Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Report: Conservative Talk Radio is Ailing

Rush Limbaugh, the most successful talk-radio host in history, is ailing. And so is the medium he helped revolutionize over the past 30 years, according to an article written by Paul Fahri at the Washington Post.

According to Fahri talk radio is faced with aging and shrinking audiences, competition from newer technologies and financial problems for the biggest station owners, talk radio is in decline — both as a business and a political force. Once a leading platform for popularizing conservative candidates and policies, talk radio is on the verge of becoming background noise, drowned out by a cacophony of voices on podcasts, cable TV and social media.

The format’s crisis comes as its biggest star is battling to stay on the air — indeed, he is battling for his life. Limbaugh, 70, has been frank about his struggle with what he said last year is advanced lung cancer. 

“He will leave a huge void when he leaves,” Paul D. Colford, a Limbaugh biographer, said. “There is no one who has come up to replace him. There is no new voice out there. There is no one like him.”

According to the article, conservative talk radio’s foremost problem isn’t so much how many people are listening as who.

The audience that grew up with Limbaugh is now quite gray, largely people 65 and older. Fewer than 8 percent of those who regularly listen to talk radio (including public radio) are 25 to 54, according Nielsen’s research.

Meanwhile, plain old AM-FM radio — the primary medium for talk programs — is rapidly losing ground to newer technologies such as satellite radio, streaming audio and podcasts. Only 50 percent of those surveyed by Edison Research last year listed terrestrial radio stations as their first listening choice in a car.

The shift makes someone like comedian Joe Rogan, a libertarian with a hugely popular podcast, “the next Rush Limbaugh,” says Paul Matzko, the author of “The Radio Right: How a Band of Broadcasters Took On the Federal Government and Built the Modern Conservative Movement.”

According to Nielsen Research, news-talk is still the most popular of the many formats on the radio. During an average 15-minute segment in 2019, 9.5 percent of the radio audience was listening to a news-talk station, a slight decline over the previous three years. But the share falls precipitously among younger listeners: Only 6.7 percent of those ages 25 to 54 and 4.3 percent of those ages 18 to 34 listen to talk stations.

All of this doesn’t mean the era of hyperbolic, confrontational conservative talk exemplified by Limbaugh is coming to an end. The medium might be in trouble, but the conservative message is already moving to new delivery systems.

No comments:

Post a Comment