WRNO-FM New Orleans – No Longer “Rush Radio”

"Sir.  I regret to inform you  your name has now been taken off the station in New Orleans."

“Sir. I regret to inform you your name has now been taken off the station in New Orleans.”

FM’s recently taken away in Pittsburgh and Cedar Rapids.  His station’s ratings in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago in the tank.  And now his name being purged from a station moniker in New Orleans.

How much more can Rush Limbaugh’s ego take?

I say this as a joke, because once you have a reported $400 million in the bank, I’d guess an ego can really take a beating.

WRNO-FM, which many believe stands for the “Rock of New Orleans,” but actually stands for “Westbank Radio New Orleans” (don’t ask me why I know this stuff), ended its rock music era on November 13, 2006 in a fitting way – playing the Doors’ song “The End.”  It then became a talk station. For a few years the station floundered and was then rebranded as “Rush Radio 99.5.”  That was April 1, 2008, over 6 years ago.

Back in those days, Rush still had the ability to launch a new talk station.  When a radio listener heard Rush Limbaugh was on a radio station, they immediately knew it was a “conservative talk station.” Good to gather that tribe of conservative listeners who Rush led and spoke for.  Bad because it drove away a big portion of the available talk and collective radio audience Rush didn’t speak for.

But, temporarily, branding a station like this made a lot of sense.  The important word here is temporarily.

It’s 2014 and some of the same thoughts were used some months ago to launch KEIB in Los Angeles and re-launch WOR in New York, along with a few other stations.

“Rush will bring a huge audience over to the new radio station,” it was misguidedly concluded.  “His show will create a new and viable station. Instant success!”  

But, a lot changes in 6 years and a lot has changed for Rush and conservative talk radio, as by the day the format becomes more and more disconnected from the generational changes happening in America.

In the August 2014 PPM’s, after its debut in January of this year, KEIB-AM is stuck as a sub one-share radio station with a 0.7 (6+) and is ranked #27.  WOR-AM ranked #17 in total audience.  In fact, the station’s total 6+ shares have barely moved since Rush Limbaugh’s show and Sean Hannity’s afternoon “ReaganFest” moved over from WABC-AM in January.  And that’s with huge cume increases due to New York Mets baseball.  In August, the station cumed over a million people, up dramatically from before the January programming moves.  Little of that cume has been converted to actual shares, however.

Hell.  Who am I kidding?  Nothing of that cume has been converted.

Now WRNO-FM in New Orleans is no longer called “Rush Radio.”  It’s called “News-Talk 99.5 WRNO. The News and Talk of New Orleans,” a moniker it should have been using immediately following the November elections of 2008.  Almost 6 years later the station is now pigeon-holed as the mouthpiece of the extreme right-wing in the French Quarter.

Now before you accuse me of front running, let me pull the curtain back a little.

In the interest of disclosure, before I’m accused of being a liberal, I’m a Republican.  But, I am also smart enough to see flaws in the strategy of calling a radio station “Rush Radio” for 6 years.

For YEARS within Clear Channel, I was outspoken about the need to pull back the wing-nut rhetoric of these conservative talk stations and why it was a bad idea to brand stations as “Rush Radio.”

Here’s what’s going on with WRNO.  They now want to be viewed as a “news” station to gather a broader audience and not be thought of as a “conservative talk station” anymore.

Well good luck with that!

The station is now cemented as being far right-wing talk in New Orleans.  Short of selling off Rush to an AM station in the bayou, similar to what happened to his show in Pittsburgh, the perception of listeners won’t and cannot be changed now.

What’s happened to talk radio over the years is simple.  It starts with the term “talk radio.”  Those two words now mean “extreme conservative views” to radio listeners. You say, “talk radio,” and people think extreme right-wing ideology.  But….

Howard Stern’s show is talk radio, but it’s not “talk radio.”

Bubba The Love Sponge’s show is talk radio, but it’s not “talk radio.”

Mike and Mike’s show is talk radio, but it’s not “talk radio.”

Understand my point?

