Rush Limbaugh’s Fall Into Oblivion

In reality I’m a humble sort and “not that kind of guy.”  So…


Today’s talk radio, as we know it, is fast fading into the sunset because of a format stuck with 1990’s rhetoric, each day addressing topics few care about.  A constant right-wing political drumbeat that no longer resonates.  A format where its practitioners can’t define the word entertainment.  A format attracting fewer people, men or women, under 65.  A format fewer advertisers are interested in buying because of its aging audience.

Don’t believe the propaganda.  There isn’t a 747 on a tarmac full of advertisers waiting to buy into shows like Rush Limbaugh’s.

And I’m a Republican saying this. It hurts me deeply to witness how talk radio has been taken over by those driven by agenda and not understanding their job descriptions – get listeners, get ratings and make money.

The end times are here for today’s talk radio and there’s no going back.


For years people have asked me, when does it end?  I’ve always said, the last syndicated talk show to go down will be Rush Limbaugh’s.  He was first “in brand.”  If you’ve ever read a Reis and Trout book you know first “in” brand wins. I will add first “in” also means last “out.”

"Sir.  Now word is The Big 89, WLS in Chicago will no longer broadcast your show because few are listening.  The empire is crumbling."

“Sir. Word now is The Big 89, WLS in Chicago no longer desires to broadcast your show because fewer people are listening. The empire is crumbling.  Should we retire to the underground bunker?”

Premiere Networks and its owner Clear Channel Media + Entertainment iHeart Media has crammed down Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck on its talk stations, not allowing local stations to make needed changes to their programming, changes that could provide some hope of staying relevant.  It was a great business model…in the 20th century!  In business speak it’s called “vertical integration.” The company produces the product and then uses its distribution arm, its radio stations, to broadcast the shows.  Guaranteed clearance, plus in Limbaugh’s case and some of Hannity’s stations, the local stations have to pay a “rights fee” in addition to the barter commercial inventory they broadcast from the network.  There was no negotiation whether to broadcast the show or what fee was to be paid. Here’s the number you pay was the only conversation during the budget process.  This, as you can imagine, affected cash flow and coupled with the increasing demands for talk stations to generate more profit, it forced local stations to lay-off other talk hosts, producers and gut news departments. Talented people left the radio business and the death spiral for talk radio began.  It began years ago.

All was good until the world changed and the aging, pissed off Baby Boomers (I’m one of those too – Baby Boomer – not pissed off) were no longer relevant.  Extreme political ideas no longer resonated with listeners as generational power shifted from Boomers to Gen X’ers and now Millennials, groups that have a more centrist belief in regards to many social issues.  They’re mostly OK with Hispanics, lesbians, smoking pot and women using birth control.  Many are even OK with the first African American President.

Did talk radio reflect these changes?  No.  Do good radio stations reflect the lives of their target audiences?  Yes.

I told many in management, talk hosts, producers and programmers, talk radio must change, speak with and relate to these emerging audiences to survive.  Did they listen?  No.  John Hogan, then CEO of Clear Channel flew me to New York City once and asked me how long talk radio had.  I said, “4 years.” That was in 2012.

Now, right on schedule, the end times for Rush Limbaugh begins as he has lost or may have lost his longtime homes in the top 3 Nielsen radio markets.  And if you’re not making it in those markets, it’s lights out.

New York City – GONE

Los Angeles – GONE

Chicago – GOING?  GOING?

