The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

10 March 2009

Lefties Misrepresent Talk Radio, TV Ratings


Olbermann & Friends Twist Limbaugh's Ratings Data

Can deranged MSNBC
host Keith Olbermann really claim to have more viewers than talk titan Rush Limbaugh has radio listeners?

Using twisted "logic" possibly derived from Million Man Math Made Easy, Olby decided on Friday's show to take a low-ball audience figure of 14,000,000 (as opposed to the widely accepted 20,000,000 count), inexplicably divide it by ten, then declare the "results" lower than his 1,486,000 viewers during Thursday's show.

On Friday, by the way, Olbermann had just over a million watching, less than one-third that of Bill O'Reilly, his direct competitor.

From the transcript:

OLBERMANN: The “Washington Post” today quoted a radio analyst who said the Limbaugh ho-hum; I have boasted his ratings, from the claim of 14 million listeners to 25 million. Either number would dwarf the daily audience of, say, this program, which is just under 1.5 million viewers last night or would dwarf Bill O‘Reilly‘s, which is just under 4 million, or would dwarf even “NBC Nightly News,” which average 9.3 million viewers last week per night. Except the 14 million Limbaugh listeners appear to be closer to just 1.4 million.

This is about the different ways radio audiences are counted, compared to television one. In TV, audience estimates are available for every show, every hour, every half hour, every quarter hour, every minute in some cases. If we say this newshour had an audience of 1,486,000 last night, that is the average audience total throughout the hour -- 1,486,000 at 8:09 p.m., 1,486,000 at 8:42.

But in radio, the rating is called the “cume.” It measures the number of people who listen to a program like Limbaugh‘s, whether they listen for one second a week, or for 15 hours or a week. And one industry source told us today that the standard way to estimate how many people are listening to a radio show at a given hour or day is to divide the cume by 10.

I‘m joined now by “Variety” television editor, Michael Schneider, who knows that field and radio very well.

Mr. Schneider, thanks for your time tonight.

No problem.

OLBERMANN: So, is that math, in your knowledge, more or less correct? I mean, if Limbaugh has 14 million listeners a week in a way radio measures it, does that mean he actually has 1,400,000 per show the way television would measure it?

Yes. It‘s tough to say because there‘s no good way to measure minute-by-minute on radio because radio is not measured the same way TV is. But that sounds like a decent number. And when you think about radio and the fact that there are no real radio networks the way there are television networks, that‘s still a pretty strong number for a daytime radio show.

OLBERMANN: But, of course, you and I will sit there and we can analyze it and we say that‘s a fantastic number for radio, and there‘s no way of denying that. But people who—even are politically-conscious people, or media-conscious people, they may love numbers and they may love ratings and they may love lists and rankings, but rarely does anybody want to do any actual math. So, if anybody actually thinks of this at all, they say, they hear—Limbaugh, 14 million; Olbermann, 1.5 million, Maddow, 1.25 million. Why don‘t Limbaugh and his supporters make it clear that there is some, if not creative counting going on here, certainly some apples and oranges are going on here?

Right. I mean, it‘s definitely apples and oranges. And I supposed it‘s not to their benefit to sit down and explain the differences between radio Arbitron ratings and TV Nielsen ratings, because that 14 million number, obviously, looks a lot more impressive. So, yes, I think it‘s up to the rest of us to do our homework and make sure we know what a radio rating means.

Is this going to change? Because Limbaugh even pointed out this today to a supporter in an email, there are daily ratings taken now in about the top 15 markets, but I have not seen them yet. It is apples and oranges, yet the way they‘re counted, it turns out every apple is counted 10 times and every orange is counted once. Why are the audiences for the two media counted in such different ways and is it ever going to be even out?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. I mean, it starting to and that radio finally has caught up the TV in the major markets like L.A., New York, Boston. They now have personal people meters. So, for the first time, Arbitron is actually giving radio stations real ratings—a real number on who‘s listening to what as opposed to before where it was all based on diaries, so radio stations had to depend on people basically trying to remember what they listened to and writing it down in a diary the way TV was done about 30 years ago.

So, radio still has some catching up to do. It‘s just tougher because radio, it‘s all about the markets and individual radio stations. There‘s no major network the way there is in TV.

Yes. In my radio days, we used to have the spring book which we would get in late summer and we‘d find out how we were doing three months ago. Lastly -

SCHNEIDER: Yes. And that‘s still the way it is for most of the country.

Beyond delusional fantasy, what made Olbermann decide to divide Limbaugh's ratings by ten? Who knows, it wasn't exactly explained and certainly doesn't make sense. It was probably made up out of thin air. Who interviews a television editor about radio ratings, anyway?

Using this formula, what would liberal talk radio's final audience figure look like?

Let's assume he was trying to determine an average overall audience size. If so, Premiere Radio Networks, Limbaugh's syndicator, has told the Washington Post the most recent data, nearly a year old, gives a figure of 3,590,000, not 1,400,000 as Olbermann's fuzzy math suggests.

Another lie: that any radio host could get diary credit for one mere second of listening. According to Arbitron, it takes five minutes of continuous listening for a station to gain quarter-hour ratings credit.

If Olby is interested, more factual information is available here from Arbitron's site.

But Olbermann is hardly the only one twisting and contorting ratings to fit his personal political agenda. It's done routinely in broadcasting, whether to question a successful host's ratings, as was done in the WaPo Limbaugh piece, or hype the underperformance of a low-rated MSNBC host.

On Monday's show, Limbaugh himself made clear he's not behind reports of "doubled ratings" for his program. In fact, the source is surprising: the publisher of a trade publication sometimes considered hostile to conservative talk radio. From his program:

CALLER: I'm not that confused. Okay, and then the second thing is, have your ratings doubled since Begala and, what, the bald guy there, have been attacking you?