Many heritage news and talk stations in the country, stations that were the go-to news sources for their markets allowed their brands to be repositioned away from news and to a right-wing ideology by the syndicated and local hosts they chose to broadcast.  Many times when people came to stations to hear breaking news, news meaningful to them, what they heard was the repetitive drumbeat of conservative talking points and they concluded, “This station is not for me.”

Here’s some Darryl advice to better program and position your radio station.

  1. Know what you want to be.  If your station is a “news” station first, make sure you’re imaged as a “news” station.  One that promises to be there for breaking news, dependable weather and traffic coverage that will make your target listener’s life easier. That’s all you need to promote.
  2. Never forget this.  Promos are more important than the talk shows.  If you’re a “talk” station first and broadcast Limbaugh, don’t image him as a right-wing conservative.  Image him as “entertaining.”  Trust me on this one.  “Rush is Right” is wrong.
  3. Nothing that hints of politics should be used in your imaging.  “Politics suck.  Make them suck less.  Don’t talk about it” (re-read point #2).
  4. (To my crack on Hannity’s “ReaganFest”) I’ve been saying this for years and it seems Glenn Beck finally came around to my way of thinking.  Ronald Reagan hasn’t been President for 25 years! Talk show hosts that speak about the good old days of the Gipper might as well be talking about Eisenhower.  A 45-year old in 2014 voted in his first Presidential election in 1988!  He/she never had the opportunity to vote for Reagan.

Be smart!  Be strategic!  Think about what you want to be.

The days of “talk radio” are nearing an end as the audience shrinks and grows old (and dies).  The opportunities to be the voice to a new generation, a new tribe is at hand.

The changes for WRNO are 6 years too late.  Long live “Rush Radio” in our memories.


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  34 comments for “WRNO-FM New Orleans – No Longer “Rush Radio”

  1. September 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Stop Rush has made the biggest impact on talk radio in the history of radio. How much of an impact do you think that action has had in this particular instance?

    • September 4, 2014 at 6:44 pm

      Sorry, but none.

      • September 4, 2014 at 8:19 pm

        Are you saying that because you are a Republican or because you like Rush Limbaugh?

      • September 4, 2014 at 10:52 pm

        Carol, Neither. I just know how radio management thinks, since I’ve been there. 🙂 Darryl

      • September 4, 2014 at 11:48 pm

        WRNO Dumps Rush Limbaugh Branding

    • Nathan Obral
      September 4, 2014 at 10:32 pm

      Listeners simply tuned out and are tuning out because the stations and hosts let themselves get pigeonholed. The Sandra Fluke Incident, coupled with many conservatalkers uniformly predicting a President Romney and telling listeners that “the polls don’t matter” did more to destroy their credibility than anything that the “Stop Rush” campaign could have done.

      In fact, “Stop Rush” was and is unnecessary. People aren’t tuning into conservative talk, a format that is now perceived – especially within the format’s intended audience – as being behind the times and devoid of entertainment value.

      • September 4, 2014 at 11:49 pm

        I find it interesting that both you and Darryl know what StopRush is.

      • Brian
        September 5, 2014 at 2:17 am

        Agree on some points but not all. #StopRush killed revenue and spread his message of misogyny and racism to a wider audience which was rightly appalled. Advertisers fled and continue to flee. PSAs run rampant along with erectile dysfunction ads and 1800scams. Heritage stopped funding him in January and who knows how much longer the Koch Bros will prop him up? I’ve noticed he doesn’t talk about them much anymore.

      • Nathan Obral
        September 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm

        “Stop Rush” was targeting people who were already never going to listen to conservative talk. Same thing with advertisers to the format. Most of the advertisers who bailed more often than not wanted nothing to do with the format.

        Anyone in the industry or is a follower of the industry could easily see that conservative talk radio had and has a limited shelf life, and that would have been the case regardless if Rush had denigrated Sandra Fluke on-air or not.

        To take credit for something that was almost completely inevitable is pretty sad.

