennett, an established name in conservative circles, to land on 124 of them, is not that big a deal.
In order for Air America programming to be heard on any radio station, that station must first take the significant step of changing its format. Stations have switched from all-Caribbean formats (WLIB in NY) or all-sports (KTLK in LA) or nostalgia (KQKE in SF) in order to carry the Air America programming.
Getting more than 50 radio stations to change everything they broadcast, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the opportunity to carry Air America's programming is far more substantial an accomplishment than getting 124 right-wing radio stations to switch out one three-hour conservative talk show for another.
Anderson goes on to write, "In the liberal meccas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, Air America is doing lousier still." This statement is false. The truth is, in San Francisco KQKE AM has only been on the air six months and has shown steady increases in a market with the some of the strongest talk radio competition. In Los Angeles KTLK AM has not even been on the air for a full ratings period, thus making the "lousy" claim just a bit premature.
While Mr. Anderson used certain markets selectively in an attempt to support his point, he neglected to mention several cities where the format has shown great success: Portland's KPOJ AM had growth of 1000% in audience share, in conservative San Diego KLSD AM went up 73% and Denver's KKZN AM was up 300% all in the first full ratings periods. Other markets with similar success include: Boston, Seattle, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Sacramento and Columbus.
For more than a year Air America has endured right-wingers predicting that the format will fail. The truth is, like it or not, Air America and Progressive Talk radio are here, they are flourishing and this is only the beginning.
KTLK 1150 AM
L.A.'s Air America Affiliate
What I believe Quinlan is doing, is using Air America's first full book ratings data from markets such as San Diego and leaving out the monthly trends released since.
Also, he's not indicating dayparts, age groups, or gender division. Some of the other listed cities haven't shown any ratings for Air America, meaning no measurable audience.
We know ratings for KABL/San Francisco's adult standards format were much higher on the frequency than for Air America's KQKE. It's hard to imagine asserting anything else honestly.
And sure, we'll give him more time for KTLK, new ratings are coming out next week, we'll see what shakes out.
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