What Happens to Talk Radio in November?


Translation: If you’re going down, you might as well go down in a memorable way.

Donald Trump sure is memorable and the same could have been said about talk radio some 20 years ago.

Conservative talk radio and the Republican party are connected, once again trying to energize their common “base.”  Each are equally disconnected to generational changes, ethnic and demographic changes and generally the world around them. Each comfortably exists in an echo chamber of stale talking points, opinions and ideas, insecure in their beliefs, distrustful of any thoughts that may differ.

The problem is their common “base,” the angry 65+ year old white male, is shrinking and not the future for either’s survival.  Their “base” is dropping dead and they refuse to acknowledge it or adjust accordingly.

Some conservative talk radio hosts love Donald Trump talking about how he’s going to make things great again.  Again?  A slogan that romanticizes the past?  This may give the “base” and these hosts some comfort, but nothing is going to stop change.  Nothing ever stops change.

Donald Trump is a master at manipulating the media.  He understands ratings are what counts and the media loves him for it.  Trump is making a typically boring presidential campaign great reality television. Successful political campaigns are entertaining and Trump knows this.

Many conservative talk radio hosts have gone all in on Trump and most haven’t thought about their exit strategy should he lose.

Every four years, the “1%” tells those of us educationally and economically less fortunate our lives suck. It’s a classic misdirection play.  Get us mad about this over here, so we don’t see what’s going on over there. No presidential candidate, regardless of the party, would ever risk empowering us “99%’ers.”  Doing so would put their own status, wealth and influential power at risk.


“Hillary, fool them once, shame on…shame on us.  Fool me, you can’t get fooled again.  I think that was the Rolling Stones, right?”

Four years ago it was “1%’er” Mitt Romney telling us our lives sucked.  This year it’s people like Hillary Clinton, who along with her husband, has a net worth of about $111,000,000.  Poor by what Trump claims, but a hell of a lot wealthier than we’ll ever be.

You’re watching a civil war within the Republican party, the establishment at war with its members, and by its association, you’re witnessing the end of conservative talk radio.  Call it a peaceful overthrow of establishment Washington politics.  Call it whatever you want. The goal is to retain the “1%’s” wealth and power.

You know who’s also part of the “1%,” with a keen interest in maintaining the status quo?  Many conservative talk radio hosts who have sold their access and voices to the highest political bidder.

Conservative talk radio hosts are also part of establishment Washington politics, because many have been paid off by “think tanks,” as political contributions are funneled to them to maintain tranquility and order.

Oh.  You didn’t know that?  It’s kind of like music payola, only for words.  Don’t believe me?  Believe Republican Washington insider and former Congressman Dick Armey!

“The arrangement was simply FreedomWorks paid Glenn Beck money and Glenn Beck said nice things about FreedomWorks on the air,” Dick Armey, the former House Republican majority leader, “I saw that a million dollars went to Beck this past year, that was the annual expenditure.”

For years radio talk hosts have been carrying the water for ill conceived policies and lying politicians of both parties.  On the conservative side, there’s Limbaugh, Beck and others telling the angry 65+ year old white man his life sucks.  On the liberal side there’s Ed Schultz with basically the same message – many living the life of the “1%.”


No more private jet?  No more Maybach?

For once I’m starting to think Glenn Beck’s phony “crying on cue” may be real, because his “1%” life is at risk.

Let’s look at what the future holds for conservative talk radio.

  • Nielsen ratings for news/talk stations will show a nominal increase in listening in 2016.  You’ll hear the industry press crow conservative talk radio is growing and year to year that will be true.  But, one must look back a few years to see a trend and after November that trend will point down…sharply.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 3.17.09 PM

  • Donald Trump will cause listeners to sample news/talk stations for the first time as they search for political information.  Stations and hosts will take an even more polarizing, hard right leaning view. Instead of trying to embrace these new listeners, who have more moderate social beliefs and convert them to regular listeners, the focus stays on the shrinking and angry 65+ white male audience. Stations and hosts will effectively chase new listeners away because of extreme viewpoints.  These new listeners will never return.
  • In 2016, as in 2012, radio companies will be left waiting for political campaign ad spend.  It again comes late and with less money budgeted for radio overall.  Political campaigns put much of their money elsewhere, in other mediums and other radio formats, because conservative talk radio’s audience is too narrow, small and has diminishing influence.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 11.11.09 AM

Credit: Borrell Associates
  • AM radio is already on life support due to failed F.C.C. policies and lack of programming innovation by consolidator companies.  Conservative talk radio exists almost entirely on the AM broadcast band and has no future because of it.
  • Thursday, November 10, 2016, two days after the general election, the end begins for conservative talk radio.

Donald Trump is the symbolic torch.

As Neil Young sang,  “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.”


  15 comments for “What Happens to Talk Radio in November?