      • Danny K.
        September 6, 2014 at 10:12 pm

        Nathan, I don’t think that was it. I think where Rush et al. lost credibility was with the steady drumbeat for the Iraq war which turned out to be a debacle. Now when I hear Hannity bleating on about Israel and cooing about “Bibi”, I just want to reach through the radio and grab his neck.

        Then you have a couple of other glaring issues that damaged Rush’s credibility. In particular I remember him blaming the EPA and the usual liberal subjects when California’s energy prices were skyrocketing. Turned out they were being ripped off by Enron. Likewise with $4 gasoline during the Bush administration which was the result of overheated futures trading.

        I happened to agree with Rush on the Sandra Fluke thing and I’m a little miffed at you so-called “radio guys” who get offended by that. In the good old days, weren’t radio guys expected to be a little on edge and expected to tweak their listeners. How soft we’ve become if we’re still going to be whining about what a former radio DJ called some trashy woman who thought your most important goal in law school should be to screw like a rabbit 24/7/365 and expect complete strangers to pay for your birth control.

        Rush may be stale, but he was right in ridiculing her!

      • John Davis
        September 8, 2014 at 2:53 pm

        As a former PD of an ABC Radio Networks affiliate (back when there was such a thing) I would get traffic memos from the network listing all of the clients who couldn’t be scheduled during Limbaugh back in 1993. It was a long list then. Advertisers have always had weak stomachs, whether there is an organized group applying pressure or not.

        But I agree it’s a little disingenuous for anti-Limbaugh groups to take credit for the format’s implosion. Conservative talk formats are doing a good job of shooting themselves in the foot all by themselves. If advertisers are buying 25-54 men, they don’t buy stations whose core is 55+ men. They’re taking those dollars to where the audience is: sports talk. If a good chunk of the stations carrying Rush didn’t already own a sports station in the market, they’d shift to it now because that’s where the money is.

  2. Brian
    September 4, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    “ReaganFest”…love it. The rest of the blog was okay, too. 😉 Good stuff, sir.

  3. September 4, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Limbaugh has trouble keeping advertisers on his show on WRNO, even Hustler Club ads didn’t last long. You can hear the audio, here, though: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/09/10/1237443/-Rush-Revere-Closet-Perv#. Maybe Hustler left after being notified their ads had been rotated in partly because Limbaugh was so cruel to Larry Flynt when his speech was affected after he was the victim of a shooting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIt6f2-L4iA.

    • September 4, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      Good reference, Susan. I had forgotten about that.

    • Brian
      September 5, 2014 at 2:12 am

      Even Hustler has better taste than Limbaugh.

    • Nathan Obral
      September 10, 2014 at 1:59 am

      Larry Flint’s Hustler clubs rarely – if ever – advertise on radio. Spoken-word radio wise, his club in Cleveland has ONLY advertised on WKNR/850, the market’s ESPN Radio affiliate that doesn’t even subscribe to Nielsen. That’s a fact. He’s never advertised on WTAM/1100, and not on “92.3 The Fan” WKRK/92.3.

      That’s a failure of the sales staff at WRNO to offer ad time to a client completely incompatible with the format. Larry Flint knows that; that’s why he went to the Daily Kos as an attention-getting stunt. For himself.

  4. Nick
    September 4, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Rush never moved on from the Bush years. He’s still re-fighting battles lost long ago: Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, etc. As Tucker Carlson says, you can’t be forgiven until you repent. Rush is still out in the darkness.

    I gave up on Hannity (Mini Me) years ago. Beck is too incoherent to follow. That leaves us with “talk radio” minus rational talk. Exposing local crooks, like Darryl did on WLW, is good radio. The listeners like it, but not the Chamber types. Too close to the bone.

    Classical music finally becomes the default choice.

    • Nathan Obral
      September 4, 2014 at 11:38 pm

      I didn’t realize that Tucker said that. Makes sense, though.

      • Nick
        September 4, 2014 at 11:49 pm

        It was on Laura Ingraham yesterday, I think. Laura and Tucker are among the few who don’t want to bomb everything that moves.