RUSH: There is absolutely no way of knowing this.

CALLER: Okay. Because I heard these reports on TV, and I was just saying that, you know, these freaking liberals can't get anything right.

RUSH: Well, this ratings business, can't blame that one all on the liberals. Well, yeah, I guess you could, but not liberals in the media. Radio ratings are a curious thing. There are two ways that they're taken right now. One is the old-fashioned way, a diary, where people fill a diary out for a week, send it back to the rating company to get tabulated every month, and then every three months the report comes out. There's a new device called a personal people meter, portable people meter where people actually wear a device on their belts and radio signals are encoded and whatever they're listening to is picked up by this thing, and it's in about the top 10 to 15 markets.

It just started a year ago. They test marketed Houston and Philadelphia, and according to the personal people meter data, which they get data every day, yeah, things are through the roof on this program, but, you know, it's tough to know because not all radio stations are reporting them. You can't say that on 15 radio stations, which is all we get day-to-day information from right now, you can't take those 15 when you're on 600 and say things have doubled. Now, some trade expert made that claim, but there's nobody that knows that, we won't know that for a while. Radio ratings have a lot of vagaries to them.

When you're on 600 radio stations, as am I, some of those radio stations have good books and some have bad books every time. You never have a period where every radio station shows gains, nor do you have a period where every radio station shows losses.

So we at the EIB Network, we measure things in far multiple ways other than just audience listenership. We do it with revenue and a number of other things, too. Suffice it to say that we have probably never had higher ratings than what we have now, and we probably never had a higher time spent listening than we have now. But to say that it has doubled is something nobody knows yet, and I certainly would not make that claim.

In the end, while Limbaugh gives honest answers regarding his listenership, his foes have come up with increasingly-creative ways of undermining him. If only they could invest that kind of energy into building their own ratings!

FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site.

Amazon orders originating with clicks here benefit The Radio Equalizer's ongoing operations.

Your PayPal contributions keep this site humming along. Thanks!


  • I understand Keith went to Cornell, too.

    He must be so very smart, sir.

    By Blogger E Buzz, at 10 March, 2009 11:50  

  • Sign the petition to FIRE KEITH OLBERMANN!!!

    Have FUN!

    By Blogger Unknown, at 10 March, 2009 12:04  

  • This is an astoundingly silly comparison..No one says 'Rush who' while 'Olberwho' is common.

    By Blogger Clorinda, at 10 March, 2009 12:12  

  • Keith who?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 March, 2009 12:15  

  • I think Olbermann has a big problem,but that's MSNBC's Downfall !
    He is so insecure that he always has to find something to bitch about. You would think MSNBC would wake up and get rid of Olbermann and Maddow,and Focus more on the important things that are distroying America? All their doing is Spewing Hate,how is this Helping us at all?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 March, 2009 12:21  

  • I've worked in Radio for the last ten years, Olberman's math is ridiculous.

    Rush's best estimate is around 18,000,000 Listeners to Olberman's 1.8 who flip to MSNBC by accident in an hour...

    By Blogger Biased Girl, at 10 March, 2009 12:26  

  • If then, as Herr Olbermann has opined, the radio audience is much smaller than publicized, why are liberals/progressives so "rushed" (pun intended) to curtail free speech with the "unfairness doctrine"? Why do they feel threatened if few are listening?More confounding logic by those on the left.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 March, 2009 13:14  

  • These pathetic TV people just can't believe that a radio show is beating the pants off of them.
    They are entertainers and not worth any emotional investment beyond the entertainment value they may present.
    While the fox is stealing all your chickens, people are worried about what Olberman, Matthews, etc are doing or saying.
    Truly pathetic.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 March, 2009 13:54  

  • The one huge difference is olbys audience has the intellectual prowess of an ice cube.Whereas,Rush's are well informed and seem to actually love the USA as opposed to hating it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 March, 2009 14:34  

  • Olber is still sucking in O'Reilly's dust (and always will), so he has to invent another boogeyman.

    The Dems sure have weak heroes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 March, 2009 15:17  

  • A person whose super easy "communications" degree comes from an Agricultural College shouldn't try to do math every night. It's just embarrassing for everyone, that is, if they were only listening. Here's something Ellie May Olbermann will understand from when he was awake in communications class. Here piggy, piggy, here piggy, piggy....Soooooooooooohey!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 March, 2009 16:28  

  • "If Olby's interested, more factual information..."

    Haaaaahahaha! Oh, please stop! You're killing me.

    Keith Olbermann interested in facts. That's a hoot.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 March, 2009 22:03  

  • Olberman has more toes in his mouth than teeth.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 March, 2009 23:34  

  • You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom.

    What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

    The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

    When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation.

    You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

    ~~ The late Dr. Adrian Rodgers

    By Blogger pf1, at 11 March, 2009 01:01  

  • They should change the name of the republican party to the Limbowel Movement.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11 March, 2009 04:31  

  • You should change yours to dumbass.

    By Blogger pf1, at 13 March, 2009 01:09  

  • So Keith, we should divide the Air America ratings by 10 to get their "real" audience numbers?

    By Blogger Chromium, at 13 March, 2009 09:17  

  • pf1, what makes you think a name change is necessary. That's probably what his mother called him.

    Anyhoo, I come here mostly to see the ignorant ranting of moonbat commenters and this post didn't seem to bring out any interesting ones.

    I figure it's because there is math involved.

    By Blogger JorgXMcKie, at 14 March, 2009 14:08  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Page Rank Checker

Powered by Blogger