  1. The Bryan Crabtree Show & Housedog.com
    March 17, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    You nailed this one Darryl – I don’t disagree with a word you said. Beck, Erickson and others have turned their shows into the anti-Trump activist program instead of just having fun with it. They are so consumed with hate they can’t see what they are doing. A small number of hosts will turn this into a big win for their 2017 following. Most will just let it waste away. I’ve already planned my transition and exit strategy the moment listeners tire of Trump or he loses. I’m building that foundation now, quietly. Radio people have become just like politicians. They ignore the obvious because they are stuck in a box.

    • August 3, 2016 at 5:09 am

      Can’t figure out where the hell you guys are getting the 65+ and older, angry, white guy thing. You must live in a big liberal city. For your information, ya know out har in the rest of America the angry white guy (and now white girl) thing starts at about 25+. They don’t listen to conservative talk radio, but they don’t listen to the liberal drones who gee, combined don’t have higher ratings. Talk about out of touch. I am a disgruntled conservative talk radio listener, but not for the moronic hope you have for it’s demise. (ew so you can listen to more moronic, non-sensical lying dronings).

      Trump represents those of us who are tired of the good old boys, and now, whoopee girls club, who pretend to hate each other in public by day, and eat, drink and go to bed with each other by night. Yes, career politicians who have no clue how to make an honest living or obey laws like the rest of us un-enlightened folks. Career talk show hosts who report untruths and tell us who to vote for. Well Trump doesn’t need our money to pad his retirement or feed his megalo mania.

      The politically correct political uprising is coming. You can’t see it or hear it because the USA has muted, and then “stuffed it”. It has nothing to do with conservative talk radio, nor being a Libertarian, or Independent (can’t make up my mind), or what school you went to. Watch for it in November. I hope to buy some popcorn and enjoy the show when he wins.

      • August 3, 2016 at 12:56 pm

        Lady Diana, Thank you for your comments and thoughts. Please understand, I don’t wish for the end of talk radio. It just needs to adjust to needs and wants of a different demographic. Thank you for checking out the blog. Darryl

  2. March 17, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    Pittsburgh is unusual when it comes to talk radio. It literally has been a city of talkers come and talkers go for quite a few years. One can trace the history of talk here to old WJAS when NBC owned it, then KDKA after what then was Group W pulled its platters, then the brief change of old WWSW-AM (now sports-talk WBGG) to WTKN, in the era of ABC and NBC talk radio networks. Rush Limbaugh started his career at rock stations here, but when he went to syndicated talk he had to settle for a time for a weekend slot on old WTAE (now WPGP, Salem’s “Answer”) before going first to KDKA, then WPGB when Clear Channel/iHeart claimed him for “FM News Talk 104.7” (now “Big 104.7” with country music) and now to WJAS (as iHeart programs it for Frank Iorio). Renda tried to crack the talk market with local shows, syndicated fare and business talk before donating longtime McKeesport outlet WMCK/WIXZ/WPTT/et al to Bishop Loran Mann for a gospel format as WGBN (now off the air due to technical problems). CBS transitioned KDKA to a mix that includes investigative reporter Marty Griffin, libertarians Mike Pintek and Robert Mangino, liberal-comic John McIntire and liberal-intellectual Chris Moore. (Jim Bohannon and the CBS Overnight America shows round out the KDKA talk schedule on weekdays.) WJAS now is the Fox/Rush outlet (with news syndicated from Cleveland and a morning talk show from Wheeling). WPGP has Salem news and talk and local host Rose Tennant, and KQV is a mix of local, AP, ABC, Radio Pennsylvania, CNBC and Bloomberg during the day (basically all-news) and a mix of talk, infomercials and old-time radio overnight. The city also has NPR (WESA-FM), CBS sports talk (KDKA-FM), ESPN sports talk (WBGG) and Yahoo! sports talk (WWCS).

    • March 31, 2016 at 11:06 am

      The Pittsburgh market is not dissimilar from other markets. It’s usually one major talk station with ANY ratings (KDKA) with the others existing solely to get shows cleared in the market (WJAS and WPGP) and are thus not interested in ratings.

  3. Richard Todd
    March 17, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    The state of all the generic syndication-driven right-wing talk stations is probably even worse than the numbers make it appear, because the ratings are being propped up by a number of very high rated stations that still has local shows, local news, local sports broadcasts and shows that are not wall-to-wall right-wing talking points.

    In the Democratic primary, we’re told that Hillary Clinton polls poorly with young people, and Bernie Sanders does so with minority voters. You can tell this drives their campaigns nuts, so they come up with issues that are supposed to be relevant to these groups, and whenever you see one of them make a speech, half the people standing behind the candidate will be from the demographic group they’re weakest in.

