Wednesday, October 10, 2007

They Said It Wouldn’t Last

Progressive talk radio is catching up. Yes, right-wing radio still dominates the talk airwaves, but liberal talkers are making big strides, according to the trade journal Talker’s Magazine. A survey in the current issue shows Ed Schultz receiving the same audience as Bill O’Reilly, and liberals like Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann, Lionel and Stephanie Miller with the same audience as G. Gordon Liddy and Hugh Hewitt.

This is a huge jump over last year for Schultz, according to Raw Story:
A new survey by Talkers Magazine listed Schultz's weekly audience at 3.25 million weekly listeners, the same number of listeners enjoyed by O'Reilly, host of the Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor. [ ... ] The same survey in 2006 pegged the Fargo talker's unique weekly listeners at 2.25 million, sharing the number 10 slot among radio hosts nationwide.


Limbaugh, who had 14.5 million weekly listeners in 2005, has not recovered from his loss of audience reported in the 2006 survey. His audience has been holding steady at 13.5 million listeners since that report.

I’m a big fan of Ed Schultz; he’s not as strident or polarizing as Randy Rhodes (who I confess to also liking, especially on days when I’m really pissed off). Schultz actually lets people talk instead of cutting them off mid-sentence, and he’s based out of Fargo, which gives him that “flyover country” perspective. If you don’t get Schultz on regular or satellite radio, you can give him a listen online here.

In the meantime, Nielsen ratings show Keith Olbermann consistently beating conservatives like Glenn Beck and Tucker Carlson, and even giving Bill-O a run for his money in the key audience demographic.

It’s pretty amazing when you remember that conservative talk has an enormous advantage with its established infrastructure (Fox, ABC Talk Radio Network, etc.) built over the past few decades.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that people are turning off Rush and switching to Big Ed; rather, I think it shows there’s a growing market for progressive talk, whereas the market for conservative talk has probably maxed. What I don’t understand is why local talk radio stations like WLAC don’t offer both kinds of programming. Why cater to just a portion of the market in a city like Nashville, which skews liberal? I’ve been told that local station management has been approached about airing shows like Thom Hartmann and Ed Schultz (or even the awesome local show Liberadio) but they’ve refused, reasoning that liberals listen to big stars like Rush Limbaugh too. All that kind of thinking has done is drive me to satellite radio, where I now enjoy advertiser-free music programming, too.

The dearth of stations willing to program someone like Ed Schultz is a shame but it may be changing soon: on today’s show, Schultz announced he has investors looking to buy stations in some key markets. Think Nashville will be one of them?