The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

11 October 2007

Rush Audience Underestimated, New York Daily News, Talkers Magazine


NYC Paper Reprints Bogus Rush Limbaugh Audience Stats

*** UPDATE BELOW: Limbaugh's Syndicator Responds ***

Just one day after our piece taking Talkers Magazine to task for its usual anti- Rush Limbaugh agenda, a major New York City newspaper has reprinted its bogus talk radio audience stats.

Despite recent ratings growth, the publication claims Rush and Sean Hannity have been shedding listeners.

In addition, during a period where the fledgling "progressive" format lost dozens of key affiliates, Talkers claims liberal hosts such as Ed Schultz enjoyed huge audience gains.

Despite serious questions about its validity, in today's New York Daily News, David Hinckley used his column to republish the flawed Talkers list:

Rush Limbaugh remains the most listened-to talk show host in America, according to a semi-annual estimate in the trade magazine Talkers, with at least 13.5 million people tuning him in at some point during the average week.

Sean Hannity is a close second with at least 12.5 million. Then there's a drop to Michael Savage and Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who Talkers says each have at least 8 million listeners a week.

Limbaugh and Hannity are heard locally on WABC (770 AM), Savage on WOR (710 AM) and Schlessinger on WWDJ (970 AM).

Talkers says its figures are based on station reports, Arbitron "and other sources." and are not precise ratings data.

The top 12 for spring 2007:

1. Limbaugh, at least 13.5 million

2. Hannity, 12.5 million

3. Savage & Schlessinger, 8 million

4. Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, 5 million

5. Neal Boortz, Mark Levin, Dave Ramsey, 4 million

6. Mike Gallagher, Michael Medved, 3.75 million

7. Jim Bohannon, Clark Howard, Bill O'Reilly, Ed Schultz, Doug Stephan, 3.25 million

8. Bill Bennett, Jerry Doyle, George Noory, 3 million

9. Rusty Humphries, Kim Komando, Lars Larsen, Jim Rome, 2.25 million

10. Bob Brinker, Dr. Joy Browne, Tom Leykis, Mancow, 1.75 million

11. Alan Colmes, Thom Hartmann, Hugh Hewitt, Lionel, G. Gordon Liddy, Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes, 1.5 million

12. Dr. Dean Edell, Bill Handel, Opie & Anthony, Michael Reagan, 1 million.

Like many mainstream media insiders, Hinckley gives Talkers way too much credit. Yes, there's a disclaimer in the piece, but we have no reason to believe this data is even close to correct. Yesterday, we outlined just some of the reasons.

Keep in mind that Premiere Radio, Limbaugh's syndicator, stands by its official figure of 20 million weekly Rush listeners. How does Talkers account for a discrepancy of 6.5 million listeners? That's a huge difference.

And consider that Limbaugh saw significant increases this year in New York City, Seattle and elsewhere and that the rare station that drops his show often pays a hefty price.

Does Talkers Publisher Michael Harrison have a political (as well as advertorial) agenda? You be the judge. Here he is downplaying the domination of conservatives in talk radio in a recent Reuters piece:

Talkers publisher Michael Harrison said talk radio is not as rabidly conservative as it may appear, with 58 percent of listeners identifying themselves as "independent" voters, compared to 23 percent who say they are Republican and 14 percent Democrat.

Harrison said the Republicans may not have as easy a ride on radio in 2008 because voters are split on issues from the Iraq war to immigration and no Republican presidential candidate has emerged as a breakaway favorite.

"There's definitely been a move away from partisanship towards populism ... since the disappointment with the track record of (President) George Bush," Harrison said.

That, he argued, may offer a better opportunity for Democrats to win voters than attacking radio hosts.

"I think Democrats shouldn't be so concerned about Rush," Harrison said. "No individual host has the power to sway an election that's not very close or to hurt a candidate that is strong. The Democrats can counter the power of conservative talk radio by having good Democratic politicians."