  5. Katherine
    September 5, 2014 at 1:54 am

    It’s a prefect storm of issues, in my opinion: Talk Radio is a dinosaur; Clear Channel holds massive debt and is stuck with Rush until 2016; and the Stop Rush movement enormous impact – all combined. Rush should have retired at 25 years, but his massive ego wouldn’t allow it. I tune Rush in on occasion to hear his latest and there are NO local ads and very few nationals. Erectile dysfunction ads carry the day. Listeners know he’s done.

    • Nathan Obral
      September 10, 2014 at 2:07 am

      Not just erectile dysfunction ads. Direct-response inquiry ads typically carry the day. That’s extended to all of talk radio as a result, and played a significant role in the implosion of Talk Radio Network AND Cumulus’ buyout of Westwood One.

      But it’s utter folly to claim “Stop Rush” as being the catalyst. It wasn’t, it isn’t, and it will never be. Conservative talk radio killed itself by its own complacency, lack of innovation, and the total loss of credibility in 2012.

  6. Kitty
    September 5, 2014 at 2:08 am

    AM radio is dying and there are many reasons why. The thousands of members of #Stoprush and Flush Rush on FB simply let the world know exactly what Rush Limbaugh was saying. Sponsors wanted NO part of his rhetoric. Hell, 70-80% of them had no idea their ads had been placed on his show.

    Rush is 100% responsible for his part of the fall of radio. When will he own it?

    What can one say about the extraordinarily bad management in radio today?

    Why is radio dying?

    1. Cumulus – Stock downgraded to $6, closed at $4.29. Lew Dickey destroyed this company; 70-something Michael Savage is no savior; ABC News GONE; Revenue down $21.8 million in the 2nd quarter as Westwood One drags it down further: expect talk to be dumped more and more

    2. Townsend – If you bought it’s stock at $11, you’ve lost money. The bottom is falling out of this company

    3. CBS – Ratings and Revenue in the toilet (revenue down $3.2 billion)

    4. Entercomm – Major cash crunch. Expect huge layoffs by end of year

    5. Clear Channel – LA leading the way in 3rd quarter losses. The big markets are down by 12% with no hope of breaking even by the end of 2014; Ratings in the toilet across the US; Advertising rates severely discounted; Rush given the boot in New York, LA, San Francisco and now Pittsburgh; Can no longer survive as a pure radio company: Expect an IPO soon to dump debt via iHeartRadio & raise revenue so Lee & Bain can flee with their money; Firing bloodbath (an estimated 1000 more firings by years’ end according to one source) continues while Pittman enjoys his private plane and $1M Mist Tunnel Office; He’ll be out soon as CEO but will get to keep all his perks. Expect talk to go and generic music to ensue – rapidly from here on out.

    Once Cumulus and Clear Channel dump talk (already happening), the format is dead. Talk is already dead with national advertisers. Mediaite reported that 48 of 50 national advertisers have blacklisted talk radio.

    Time to tell the WHOLE story. We are well aware of exactly what’s going on. And we spread the word.

    • September 5, 2014 at 3:47 am

      Sirius/XM may not be a reason of enough weight to mention, but since I have satellite radio I can choose good talk radio, some progressive, POTUS (channel) neutral, MSNBC, PBS, etc. and although Rush & Hannity have a home in satellite radio, there is decent talk radio to be found. Only my personal (and some friends) opinion.

    • Nathan Obral
      September 10, 2014 at 2:38 am

      Townsend? Do you mean TOWNSQUARE? Funny, they actually are one of the better station chains out there.

      Same with CBS. They haven’t sold out yet, and most of their spoken-word stations are very well-run and highly-local market leaders. WFAN, WCBS-AM, WINS, KYW, KDKA-AM, KMOX, WBZ, WCCO and WWJ-AM, just to name a few, are still dominant AM stations. And they led the way in putting sports talk on FM, with WXYT-FM, WBZ-FM and KDKA-FM all becoming serious market contenders.