    When talk radio sees the same problem, they seem to decide there’s something wrong with the younger listeners and double down on what they’re doing. Occasionally you get a WIBC, that switches an expensive FM signal and dumps Rush. Then they say something like “don’t worry, we’re still devoted to right wing talk, albeit with a couple hosts who are younger and/or female.” So far that’s good enough for 9th place.

    With all the interest in the election, and so much money potentially being spent by special interests that lots of it will have to find its way to radio, I expect these stations will see a decent increase this year in both ratings and revenue, and some will believe their old tactics are finally working.

    A week after the election, I imagine a young conservative in his vehicle hearing the radio come on with complaints about something in the election results, pointing his finger to his head like a gun, then switching the stereo to anything but talk, and never turning back.

    • March 17, 2016 at 6:53 pm

      What Richard said. 🙂 Great points on WIBC-FM, they’re blessed to be on FM and to your point, just doubling down. Thanks for checking out the blog.


  4. Scott Cason
    March 17, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    People have been sounding the bell on conservative radio’s death for as long as it’s been in existance. The beginning of the end for conservative talk will be the day Limbaugh retires. “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain

  5. George Corneliussen
    March 18, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Driving the car until it runs out of gas is always an option. Sometimes the car even manages to coast into a gas station as it’s sputtering on it’s last drop of petrol. But in general, even though we all know that diving the car until it runs out of gas is a bad idea we all still manged to do it. Why? Because that’s what we humans do. We drive the car until it runs out of gas.

  6. Constant
    March 18, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    This is a response to Scott Carson’s “The reports of my death…” I agree with him.

    I listen to radio daily (65+ but still alive). “Conservative” radio, to me, is “anti-establishment” radio. This might describe me. I’ve listened to Rush for over 20 years. I leave him occasional when he becomes “too” repetitive. Why am I loyal? Like Rush has pointed out, I listen because Rush verbalizes what I am thinking. When I arrived in Cincinnati, I listened to WLW as a talk station and started looking for alternative talk within 2 months. Why? Boring for the most part, but even offensive on occasions. I still tune in for local issues. A few more comments:

    1. Too many commercial breaks. OK, I get it. The purpose of programming is to listen to the ads. But boring repetition is intolerable. How many times in a day can I hear the SAME house insulation message or the SAME political ad before I make the effort to change the station or switch off the radio (which I do often these days).

    2. You blog about the radio industry, but I listen to local programming. Specifically with Sloan, Cunningham, Jones, McConnell (too establishment), I have little respect for the “life style” they project on the radio. So, how do I let WLW programming know that I like programming like Brian Thomas, Ken Broo, Mo Egger, Rocky Boiman, Gary Jeff Walker, Steve Sommers, Geroge Noory, and even Jim LaBarbara (not to forget Darryl Parks). Wait for Arbitron? Still waiting.

    3. It seems silly to me for talk hosts to chase “clicks.” So they encourage listeners to use the Internet, the instrument of radio’s potential demise. As a serious listener, I do NOT participate actively in “clicks.” Is this swaying the numbers?

    4. It appears the iHeartRadio app is the answer. It’s free? Right? No mention of the increasing monthly data charge. I have NOT downloaded iHeartRadio so my sense is limited. If radio’s debt burden does not kill the stations and programming is allowed to adjusts, I think over the air radio will find new listeners and survive. At this point, Glenn Beck might not survive. His “salvation”, for me, is the alternatives are so limited.

    • March 18, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      Constant, you say you’re 65+. But, are you angry? 🙂

      To answer your questions:

      (1) Yep. It’s hurting all radio stations and formats. Not necessarily the commercial time, but the number of units. Plus, the constant “Brought to you by….” Enough with the sponsorships.
      (2) It’s called Nielsen now, not Arbitron. And I thank you for the compliment!
      (3) Social media, the internet and interaction is the future. While annoying to you, it’s important.
      (4) I still hold out hope that radio will innovate and survive. Sooner or later someone is going to say, “Wait? There are all these towers and this radio signal is received by people for free? I have often asked, “How do you screw up free?” Somehow we and they did.

      Have a great weekend.

      Thanks for reading the blog.


  7. Lorenet
    March 20, 2016 at 3:41 am

    Ed Schultz left radio in April/May of 2014 (almost 2 years ago). He quit radio about the same time Randi Rhodes retired. Ed sometimes has a 30 minute daily podcast. Randi is due back in early June with an online streaming show. Podcasts/Patron/Kickstarter/SirusXM Progress or Insight are where I get my radio nowadays.

    • March 21, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      The important words in your comment are “quit” and “retired” and how you define it.

      Thank you for reading the blog.


  8. Name
    April 10, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    I heard Limbaugh in 1991 or so.
    His production’s biggest defect is that he’s just too slow. There’s too much dead air. That works while the listener is driving (split attention), but not when the listener is just listening.
    Text is often better, because the reader can read at his/her own speed.

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