The heavy-hitters of conservative radio talk shows are bleeding listeners according to Crain's. The industry report says Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others hit a "slump" in October from which they've failed to recover. Limbaugh's ratings are down 33 percent, a large enough blow to prompt Salon's Alex Pareene to wonder if America might be done with Rush. However, given that Hannity's and fellow conservative Mark Levin's evening show are both down 28 percent, we have to wonder if the loud-mouthed, apocalypse-warning, slur-slinging pundits are a fad that's cooling like shutter shades or Pinkberry.
It's been a tough couple of years for conservative hosts. The Daily Beast's John Avalon reports "that hyper-partisan talk has been declining or flat-lining between ‘09 and ‘10, despite the intensity of the election year." Citing a demand for more independent, local voices, radio companies are reflecting the shift in their programming schedules. Since last fall, radio stations have dropped syndicated talk shows from Sean Hannity and Glenn Back in major markets like Salt Lake City and Philadelphia, where Beck got his start. Diversity of programming is well and good, but some think that Americans are just plain tired of hearing conservative pundits' negative rhetoric. Longtime radio executive Randall Bloomquist explained the industry's thinking to Avalon:
There are a lot of program directors whose radio ‘spider-sense’ is tingling… They're thinking ‘this conservative thing is kind of running its course. We're saying the same things from morning 'til night and yes, we've got a very loyal core audience--but if we ever want to grow, if we want to expand, we've got to be doing more than 18 hours a day of ‘Obama is a socialist.’
Who's filling the time slots? More objective hosts who can talk about a variety of topics, says Bloomquist. Tired of bad news, Americans--and, more importantly for the radio executives, advertisers--seem to be asking for "somebody that can connect with people who can do humorous topics, somebody who can have some fun on the air." Rush Limbaugh has never fit that mold. Perusing Media Matters' 168 pages worth of accusatory blog posts provide good proof of the host's backlog of offensive statements, misrepresentation of facts and surly demeanor. The chronology of transgressions shows well how Limbaugh barked something blogworthy at every available opportunity. Low points this year include the time he mocked victims of the Japan earthquake and the 17-second rant in fake Chinese ridiculing a foreign president.