      Oh, and by the way, CBS only has two partisan talkers. WPHT in Philadelphia, which only exists as an old guy flanker for KYW and WIP-FM, and KXNT-FM in Las Vegas. KMOX still has Rush, but they are live/local with a more general talk format the rest of the day.

      Emmis is a company that should have gone out of business with their foolish buying into the Mariners back in 1992. And that wasn’t the dumbest thing they’ve ever done.

      Cumulus is beyond toxic mainly due to Lew Dickey. Look at his ‘plans’ for his ‘country music lifestyle’ “NASH” brand ‘initiative’ and try to keep a straight face. Lew took KGO out back and shot it in the head, and has both WABC and KABC simply twisting in the wind with no future ahead of them.

      CC is at Chernobyl levels of radioactivity, but it’s not just talk radio that’s killing them… the sins of massive consolidation throughout the late 1990s are finally coming home to roost, while those who committed the sins jumped off with their golden parachutes long ago.

      Neither the “Stop Rush” and “Hush Rush” fringe movements have had any tangible impact in radio industry. Why would it be when the radio industry is killing itself with self-inflicted wounds.

      And I’d rather bathe in a tankful of piranhas than buy stock in ANY broadcast chain to begin with.

  7. Mark Bridges
    September 5, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Funny, all this talk about talk radio. Call letters? WGAF or WGAS. When was it last relevant to a 44 year old male or female? What 20 years ago?

    Many talk radio programmers understand that Rush and Hannity CAN be beaten by an AUTHENTIC local talk radio personality. But the business is so in the toilet that (local) radio programmers fear for their paychecks, so they fall in line with the corporate edict: “play Rush and Sean or play in somebody else’s sandbox.” You want to pay your mortgage and feed your kids, you fall in line. Additionally, good local talk talent takes time to develop. But radio doesn’t have the time it did 20 years ago to develop and nurture that talent. BTW, 20 years ago, every market had its very own Rush clone, reminiscent of the days when every market had a Top 40 station that emulated Bill Drake’s “more music” formula and Johnny Goodvoice dee-uh-jays.

    All this strum and drang about talk radio matters little. In five years, certainly ten the mostly AM radio stations that air Rush and Sean, and the other howlers will be on life support. Every thing and everybody has a shelf life. One more thing, Rush doesn’t give a fig. He’s living large by way of those “confiscatory clearance rates” his company charges for stations that air his yak fest.

  8. Nick Kelsier
    September 6, 2014 at 1:22 am

    To quote Mr. Parks: But, I am also smart enough to see flaws in the strategy of calling a radio station “Rush Radio” for 6 years.

    It’s a pity that you didn’t recognize the flaws in the strategy of letting Rush and his fellow hate talk media personalities have any control of the GOP decades ago.

  9. September 6, 2014 at 2:49 am

    Rush may be a Republican, but he was never really a conservative. In fact in many ways he hurts the conservatives by making them all look like weak minded “ditto heads” with goofy ideas.

  10. matchgame79
    September 6, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Rush doesn’t control the GOP. Frankly, if the party listened to him, they would be better off. Let’s be honest about that.

  11. Hans von Balkovsky
    September 8, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Limbaugh proved he wasn’t a conservative when he backed Bush Sr. over Pat Buchanan for the GOP primary nomination long ago. And went about calling Buchanan the usual neoCON epithets when Pat wouldn’t go along with Israel’s wars. I put neoCON in caps because they would bankrupt the country supporting the Empire and its Patriot Act Police State. Their “small government conservatism” is a con-job. So is Limbaugh’s.

  12. September 9, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading
    through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this.
    I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read.
    Thank you for sharing!

  13. Cookie McCann
    February 4, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    I must be under the erroneous assumption that 99.5 WRNO is a conservative radio station. If it no longer is or perhaps never was then, I guess that explains the Hustler Club ads. Just disappointed that WRNO finds it necessary to resort to this type of advertising. Surely, there must be other advertisers that can support the station.

    • February 5, 2015 at 1:46 am

      There’s one thing that always tops “conservative” to so-called conservatives and that’s money being “green.”

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