OK, so there are primaries in Alabama and Mississippi today. Nate says it’s very tight. I don’t care who wins.
Ed Schulz had a segment on Rush and the talk radio business, and there was a fellow from the radio business named Holland Cook who had a lot of illuminating things to say.
The problem for Rush isn’t just a loss of advertising revenue. As Cook explains, the way the business works is that syndicated shows usually offer free or low-cost content to radio stations, and the stations and the syndicator split the ad revenue. But Rush has been collecting high licensing fees from the stations for the privilege of running his program, and Cook says that stations are not going to put up with that for long if the advertising dries up. It’s actually less expensive for the stations to hire someone to create their own content than to air Rush.
Rush’s syndicate has told the stations it is “suspending” national ads for two weeks. I believe this means the stations run their own ads and keep all the revenue. This may be a measure to keep more stations from dropping Rush.
There is also talk that a lot of stations might drop Rush in favor of a new syndicated program by Mike Huckabee, which begins April 2. It’s to run in Rush’s noon-to-3 time. That program was in the works before the Fluke meltdown, which suggests that Huckabee’s syndicator, Cumulus Media, already thought Rush was vulnerable.
Getting back to this David Frum article — Frum says something I speculated about a few days ago. The speed at which so many advertisers suddenly dumped Rush suggests that many of them had been questioning their ad buys on Rush’s show before Fluke.
This background may explain why so many of Limbaugh’s advertisers bolted for the exits when the Fluke rampage went wrong for Limbaugh. It wasn’t social conscience: Limbaugh has said offensive things before. It wasn’t social media: Facebook and Twitter existed back in 2009, when Limbaugh explained how the Obama presidency had emboldened black schoolkids to beat up whites on schoolbuses.
The difference this time is that Limbaugh’s advertisers and his stations had already begun to feel ripped off.
On top of that, Rush’s audience is, um old.
And make no mistake: Limbaugh’s audience is very old. One station manager quipped to me, “The median age of Limbaugh’s audience? Deceased.”
This is not to say that Rush is going to disappear tomorrow. However, I think it’s unlikely that his business model is going to bounce back to what it had been before Fluke. It’s nearly certain that he will lose some stations and a lot of revenue; his syndicator might have to reduce or waive licensing fees to keep Rush’s show marketable, for example.
What I hope for, though, is that Rush’s position as the feared grand high exalted poo-bah and unelected leader of movement conservatism may be coming to an end. This would be a good thing.
Oh, and let’s get Rush booted from Armed Forces Radio.