  • New York City (Market #1) – Limbaugh and Hannity switch to Clear Channel Media + Entertainment’s i Heart Media’s WOR in January 2014.  One year later in the January 2015 PPM, WOR has shown little, if any, growth and records a 1.2 share (6+). There are 23 stations that rank higher than it, including their former home at WABC.
  • Los Angeles (Market #2) – Limbaugh is now heard on KEIB, switching in January 2014 from longtime home KFI.  One year later, in the January 2015 PPM, KEIB can’t even break a 1 share and records a 0.8 share (6+) with 33 stations ranking above it.
  • Chicago (Market #3)Robert Feder, Chicago’s most connected and respected media critic reports Cumulus, owners of the legendary WLS, are yelling “No Mas!  We can’t pay the electric bill!” They’re looking to dump Limbaugh by the end of March.  WLS, with Limbaugh, scores a 1.1 share (6+) and are looking up at 26 stations above them. And you know what they say about not being the lead dog.  Persons 25-54?  Embarrassingly, the station’s 50,000 watts can’t even break a 1 share.  After Feder’s blog went public this morning, a Cumulus spokesperson said, “This is not at all accurate.  Any report to the contrary is false.”  Additionally, Al Peterson’s NTS MediaOnline is quoting Cumulus EVP/Content John Dickey saying, “It’s a manufactured story.”  “It’s worse than a rumor”  And that Rush Limbaugh will be on WLS “until he tells us he doesn’t want to be.”

The Chicago rumors come as no surprise to me, as three different Cumulus executives have told me on different occasions they wish they could get rid of Limbaugh’s show and they can’t sell it.

I’m guessing the deal to move Limbaugh’s show to another station, like WIND-AM to save face, hasn’t been finalized yet.  We’ll see how this plays out.


“WHAT?  Now Chicago wants out?”



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  42 comments for “Rush Limbaugh’s Fall Into Oblivion

  1. March 5, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    The lack of entertainment value in talk radio these days is painfully obvious.

    Even the commercials sound generic and lifeless.

    Listening to homogenized white noise is no fun.

    (Bummer, dude)

  2. CJ
    March 5, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    It’s funny. Rush spent the better part of the first hour of his show and some of the second yesterday discussing the prize demographic and how he works trying to keep up with it and remain relevant.

  3. Kathi Malloney
    March 6, 2015 at 3:59 am

    I heard that CJ. There is also a post on his Facebook page in which he states he’s outgrown the 24-55 prize demo.
    I think he’s losing it.

  4. George Corneliussen
    March 6, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Milk The Cow Until It’s Dead, Look For A New Cow, Repeat……………

  5. Lou Kasman
    March 6, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Knew this was going to happen – You can’t make money with Rush & company conservative talk.

    Comments from those who know more than Peterson making a phone call say different. What do you expect Dickey to say? If someone called your boss asking if you’re going to be fired next week what would s/he say?

    Peterson is not close to the station, the market, its people and making a phone call for facts about a move like this is sophomoric. Feder is 100% reliable the #1 resource for radio/tv/print in Chicago and he doesn’t shoot from the hip.

    Taking Rush off WLS and putting him somewhere else in Chicago like WIND makes sense; with their other programs can sell ROS buys across the board.

    WLS has revamped its whole line-up to be local to gain share with highly identifiable local radio talent and compete against WGN. WGN revenue is $13 mil v. WLS at about $1.5. As WLS people has said you can’t sell Rush. In any major market I work no one can sell Rush except for PI’s (lowest price) or local advertisers who are conservative themselves and don’t pay attention to numbers. Also is true of Savage and Levin.

    Bain & Company and other major investors cannot let Cumulus and for that matter iHeart continue to lose or marginally make a profit with low stock prices forever. Cumulus doesn’t hit earnings forecast, owes a zillion dollars and you cannot renegotiate loans forever. Here you have WLS, WABC, WBAP with ratings in the 1’s I’d say tell Cumulus to fix it.
    The only Cumulus big signal AM talk station with a 5. is WJR in Detroit. Very strong local talent from the market not somewhere else. They don’t even mention Rush, Levin or Savage on their website.

    With Rush not generating revenue or cash flow his worth has been minimized even though he has his blotted contract.

    WLS has a new market manager, hired a bunch of high profile local talent. Jonathan Brandmeier’s deal is not only WLS but syndicated by Cumulus. He is a very talented no politics personality. He’s fun. My bet is he’ll replace Rush.

