The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

01 August 2008

There's More To Limbaugh's Success Than Is Commonly Understood


Limbaugh's Twentieth Brings Accolades, Analysis

As Rush Limbaugh celebrates his twentieth anniversary today, tributes have been pouring in from across the Internet. In addition, many political pundits (and antique media types) have tried to assess the reasons for Rush's enduring success.

Many have touched on key elements of Limbaugh's appeal. In one of the best examples seen this week, Phyllis Schlafly points to his courage, especially when under fire:

One secret to Limbaugh's success is that he is not intimidated into appeasing the organized pressure groups that frighten so many others into platitudinous mush. He takes them all on: the radical feminists, the wacky environmentalists, the open-borders crowd, and even President George W. Bush's deviation from conservatism.

From the get-go, even in the feminists' glory days of the 1980s when they were fawned over by the national media, Rush was not scared off. He is one of a handful of men in public life willing to stand up to the feminists.

When feminists make outrageous demands, Rush calls them feminazis. When feminists insist that he apologize for a remark contrary to their agenda, he makes a joke about it but does not apologize.

Former Harvard President Larry Summers is the poster boy for the futility of apologizing to feminists and trying to appease their outrageous demands. Despite weeks of self-flagellation after some feminist professors took offense at his perfectly accurate academic speech about gender differences, they continued to humiliate him from Massachusetts to California.

Others, such as Roy Spencer, have pointed to his generally optimistic outlook:

We don’t want a steady stream of bad news all the time. We don’t need a daily dose of new crises to wring our hands over.

And in a country with abundant opportunities for success — where your creativity and ambition not only benefit you, but benefit everyone else — we sure don’t need our politicians telling us that we need them in order to be successful in life.

There's more to Rush's ongoing success than most people realize, however. Some of these elements are related to content, while others are tied to a strong business sense.

Those outside the broadcast industry often fail to recognize these key ingredients:

Limbaugh's show took off initially because it filled a need in the marketplace. A large constituency of conservative listeners had been longing for this kind of programming. On the left, there's no such base audience, so even the "best" libtalkers continue to struggle.

While much is made of his entertainment value, we rarely see that quality defined by analysts. It doesn't mean that he's a stand-up comedian, often this appeal stems from aggressively pursuing his political enemies, or knowing when to spoof the events of the day. A sitcom can be "entertaining", but so can a boxing match. There's a bit of all of this in every show.

Importantly, Rush understands the relationship between highly- rated, controversial programming and revenues. He insists that sales executives assigned to his program understand how to sell his brand. They need to have a firm grasp of the audience and how their fierce loyalty results in skyrocketing product sales.

Account reps who "get it" are rewarded handsomely, while those who don't are sent packing. This recognition is missing from many news-talk stations today and is part of the reason why their corporate parents are struggling.

Limbaugh doesn't just accept advertisers, he makes them a part of the program. Have you ever heard him talk about his Sleep Number Bed? Was it during the show or inside a commercial break? You say you're not sure? Exactly- it's seamless.

Always on the lookout for opportunities to make lemonade out of lemons, Rush has successfully exploited situations that have ultimately placed him in the media spotlight. From the "Phony Soldiers" flap, which resulted in a multi-million dollar charitable contribution, to Operation Chaos, which directly influenced a partisan primary contest, Limbaugh knows when to jump into the fray.

Critically, Limbaugh has an ongoing ability to immediately recognize the hottest topics and properly develop them on the air. Amateur hosts are usually weak on the latter point, but glossing over big stories is a major mistake.

And perhaps most importantly, Limbaugh has credibility, something that is easy to lose when one isn't careful. Fans trust him and reward El Rushbo with long-term support.

Finally, Rush never wastes airtime with filler. He makes every moment matter.

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  • Rush got "hammered" in the best possible way today:

    His staffers "interrupted" his opening monologue with a phone call from a trio of supporters, Bush 43, 41, and Jeb. Rush appeared to be caught totally unaware of this.

    As expected, Rush recovered quickly and had pleasant conversations.

    By Blogger Chromium, at 01 August, 2008 20:42  

  • The thing that showed me Rush was different was the Bake Sale he did early on. A viewer couldn't afraid to pay for a subscription to Rush's newsletter (another of his innovations I think), but Rush wouldn't give the guy a subscription. Instead Rush suggested that the guy hold a bake sale to earn the money for his subscription. A classic Rush

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 02 August, 2008 09:40  

  • One of Rush's high points was when he made Harry Reid look like a fool. Reid tried to use the US Senate to censor Rush.

    Rush auctioned off the Democrat only signed Senate letter with the huge proceeds going to a military charity. The national media carried the story every night of the auction for a week.

    Reid tried to steal some of the coverage on the last day, but just ended up looking like a pathetic has-been.

    Rush did a slam dunk when he challenged Reid and the other Democrats to match Limbaugh's million dollar donation.

    How much did the Democrats contribute to the charity? Not a single dime.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 02 August, 2008 14:00  

  • Rush is a liar, I purchased advertising and Rush did not screen the product.

    you dittoheads, believe anything, your drug addled hero tells you

    benson is so bad, and so brainwashed, benson would probable kill himself if rush told him to do so

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 04 August, 2008 09:50  

  • Benson, why don't you do us a favor and give your hero a blow job? you are definatly a log cabin bushie

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 04 August, 2008 09:52  

  • One of Limbaugh's strengths has been his tie-in between his show, his podcasts and his website.

    This documentation that he has archived over the years is so complete and powerful, it prevents the wackos from distorting the truth. All one has to do is look up what Rush really said on his transcripts.

    And now he has moved all of it to the Rush Limbaugh Museum of Broadcasting, a virtual 3-D treasury of the Excellence in Broadcasting network. This is an excellent location for our children, grandchildren, and future generations to visit and learn the truth about the conservative movement.

    The link to the museum is at

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 05 August, 2008 09:33  

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