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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- (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.
Please like and share this blog.
Get more insight and thoughts in 140 characters on Twitter by following me @darryl_parks