    By the way all these truth sayers like Jerry Colliano come-up with stories that have no validation. “iHeart laying off 40%, Cumulus buying iHeart.” A year ago Jerry published that Cumulus will buy CBS. I told him with my relationship with Dan Mason this wasn’t true. He told me his source is Moonves level. Guess what, Cumulus didn’t buy it. Like it or not CBS Radio is important to CBS for at least one reason – great cash flow. This was also about the time CBS markets developed a single webpage for all market properties. Would they do that if they were going to sell it?

  6. mcsapps
    March 7, 2015 at 3:11 am

    I am not a radio insider. I am a radio listener. I remember when I first heard Rush Limbaugh. He talked about Ted Kennedy in a way that surprised, no, shocked me. You might remember, a drowning, gurgling sound (a soap bubble dispenser maybe?). He then said things about the Kennedy incident that I did not know. Entertaining and informative. I was hooked. Through the years he said other things, cigarettes, abortion, gay rights, Democratic Party, feminism that all turned out to be prescient (to my way of thinking). Prescient is good. I defended him to countless people being raised in a liberal-minded family.

    So, why am I not listening to him, Sean, and the others et al now? I listened with the hope and desire that hearing an empathetic voice on the radio would “make a difference.” Well, it did not. So why continue? WKRC and WLW are now just background noise in lieu of FM 105.

    I would say the same of Bill Cunningham. Hope and desire that what was verbalized over the air would materialize. Who can forget when Mr. Cunningham said Obama would lose and waged his WLW job on the outcome. We know what happened. Now Cunningham has morphed into Springer. Sorry, not interested.

    So for me the future of radio is just an academic exercise. To use your word, I am not the demo. I am old, retired, and tired. From an older mind, if you ask me what I think might be an opportunity in radio, I refer you to the Drudge Report. The Drudge Report is not an originator, it is an aggregator. With the vastness of the Internet, there is too much. I need a Limbaugh type program to pick and choose for me in a way that is entertaining and informative, the emphasis on entertaining. Good voice, good diction, and good judgement work for me. Like why are we talking about the four horsemen, Obama, the Democrats, the Republicans, the media. Why not the clash of Titans, Islam vs America (CRIME. INC)? Bigger numbers and dedicated followers versus superior military and superior technology? Dollars, pipelines, and broken promises. Talk it like baseball. Give me the odds. When it gets slow, add China and South America. Prophesy or prescient? Both work for me.

    I could give you a better answer if you can tell me why Clear Channel was able to accumulate a $20 billion debt. Isn’t that the real story of radio?

  7. Denny Schaffer
    March 7, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I left talk radio for this reason and I went back home to do a different style of Talk Radio, ON A MUSIC STATION! My old show left me drained and miserable so I got out before they sent me packing…..My new show is heavy on entertainment and fun (with very little politics) and its given me a renewed energy to do radio again! Entertaining talents wins EVERYTIME….and yet some people see $$$$ and forgot why we all got in the business in the first place! Thank you Andy Stuart who is way ahead of the curve when it comes to talent……

    • March 7, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      Denny, you’re in a good place! Wishes for much success. You can go home again. Darryl

      • Danny K.
        March 11, 2015 at 10:38 pm

        Another example of what I posted below. The first time I heard Denny, I thought he was a RIOT. Too bad he left for Atlanta.

  8. March 8, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    This article was written under the influence of ten gallons of donkey fluid guzzled and 24/7 oral sex with the donkey!

    • March 9, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      Some caring thoughts from a “Ditto Head.” When you can’t debate the facts, one tries insults and name calling. Ironically, the argument conservatives have used against liberals for years. 🙂

      • Dale
        January 15, 2016 at 10:06 am

        I’ve seen your handy work at 700 wlw , a once great station is mediocre at best now .

