Media Matters' Angelo Carusone and Holland Cooke joined Ed Schultz to discuss the decline of advertising dollars on right wing hate radio.
February 5, 2015

After nearly three years, the verdict is in. Rush Limbaugh's brand of hate talking isn't just killing his show, it's killing the entire right wing hate talk business model.

Even the Wall Street Journal has taken notice:

More than 50 million people in the U.S. tune in each week to news-talk radio stations that carry advertising, making it radio’s second-most popular format, behind country music, according to Nielsen.

But many national advertisers have fled from such stations in recent years, seeking to avoid associating their brands with potentially controversial programming. As a result, advertising on talk stations now costs about half what it does on music stations, given comparable audience metrics, according to industry executives.

They point to the successful efforts mounted on advertisers via social media campaigns by groups like the StopRush and FlushRush movements as the reason for fleeing ad dollars.

The shift reflects more than younger listeners flocking to digital media. Radio executives said the erosion of ad dollars from talk stations was driven in part by a series of organized social-media campaigns by liberal activists in early 2012 that scared away advertisers.

The social-media campaigns followed remarks by conservative talk-radio personality Rush Limbaugh , who called a Georgetown University law student a “slut” on the air after she had testified to lawmakers that her school should provide birth-control coverage to students despite its Catholic affiliation. Mr. Limbaugh’s spokesman Brian Glicklich said his comments were made “in satire, and decontextualized from his larger point.”

While few blue-chip national brands advertised directly on politically charged shows like Mr. Limbaugh’s, the incident spooked many such companies from advertising on adjacent programming.

It's easy to blame social media, but Angelo Carusone has it right when he says that all we (and Media Matters) do is transcribe their own words and put it on the Internet. Those speak for themselves, and we are perfectly within our right to question whether advertisers want to be associated with that kind of message.

Now, the verdict is in. They don't. They just don't, for obvious reasons. If you're trying to sell a product or service, why would you want to associate with speech that alienates a huge swath of your potential markets? This is free market pressure doing what a free market should do. You might think conservatives would applaud such a thing.

Instead, they pretend that the entire social media effort is simply the product of five or six deranged and vengeful people and what Limbaugh or Hannity or Ingraham or whatever other hater of the day is on air actually says has nothing to do with that.

The painful lesson for Limbaugh and right wing talkers is a simple one: You can say whatever you want, but you don't have a right to be paid for it. Now that advertisers are fleeing the entire hate radio format, station owners are considering their options, and retooling for the digital age.

In the Ed Show segment above, Holland Cooke delivered the eulogy for hate radio: Young people don't want to listen to this anymore.

If you've lost young people, you're done. It's only a question of when to fold up the tent.

As one who was involved in the early days of the StopRush effort and who continues to support them, huge props for faithfully continuing to listen and reach out to advertisers every day. They do this in spite of Limbaugh's expensive smear campaign against all of those who participate, seen and unseen, every single day. They work tirelessly to uphold their principles and values without missing a day, while enduring threats via email, campaigns to publicly shame them for living their values, and more.

Props to every single one of you.

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