Confirmed: Rush Limbaugh's Ratings Are In The Tank
September 27, 2014

After the hounds of Limbaugh hell were unleashed this week, I thought it might be worth spending some time checking into what's going on with his radio show. I'm pleased to report that he's doing even worse than I expected.

  • WRNO in New Orleans, no longer "Rush Radio". They've rebranded themselves as a news and talk station first and foremost, but they are nevertheless linked with extreme right-wing radio in that market.
  • Limbaugh and Hannity tossed in San Francisco, just 9 months after the launch of "Patriot Radio." That post has a lot of other good information about Clear Channel and Cumulus, and how they toss these guys back and forth like a hot potato.
  • Clear Channel is now iHeart media. iHeart Media and its accompanying smartphone, iHeart Radio, didn't rebrand only to keep the same formats. Indeed, they are dumping conservative talk in favor of urban music.

Now as the author of those blog posts notes -- and he is a Republican who was formerly in the radio business and has no real axe to grind against Limbaugh -- some of the market share loss can be directly attributed to changes in the radio business itself, which is rapidly shifting over to a more media-centric business model with smartphone applications and online delivery.

But not all of it can be attributed to that. Here are Limbaugh's channel ratings in the top 25 markets for September, and they're not pretty:

  1. New York, NY: WOR-AM is 21st/37 (flagship station for the NY Mets), owned by iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel)
  2. Los Angeles, CA: KEIB-AM is 37th/45, owned by iHeartMedia
  3. Chicago WLS-AM is 23rd/45, owned by Cumulus Media
  4. San Francisco, CA: KNEW-AM is 29th/34, owned by iHeartMedia (Limbaugh being moved from iHeartMedia’s KNEW to Cumulus’s KSFO-AM. Darryl Parks’s post on this in the list of links, above)
  5. Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX: WBAP-AM is 18th/30 Cumulus
  6. Houston, TX: KTRH-AM is 16th/30, owned by iHeartMedia
  7. Washington, D.C.: WMAL-FM is 13th/29, owned by Cumulus
  8. Philadelphia, PA: WPHT-AM is 18th/31, owned by CBS Radio
  9. Atlanta, GA: WSB-AM is 3rd/29, owned by Cox Media
  10. Boston, MA: WRKO-AM is 15th/25, owned by Entercom Communications
  11. Miami, FL: WIOD-AM is 24th/33, owned by iHeartMedia
  12. Detroit, MI: WJR-AM is 9th/29, owned by Cumulus, and broadcasts Michigan State football games
  13. Seattle, WA: KTTH-AM is 22nd/33, owned by Bonneville Int’l., subsidiary of Deseret Industries, for profit arm of the Mormon Church:
  14. Phoenix, AZ: KFYI-AM is 6th/33, owned by iHeartMedia
  15. Puerto Rico: Was broadcast on WOSO, dumped in 2009, still hasn’t returned to their schedule as shown on website.
  16. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN: KTLK-AM is 16th/26, owned by iHeartMedia
  17. San Diego, CA: KOGO-AM is 22nd/30, owned by iHeartMedia
  18. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL: WFLA-AM is 15th/29, owned by iHeartMedia
  19. Denver, CO: KOA-AM is 13th/33, owned by iHeartMedia
  20. Nassau-Suffolk, NY (Long Island): WOR-AM is 17th/38, owned by iHeartMedia (WOR-AM also covers New York City, largest market)
  21. Baltimore, MD: WCBM-AM is 15th/31, owned by WCBM Maryland
  22. St. Louis, MO: KMOX-AM is 1st/22, owned by CBS Radio
  23. Portland, OR: KEX-AM is 18th/27, owned by iHeartMedia
  24. Charlotte, NC: WBT-AM is 16th/24, owned by Greater Media
  25. Pittsburgh, PA: WJAS-AM wasn’t included in list of 15 stations. Limbaugh was moved there 8/7/14, and his old station flipped to a country format

There are certainly a few strongholds in Arizona, Missouri, Michigan, and Atlanta. But most major markets are not being lifted by the presence of Hannity or Limbaugh, and the iHeart Radio channels are most certainly not doing well at all. It's hard to tell from this list whether the CBS radio station is helped or harmed by Limbaugh, or whether it's simply a mainstay of St. Louis radio.

I haven't even addressed the question of his advertisers in this. This is all about Rush and only Rush, and whether he is adding value to the radio networks he is most closely affiliated with. I think we can see clearly that the answer is no.

Some of Limbaugh's fans have taken aim at me on Twitter, claiming that I'm impugning the sterling reputation of a guy who just received a Marconi award and a couple of people's choice book awards.

I don't have to impugn his reputation at all. He does that quite well on his own. The only question is whether advertisers are getting the kind of value for their money they expect, and whether they're comfortable sponsoring a guy who has driven conservatives in this country over the edge into a place where madness prevails and logic is absent. That's their decision to make, just as it is ours to decide whether we are comfortable patronizing businesses who continue to build their brands by associating themselves with hate.

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