      • January 15, 2016 at 12:58 pm

        Dale, Thank you for the kind words and for noticing. 🙂 Darryl

    • Carl
      March 14, 2015 at 11:16 am

      You stay classy, Furious.

      As Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Good Men” would say, “You can’t HANDLE the truth!”

      • March 14, 2015 at 1:24 pm

        I’m always amazed at how insecure many people are about their beliefs.

  9. Francis Rose
    March 8, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Cumulus buries the John Batchelor Show at night. He is an example of how to “talk the news” in an accessible way that is what Public radio aspires to, but is too snobby and elitist to pull off.

    • Nathan Obral
      March 17, 2015 at 1:53 am

      John Batchelor may have been the only truly good hire Phil Boyce has ever made.

  10. Nick
    March 8, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    I’ve followed Rush since 1988. Rush I was an accomplished broadcaster and deserved his audience. Then came Bush II (2001), the implant (2001), and the drugs (2003). Rush II emerged from these mishaps as a stumbling shell.

    Today we get the Iraq War re-litigated about three times a week. Compared to the attacks on Clinton, Rush’s critique of Obama is incoherent. He seems confused about Republicans as well as Democrats. In his prime, Rush I had the best analysis of Dem workings.

    There won’t be another Rush, but there will be national conservative voice, surrounded by some talented locals. The Glenn-Rush-Sean lineup has hit the use-by date. Some of the locals are terrible (KLBJ in Austin). Some of the locals are finding an anti-establishment niche which sets them apart from shills for city council and chamber of commerce.

    Radio has re-invented itself many times. I’m looking forward to the next phase.

    • Danny K.
      March 11, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      Don’t forget, Rush was “the” source for an alternative spin on news until blogs came along. What he provided was fresh and new. Now, you’ve already read the same thing in Drudge or Instapundit.

    • July 11, 2015 at 1:13 am

      Rush used to be entertaining. After his drug problems, he never got his verve back. He became a whine monger. The Sandra Fluke debacle sealed his fate. When you jump in the hog pen to make a point you lose credibility.

  11. Kevin
    March 10, 2015 at 2:23 am

    Someone doesn’t check the Arbitron ratings.

    • March 10, 2015 at 2:36 am

      Someone does. And they’re called Nielsen ratings.

    • Nathan Obral
      March 17, 2015 at 1:56 am

      Ah, but Darryl has.

    • zman
      May 21, 2015 at 1:52 am

      Wrong, Kevin; used to work for Darryl many – many years ago; he is very focused on details and does his homework.

  12. Danny K.
    March 11, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Name the most memorable things you have ever seen/heard/read in modern media. There is usually some element of humor involved. With movies, the “modern classics” with staying power such as Die Hard, Terminator and Robocop always have some element of humor. Likewise with local newscasts. For all the people who turn their noses up at “happy talk”, the newscasts with the personnel who had the ability to make a funny quip usually got the ratings. And when was the last time your local radio DJ made you laugh?

    To me, this is the big reason Rush isn’t resonating anymore. He had no new material and even if he still did “caller abortions” and “homeless updates,” he sound like Rodney Dangerfield before he died telling the same “no respect” joke for the 400,000th time.

    There has to be an element of humor or it just isn’t interesting, and Rush hasn’t made me laugh in years.

    The other big thing that has killed talk radio? Rush became a Republican shill and the Republicans didn’t deliver. Between Boehner, who thinks Israel is America’s 51st state, and Bush who stuck us in a war we had no business being in, to Republicans spending as much as they accused Democrats of spending, the line that Republicans can make a difference and have anything relevant to offer the average American has lost all credibility. And I’m a Republican too!

    • Nathan Obral
      March 17, 2015 at 2:12 am

      You. Nailed. It.

      Rush is but a shell of what he was in 1992. It’s like that big league player who stayed one season too long and is trying to stay above AA-level.

      • July 11, 2015 at 1:14 am

        He just phones it in.

