Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Is Rush Limbaugh in Trouble?

One of the most partisan and hypocrisy filled mouth pieces of today's hate and bigotry filled Republican Party is Rush Limbaugh.  Together with Christofascist professional Christians, Limbaugh has exerted undue influence over the GOP and has  provided legitimacy to some of the ugliest elements and most insane conspiracy therapists of the lunatic far right.  Now, thankfully, it appears that Limbaugh may be in trouble in terms of radio stations broadcasting his nut job propaganda  and that his oce successful business model if you will is crumbling.  A piece in Politico looks at Limbaugh's potential fall.  Here are highlights:
Earlier this year, as that unmistakable bass line of the Pretenders’ My City Was Gone faded into the background, Rush Limbaugh opened his daily three-hour broadcast with characteristic bombast. “[According to the] latest research data,” he intoned, “the audience is expanding at near geometric proportions, as people seek guidance, answers, explanations, information, and an answer to the basic question, ‘What the hell is happening out there?’"
Whether “what the hell is happening out there”—in particular, the remarkable political rise of Donald Trump—has been good or bad for the Republican Party, or the country at large, there’s no denying one thing: It’s been great for talk radio. Ratings are finally ticking up, after a moribund four years. And conservative radio gabbers are driving the political conversation in a way that they didn’t when allegedly mushy moderates like John McCain and Mitt Romney were the standard-bearers of the country’s conservative party.
This has been particularly true for Limbaugh . . . . And yet, there are signs that all is not well in the Limbaugh radio empire. Because even as his influence is sky high and his dominance at the top of talk radio remains unchallenged, as a business proposition, Limbaugh’s show is on shaky ground. In recent years, Limbaugh has been dropped by several of his long-time affiliates, including some very powerful ones: He’s gone from WABC in New York, WRKO in Boston and KFI in Los Angeles, for example, and has in many cases been moved onto smaller stations with much weaker signals that cover smaller areas.
Why? Because four years after Limbaugh called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” on air, spurring a major boycott movement, reams of advertisers still won’t touch him. He suffers from what talk radio consultant Holland Cooke calls a “scarlet letter among national brand advertisers.” And for someone who has said that “confiscatory ad rates” are a key pillar of his business, that spells trouble. (Limbaugh ignored multiple interview requests.)
Limbaugh’s extremely lucrative eight-year contract—estimated to be worth roughly $38 million a year—is up this summer. What will happen to “America’s Anchorman,” as Limbaugh quasi-ironically refers to himself, once the contract is up, is anybody’s guess. Because as he is learning, political power does not necessarily a stellar business make.
But for all his business acumen, Limbaugh’s show has been a harder sell since 2012—even if he does still impishly refer to commercial time-outs as “obscene profit timeouts.” If you had to pinpoint a moment when Limbaugh’s business model began to turn, you’d have to look to the Sandra Fluke incident, when he referred to the Georgetown law student who spoke in front of Congress in favor of the Obamacare contraception mandate as a “slut” and a “prostitute.” It was a self-inflicted error that Limbaugh has never recovered from.
[B]y attacking Fluke in such grotesque terms, Limbaugh broke a cardinal rule of radio—not to mention polite society, says Darryl Parks, a radio industry veteran and former Clear Channel news-talk format chief based in Cincinnati: “Don’t beat up on a woman, and don’t beat up on a [young person].” 
In one fell swoop, he had done both. The backlash was swift and unforgiving—including from Fluke herself, who rejected Limbaugh’s multiple on-air apologies. (It didn’t help matters that Limbaugh said he was sorry for “acting like … leftists” by attacking her in such personal terms.) Politicians, including not a few Republicans, scorched Limbaugh.
The anti-Limbaugh faction came up with the social media-friendly slogan “Flush Rush.” The group’s efforts met considerable success in the months that followed. Dozens of companies, including Netflix, JCPenney and Sears, announced they would boycott Limbaugh’s show. Most have yet to return. And the increasing popularity of platforms like Twitter, which can be used to stoke outrage and promote boycotts, makes it highly unlikely they ever will.
 The Sandra Fluke incident “did a lot of harm to talk radio,” Darryl Parks says. “Thirty-eight percent of revenue disappeared overnight.” . . . . after the Fluke incident, entire stations—or indeed, the entire format of talk radio—were deemed no-go zones by blue chip brands.
JCPenney PR executive Kate Coultas explains this via email. “We [now] have a general ‘no run’ policy in place to not advertise on any kind of political program,”
In the end, the collateral damage was significant. The Wall Street Journal Radio Network, for example, which broadcast news updates on stations across the country, could not withstand the loss of ad revenue from brands like Penney. It shuttered completely in 2014—a decision directly attributable to the Fluke fallout, says one talk radio consultant. . . . . Even when they could sell ads, radio stations found that they had to move them at fire-sale prices. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2015 that talk radio ad revenue was falling and that “advertising on talk stations now costs about half what it does on music stations, given comparable audience metrics.”

[T]he biggest brands still stay away from Limbaugh. In 2015, the top five national radio advertisers were T-Mobile, Comcast, Home Depot, GEICO and Sprint. But you won’t hear ads from those giants on the 
Rush Limbaugh Show. Instead, most of Limbaugh’s spots are so-called “direct-response ads” (“enter the promo code Rush”) from the likes of home security companies, gold and silver purveyors and flower delivery outfits.
The move to smaller stations in big markets has apparently hammered Limbaugh’s syndicator. In the old days, Premiere Networks “could make a lot of money through fees—a million [dollars] a year or more from single stations,” says John Mainelli, a long-time radio executive who was WABC’s program director when Limbaugh made the move from Sacramento to New York. 
Now, because Limbaugh has been moved to so many smaller stations that pay much smaller fees, Premiere is “not collecting anywhere near what they used to collect in fees,” says Mainelli. And Mainelli points out that with the decline in ad revenue since 2012, the fees have become even more important: Their reduction has only added insult to Premere’s injury. . . . On top of that, it stands to reason that if Limbaugh is moved to enough lower-watt stations, his ratings will eventually suffer. None of his show’s woes have hurt Limbaugh personally, of course. He has a guaranteed contract dating back to 2008 that runs into July. But with his deal coming to an end in a few months, it’s an open question what the future will hold for the “Doctor of Democracy.”
 Most of the people I spoke with for this story speculate that Limbaugh will probably stay with Premiere. . . . . the big question is what that “right price” will be. It almost certainly won’t be as nice as his current arrangement, a contract so lucrative it allowed Limbaugh to buy a Gulfstream G550 he dubbed “EIB 1.” . . . A big question is whether Limbaugh would be willing to countenance a significant pay cut, particularly were it to become public. Like Donald Trump, a big part of Limbaugh’s brand is “winning,” after all. 
Limbaugh has been a toxic influence on America's politics and political discourse.  Candidly, the collapse of his "empire" and the demise of his toxic influence would be an extremely welcome development. 

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