by Ian Bayne
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
It certainly is true that the biggest threat to establishment politicians has always been talk radio.
First noticed in 1994, when talk radio, more specifically Rush Limbaugh, was credited with returning both houses of congress to Republican hands.
Now in 2015, with Howard Stern earning an estimated $80 million annually, Limbaugh claiming 20 million listeners, and the cost of winning a presidential campaign nearly $1 billion, it’s hard to imagine talk radio is on the outs with the American commuter.
Then why are there so many worried about the future of talk radio?
My good friend Dorie Clark wrote an article in Forbes.com late last year pointing out that podcasting started to gain attention in 2014, after virtually 10 years of being ignored.
So is podcasting killing radio?
Comedian Adam Carolla launched a podcast debut to over 1.6 million plays in just one week in 2009, and that was “when no one was paying attention to podcasting.”
But radio ratings agency Nielson disagrees that podcasts are killing the radio star, with a report that in 2014 News/Talk was ranked number 1 overall versus every other radio format.
So what is going on?
One thing is certain: as the establishment brings in poll numbers at 14 percent (Gallup on congressional approval), 86 percent oppose the establishment.
And as conventional media caters to that low rated establishment, over 60% of the millennial generation have fled conventional media by using Facebook for news. (Even Baby Boomers get 39% of their news from Facebook)
And as blogs like Breitbart, The Blaze, and Red State rise in profit and ratings, the nationally syndicated hosts who started that style of journalism are propping up news/talk stations all over America.
But there are holes in local programming, where local hosts sound nothing like their national counterparts, and side with the 14%.
From last week back to May of 2014, I was the morning host on a small, family owned news/talk station. A Limbaugh, Levin, and Beck affiliate.
In the Male 25-54 demo, I took ratings from a 1.7 share in May 2014 to a 10.6 share in December by paying attention to the 86%.
I did it by doing locally what already works nationally.
Locals had been accustomed to turning off the radio when they hear a retired music DJ attempt to talk politics, in between mentioning the weather and the time a half dozen times every 15 minutes.
And as federal politics, with guidance from national hosts, saw my city of Bloomington, IL dominated by Republicans: two GOP congressmen, two GOP state senators, and two GOP state reps, the city council at the local level were dominated by Democrats.
Our Democrat mayor, Tari Renner, never had to face opposition from the likes of Limbaugh or Levin, or answer to the 86% disgusted with establishment politics.
The Ian Bayne morning program changed that.
Frustrated by the spotlight on his wasteful ways, he actually resorted to filing an illegal restraining order to keep me from asking his communications director questions.
In the key Male 25-54 demographic, our closest competition fell from a 9.7 share in May 2014 to a 4.3 in December 2014, while my program grew to over a 10 share.
In Spring of 2015, I received a 6.3 share for my 7-8am commute hour versus the competition at 4.3. And 18-34 adults I beat not only the competing station, but every other host on my station, including Limbaugh.
Five city tax increases, a city budget that grew from $71 million to $94 million in just two years during a depression, and Mitsubishi pulling their only manufacturing plant out of the area was certainly worth discussing. And the ratings proved it.
In the GOP special election primary of July 2015, my listening area saw establishment son-of-Obama Secretary Darin LaHood beat Breitbart challenger Mike Flynn by just 2 points, where the vast majority of the rest of the district gave the establishment a 60 point lead.
And my morning show podcasts grew from 1,800 per month to over 75,000 per month.
Establishment opposed. Controversy up. Audience up. Ratings up.
The formula has been making news/talk the leading format on the air since birth.
But as music DJs step into the role of doing political broadcasts, antiquated and nonsensical commentary clutters the airwaves: what time it is, what the temperature is, how many rain clouds exist over the studio, mispronouncing names of politicians they don’t know. This allows an establishment politician to engage as safely with the radio hosts at stations that delivered their defeat in 2010 and 2012 as they do their local establishment politician.
And quicker than a Miami Beach sun shower, political talk station owners create the worst possible scenario: lack of value at the local level.
As technology rushes to place Wi-Fi in automobiles, local talk’s clock is ticking.
Clark points out that an estimated 50% of new cars sold next year will have internet connectivity.
And the moment that high rated national talk hosts who carry these stations financially can be downloaded in automobiles; local talk radio stations are left with nothing of value, except those bold enough to side with the 86% that oppose the establishment.
And I’m willing to bet those people buy a lot of products they hear on the radio.
Talk radio did not become the leading format by talking about weather and what time of day it is. Talk radio is not dead. If the formula is followed, it is just beginning.
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