  13. Lee
    March 14, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    These talk show hosts are good for one thing: colonizing Pluto. And they can take Pat Boone and Ted Nugent with them!

  14. Herod Lowery
    March 17, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Cant sell Rush? Then they’re just lazy and poor salesmen. The stations I listen to for Rush are chock-a-block full of ads. Car dealers and all sorts of local and national businesses are on his great show. Can’t sell Rush? You’re just lazy.

  15. anthonykarlharris
    March 18, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    LOL. I read this post and decided to tune into Rush just for s#$%s & giggles while going to a client meeting. I managed to listen for about 15 minutes (of which I can never get back), and Rush was going through this convoluted explanation of how millennials suck, are dumb, brainwashed, lazy, etc. Thankfully around the 15 minute mark a 30 minute block of commercials (boner pills, reverse mortgage, political “waste your money” groups, and a few local ads) kicked in.

    A -200 out of 100 for entertainment value.

    • March 18, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      There’s an old saying about “having more people coming in the front door than going out the back door.” Sounds like Rush practices “planned obsolescence.”

  16. Mark Williams
    March 19, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    The sports analogy works, although Rush to me sounds more like Ali after coming back and fighting in the late 70’s. He has a desperation in his voice, due to his hearing issues, the man can’t even pronounce many simple words correctly, but most importantly he is playing to the 75+ demo. The guy sounds punch drunk. His fill in of choice seems to be Mark Steyn with his condescending tone and lectures, the last News-Talk station I programmed I would flip the monitor to the low position in my office due to my disdain of the show, and I am a conservative. Thanks Rush, Premiere, and I Fart, you’ve killed the talk radio format.

  17. March 28, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    “WLS has revamped its whole line-up to be local to gain share with highly identifiable local radio talent ”

    Who are all well over 60 years old and were in the their primes from 1978-1996. It’s no wonder the high-end Chicago radio market is a considered a joke. Pretty soon WLS is going to be digging up Larry Lujack’s old bones and rolling his corpse into the studio with Little Tommy (who just recently retired).

    For those of us who grew up with the “Rock of Chicago” and who watched their station get stolen away by the “talkies,” we can’t help but chuckle. Why not go back to playing music on the AM? Their ratings can’t be any worse than they are now. What goes around comes around as they say and I’m glad I lived long enough to see it happen because it serves them right the little thieves. I hope WLS AM 890 becomes a country station at some point (which it nearly did back in the day). After all, did it not once start as “Prairie Radio?” back in 1920s? Seems fair.

    I’m sure we’ve all had the same dream of using a time machine, go back in the past and try to change history by warning people of the mistakes they’re about to make (“I am from the future. You are all in grave danger.”) But even if you did go back to 2012 and tell radio execs and programmers that in 2015 Limbaugh’s show would be below a one rating in the three largest markets in the country and that even El Rushbo himself pretty much admitted defeat on his Faceook page because those little minds full of mush were more hard-headed than he thought, they wouldn’t have believed you. You would have been just another Cassandra and I’m sure there were plenty at the time. They’re just like the Israelites in the time of the prohpets. Only when it was too late did they realize God wasn’t kidding.

    It’s just like the old story “The Three Wisemen of Gotham and their Goose”. The goose each day laid an egg of gold, just like the format once did, until the Wisemen got greedy and thought they could get two eggs of gold if they just cut the goose in two! Yeah, it’s like that. After 2008, it should have been clear to programming directors and corporate types in radio something in America was very different when a four-year U.S. Senator with the name Barak Huessein Obama became President of the United States. So what did they do in response? They doubled-down! They thought it was 1993 all over again. “Hey there’s Democrat in the White House and the ratings will go up because audience will be all riled up again and we’ll make a ton of money by selling gold to the Tea Partiers because they won’t be afraid to call in because they feared they might go to jail if they criticized President Bush II.” So Limbaugh got the biggest personal radio contract ever, which meant salaries had to go up across the board for the nationally syndicated talent. This was in spite of the fact there was a severe recession and ad revenues were tanking and Clear Channel and other conglomerates still had outstanding debt from all acquistions they made since 1996. But instead of getting their two eggs of gold, Limbaugh’s contract became a lead anchor which forced the industry to strip mine their local stations to pay him and the other talent. That’s why you don’t hear traffic, news and weather on the weekends anymore. That’s why weekend programming is basically reruns and brokered crap. That’s why there isn’t much local talent outside of the big city markets if that. Rush had to get paid, something had to give.

