Why There Can Never Be Another Rush Limbaugh

by Kerry Lutz
Financial Survival Network

If you’ve looked at talk radio scene recently, you have probably noticed there’s a certain stagnation or entropy that’s set in. It’s been years since a major talent exploded upon the scene, garnering millions of listeners and fans. The conclusion to be drawn: Due to numerous changes, demographic, technological, financial, economic and political, terrestrial based talk show hosts are rapidly becoming an endangered species. That’s not to say that Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, Levin and others are at risk losing their relevance, but rather it’s an observation that the new talent pipeline won’t be providing their successors anytime soon.

1. Demographic Generational
Rush Limbaugh is a Baby Boomer and his audience is mostly made up of a portion of the 78 million. Baby Boomers are conservative talk radio’s largest audience segment. These are people who’ve been listening to Rush for more than a generation. Boomers are those born from 1946 to 1964 (aged 54 to 72). They are rapidly transitioning from the acquisitive phase of life to the retention phase. They’re not buying stuff like they used to. Advertisers are indifferent to this group. Advertisers primary focus is the 25-54 age group. This is the group that buys bigger new cars, 150 inch flat screens, etc.. And here’s the problem; GenX is a much smaller segment that gets its media jolt from a broad array of outlets. While there is a substantial portion that listens to terrestrial, they’ve never been a core constituency of talk radio.

Where will the new talk show listeners come from? Don’t count upon Millennials. They have better things to do and many aren’t presently open to conservative thought. While Gen Z appears to be much more conservative and values oriented, they’re just coming into their own and have infinite other outlets and places to go to for political thought. They’re much more likely to watch a Mark Dice 4 minute video than to listen to three hours of Rush.

So, effectively, Rush’s audience is shrinking (yes we are dying off) with a smaller pool of replacement listeners. Oh and let’s not forget that the Opioid Epidemic and shorter life expectancy that has reared its ugly head. Rush’s base is dying off at a faster rate than their parents did.

2. Technological
Rapidly emerging Internet technology has captured the hearts and eyeballs of the entire country. However, nowhere has it had a greater impact than with the millennial generation. Stories of cord cutting (permanently disconnecting cable TV) illustrate their primary reliance upon the web for their information uptake.

In addition, SiriusXm and podcasting have been chipping away at terrestrial radio’s revenues. Terrestrial radio is just not cool. Millennials’ decreased attention spans, mean they will not spend hours each day listening to Rush, Hannity or anyone else. And there’s the disruptive smart phone. As automobile integration sweeps the sector, you have easy access to your preferred content at the click of a button. More competition means less terrestrial radio listeners and reduced advertising rates.

It is not uncommon to see YouTube stars outdrawing established media channels in viewership. With traditional media’s dependency upon corporate ad dollars, certain subjects that would go untouched by CNN or NBC are often descended upon by YouTube personalities. Conspiracy Theorists attack MSM forbidden subjects such as Pizzagate and Q Anon, like a lion chewing on a gazelle. And they achieve a large following and sometimes substantial monetary rewards for their efforts. However, these YouTube stars will never achieve the massive compensation and recognition that Rush, et al. get. No one is chasing after Mark Dice or Paul Joseph Watson, begging them to take an surplus Gulfsteam 650 off their hands.

The big money is still going to corporate media channels but the trend has clearly shifted. Billions of dollars are being redirected to non-celebrity based ad channels, such as Facebook, Google Adwords and YouTube video ads. Facebook and Google now receive 85% of all Internet ad dollars.

3. Economic
For most of its existence, radio was fragmented and primarily local in focus. There were several large players, but most stations were individually owned and had a local focus. In the good old days, the program director and owner would always have their stations playing in the background. This began to change with more lax anti-trust regulation and companies buying up hundreds and even thousands of stations. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but it has proven to be a complete financial failure.

Companies such as Clearchannel (now IHeartRadio) accumulated billions in debt at the very time that their core businesses were declining. Bean counters now run the show and only look at the bottom line. Their only concern is avoiding bankruptcy filings, but they can’t even do that as witnessed by Clearchannel’s recent Chapter 11 filing.

4. Financial/Talent
In the good old days, program directors were laser focused on the discovery and development promising new talent. PD’s were always looking for the next big star. They spent countless hours mentoring and teaching new hosts, thus treating it like a craft or profession. Since terrestrial radio has diminished, largely due to syndication and a trend away from localization, there’s nobody left to train the next generation.

There’s tons of people who are potentially every bit as talented as Rush Limbaugh lining up to become future stars. The problem is that the large radio companies are so impaired and their business model so flawed, that they no longer focus on the content and talent development. In fact, according to Michael Harrison of Talkers.com, most radio management don’t even listen to their own programming. They’re too busy trying to cut costs and avoid liquidation.

As much as people of the right might like to blame talk radio’s demise on lefty conspiracies the real reasons are based upon demographics, economics, finance and technology. So advice to Rush and his shrinking audience, enjoy the ride. As witnessed by his recent pay cut, talk radio is assuming a much-diminished role in a greatly changed and expanded media landscape. As is always the case, only those able to adapt to the new media world order will survive. So far talk radio shows no ability or desire to do so.


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