Yes, using more of the publication's dubious data, Harrison confuses Republicans with conservatives, two distinct groups of people. If listeners are now "independent populists", then why is right-leaning talk radio as popular as ever?

Consider this: news/talk is the largest radio format by far and has scaled new heights in the last few years.

Interestingly, we're not the only ones noticing how Rush Limbaugh's audience has somehow been sliced by 6.5 million listeners. Here's an interesting discussion underway over at Free Republic:

I thought the number was 20 million a week.

7 posted on 10/11/2007 7:47:09 AM PDT by ml/nj
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To: rface
Do you mean to tell me that only 13.5 million people listen to Rush Limbaugh??? This is dangerously low!

9 posted on 10/11/2007 7:49:56 AM PDT by Savage Beast ("History is not just cruel. It is witty." ~Charles Krauthammer)

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To: ml/nj

I thought the number was 20 million a week. I thought so too, but it might be because the listener base has a broader range to choose from than say, five to ten years ago.

10 posted on 10/11/2007 7:50:01 AM PDT by kromike
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To: ml/nj
About a year ago, I heard Rush say that he had 21 million listeners. Why would the number decrease by about a third?

11 posted on 10/11/2007 7:51:44 AM PDT by PhilCollins
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To: ml/nj
‘I thought the number was 20 million a week.’ Keep in mind this covers the summer months, when listeners have other things to do. Its telling they add ‘at least’.

12 posted on 10/11/2007 7:52:44 AM PDT by Badeye (Free Willie!)
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The bottom line is this: because the list is made up of self- reported stats (Talkers representatives call stations for info fed over the phone), this data is simply not valid and has no business being republished in major newspapers.

But with the mainstream media anxious to hear bad news about Rush, don't expect them to heed this warning.

UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh Show syndicator Premiere Radio has responded to our request for comment on Talkers Magazine's claim.

According to spokeswoman Rachel Nelson, "Our data shows nearly 20 million weekly listeners tune into the program. We're not sure how Talkers comes up with their numbers because our affiliate lists are proprietary."

Nelson adds this nugget: "also note that the just- released Arbitron Spring Nationwide 2007 survey reflects "The Rush Limbaugh Show" has maintained its consistently high audience with 3,397,000 Persons 12+ listening at any one given time during the three hours of the program."

In other words, because Talkers doesn't have access to Limbaugh's entire current station roster, there's no way it could accurately assess his total weekly audience. Shouldn't the New York Daily News and other publications that republish the Talkers audience list run a retraction?

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  • Funny
    I remember wing nuts praising Talkers numbers last year, even Brian, you were bragging as a matter of fact from what I recall


    Get a real conservative on the radio, I would love to hear an actual conservative, I'm open minded, I will not listen to RNC ass lickers, they are not conservatives. Can anyone suggest an actual conservative, who is pleasant to listen to. Not Michael Savage, although he is not a RNC hack, he is sick in the head.

    Why is it that the left has serious talkers such as Hartman, and Madow and Laura Flanders. There are some lefties who are DNC hacks, I personally feel although entertaining as hell, Randi Rhodes is a DNC fluffer, as was Franken and Stephanie Miller. Believe it or not I never heard Ed Schultz. Mike Malloy is amazing but not exactly a show to learn something from, rather a show to vent. Lionel is wasting his talent by resorting to insulting callers and low-brow comedy. The man could do much better.

    Is there a conservative who approaches the issues like Tom Hartman, historically and by means of serious debate? Hartman is the best lib host simply because he puts conservative writers and scholars on the air for real debate and exchange of ideas. I find it to be refreshing to hear serious debate and not hackery.

    So which conservative should I sek out? I want to hear a real conservative.

    Honestly I think the best talk show on the radio is Coast to Coast AM. Great guests, interesting topics, and even sometimes political but not your typical political talk, when they go there, Nory is usually a professional and very open minded to all views.

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 11 October, 2007 16:27  

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