    From 2008 the industry acquired all the trappings of modern technology. They certainly weren’t Luddites. Every program has a podcast, everyone’s got Twitter, everyone is on the internet and everyone is on Facebook. But they never figured out what made those people who primarily use those new technologies tick or what they like. And here’s the kicker, they probably never would. Radio is as segregated an industry as you are going to find in major media. Everyone has got their niche. You’ve got your urban stations (i.e. black) over here, Hispanic stations over there, Christian stations up there, your Classic Rock and your talk radio for the white male Boomers and Xers who still grew up with radio being relevent, under there. How would a program director or a corporate exec of an AM talk radio station be able to expand their audience base when they have absolutly no clue on reaching markets outside of what they know? They know white, male 24-54. That’s it. That’s who they’ve catered to for all these years. They drilled that hole until it was dry of oil but they don’t know how to drill anywhere else or get to the tougher amounts of oil underneath the rocks. No, they don’t know and as one demographic passes from the scene and shrinks, all they’re left with is a format they can’t sell unless it’s to loyal advertaisers (who are themselves are 60 or over). And as the talk hosts continue to get older, there’s really are very few 45 years old or below with the talent to carry a national show, much less a local one because all the money and development goes to the brand names identifiable to the audience of fellow old people who continue to age. Did these people every hear of WCW?

    One thing is for certain, when Limbaugh’s contract comes up in 2016 either he retires or he’s going to have to take a pay cut, one or the other. The problem with retirement for himself an a lot of other talk show hosts, if one doesn’t have hobbies to turn to (even Bush II paints) to replace all the hours in the day they worked on the radio show, they, like Paul Harvey, will be on their air well into their 90s. And if that happens, it’s going to be very difficult to find either new talent or even save the format because it’s hard to change what they do best, even if the world around them has changed. What you’ll see with talk radio (even on the sports side) is an industry becoming obsessed with brands and familiar voices (just like with WLS) because that’s all they can sell and being stuck with those brands until death do they all part.

    As for the Republican Party, well, in 2014 the GOP won a smashing victory without any manifestos and led by hacks like Boehner and McConnell. The party didn’t need talk show hosts to tell their listeners how to vote Republican. They just sort of know now, just like they did when Reagan won two landslide victories. Programming directors and execs should think about that too.

  18. JuJubee
    April 28, 2015 at 1:04 am

    Oh no! Hate speech on the air is not working on the mush for minds, anymore?! I think everyone’s moved on to state sponsored Jay Z, these days.

  19. John Terhar
    May 23, 2015 at 2:36 am

    Rush-bo loses Indy and Boston. Maybe he should try painting blood around the door frame.

  20. KadeKo
    May 30, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Sorta tangential to the topic: Clear Channel Media + Entertainment iHeart Media.

    Now that it’s no longer Clear Channel, do I hear the words iHeart Radio referred to much more than before on its radio stations (the music ones I listen to) than the local catchy name version (Mix 105, or whatever)?

    (PS I know the DJs aren’t allowed to pick their own songs, etc, and it’s not like being in a little college station back when I was playing actual records there. I’m not pining for the past that hasn’t existed for decades.)

  21. TD budirow
    March 10, 2018 at 4:08 am

    How you liking the demise of El Rushbo? Ha!

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