Friday, February 19, 2021

Dittoheads Wonder: What Now?

Even with his show’s continuation, Rush Limbaugh’s passing leaves a void in the world of talk radio.

The Wall Street Journal reports millions of loyal listeners are left wondering how they will spend the three hours in the middle of every weekday they devoted to listening to his acerbic takes on political, social and economic issues. For the podcast and radio industry, Mr. Limbaugh’s shoes are difficult, if not impossible, to fill.

His show was the most listened to in the U.S., according to Nielsen Audio, reaching more than 20 million monthly listeners on more than 650 affiliates as of the end of 2020.

Limbaugh’s 30 years of audio has been archived and cataloged by subject, topic and opinion, Premiere Radio Networks said in a memo. The show, from now on, will address the day’s news using relevant clips. Guest hosts such as Mark Steyn, Todd Herman and Ken Matthews, who helped fill in while Mr. Limbaugh underwent cancer treatment over the past year, will help guide the show from segment to segment, the network said.

“I would not want to own an AM radio station,” said Chris Roberts, associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media at the University of Alabama. While radio reaches 90% of adults in the U.S. every week, according to Nielsen, most of that is through FM stations.

“As the radio industry changed, he didn’t have to,” said Mr. Roberts. While there will always be appetite for Mr. Limbaugh’s style of programming, he said, it’s unlikely any other host will be able to replicate his success on radio alone—they will need to work across media to attract a younger audience.

While other conservative hosts have rank among the most popular podcasts, right-wing talk media may still have a future on radio.

“Conservative talk radio is very invested in the live experience,” said Megan Liberman, head of news, talk and entertainment programming for Sirius XM Holdings Inc., pointing to a listenership that likes to call in and speak with hosts on-air. “These shows have a really interactive audience.”

“Rush was AM radio,” said Mr. Smith. “There’s probably a lot of radio stations scratching their heads wondering what are we going to do in the middle of the day.”

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