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Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Liberal Talk Radio Project: How’s the Left Side of the Dial Doing These Days?

Mike Taylor provides us this analysis of radio talk show ratings and the comparison between conservatives and the Left side of the dial:

I happened across the Arbitron Ratings for Los Angeles and Chicago when scanning the Drudge Report this morning.

Left coasters, in general, are about as left as Manhattanites… if you’ll forgive the comparison. Your humble correspondent was a one-time resident of Chicago. I found the denizens of the Windy City to be a little left of center, but nothing like the coasts.

One would expect that Los Angeles would be one of the more receptive markets for liberal talk radio (Isn’t liberal talk radio commonly known as “the network news”?… I sometimes confuse the two.)

The following data comes from a press release from Premiere Radio Networks so we have to assume that the markets are somewhat “cherry-picked”, with that disclaimer… Here are the ratings for selected shows on the Los Angeles and Chicago airwaves:

The chart below shows the hosts and their (Adults 25 to 54) Share, Average Quarter Hour (Adults 25-54) and ranking:

Rush Limbaugh 2.5 35,900 14
Al Franken 0.8 11,900 31
Bill O'Reilly 0.9 13,100 29
Ed Shultz 0.6 9,000 42

The next chart shows the hosts and the same rating per all people over the age of 12.

Rush Limbaugh 4.4 100,100 5
Al Franken 1.2 28,400 27
Bill O'Reilly 2.3 54,900 14
Ed Shultz 0.9 20,500 34

I’ve never heard of Ed Shultz, but a Google search tells me he’s a “progressive” talk show host hailing from North Dakota. Apparently Mr. Shultz has been claiming that various right-wing entities are trying to “shut (him) down” and that Rush Limbaugh is a big fat liar… no wait, that’s the other guy, Franken. I told you this was confusing. In any event, Mr. Shultz is hoping that controversy will attract an audience… it doesn’t seem to be working.

Let’s look at the numbers. Rush is still the 800 lb. gorilla, despite his celebrated weight loss. Among Adults 25-54 Rush pulls about 3X as many listeners as Franken. Franken and Bill O’Reilly have similar numbers. If you’re wondering about the last column, “Rank (All AM/FM Programming…) you have to remember that many offices during the day have a Lite FM music station playing in the background.

Al Franken has about one-third of Rush’s audience for “Adults 25-54”.

But what’s interesting to me is the difference among the numbers in the category “Persons 12+”…and the category “Adults 25-54”. At first blush one might suspect that 1/3 of talk radio’s audience is made up of persons 12-24 years of age. But the top set of numbers does not include people 55+… so we can’t be sure of the split of very young versus somewhat older.

Despite appearances, people over the age of 54 aren’t dead yet… (Disclosure: I’m 45 and I feel half dead most of the time.) But when we count all persons 12+, Rush’s rank jumps from #14 to #5… Franken barely moves from #31 to #27 in ranking. O’Reilly improves +15 ranking spots.

What does that really mean other than Rush is getting the ear of a lot of Angelenos and Chicagoans? The data provided is inconclusive. Franken may be getting over half (58%) of his total audience from very young (12 to 24) or the older crowd (55+). Rush is getting 64% of his audience from those fringes. The key figure is the sheer size of what Rush is pulling: Rush gains +64,200 listeners from the fringes… Franken gets only +16,500.

That’s why Rush is making the big money… not only does he attract the key demographic of 25-54, he can pull down huge numbers outside that group. Looks like George Soros must continue to shell out money to keep Air America up and running.

It doesn’t seem that liberal talk radio is taking hold. “This breaking news just in… Generalissimo Francisco Franco is STILL dead!”.

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