Has Talk Radio’s Influence Peaked?

January 23, 2013 11:01 am

by Nathan · 18 comments

Fans across America bade farewell (or good riddance for those who weren’t fans) to Neal Boortz last Friday.  Galloway has a thought-provoking piece on the talk radio format that you can read.  He’s probably right that we won’t see another Neal Boortz.  Boortz talks about the radio biz in his latest book.  His job was to keep you, the listener, to hang around long enough for him to play commercials, and he did a good job.  He was crass, rude, and insensitive a lot of times, but he was entertaining and was able to keep listeners glued to the radio.

Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity do a good job of keeping the VU meters popping, and I’m sure that Herman Cain will do a great job in Boortz’s old time slot, but will the format hold up in the future?  I don’t have numbers to prove it, but it would be my best guess to say that folks around my age (I’m 26) are probably listening to the radio less than older generations, and probably even less talk radio.

We’re living in an age of new media.  Blogs, podcasts, and YouTube are eating away at newspapers, radio, and the nightly news.  Heck, at least the Atlanta Press Club recognizes the impact of new media as evidenced by their acceptance of my colleague Bridget Cantrell (Bridget, don’t get tainted by all the lib’rals there).  Frankly, I don’t listen to syndicated talk radio any more (well, except for Phil Hendrie, but I think he’s hilarious).  I normally listen to local talk radio in the mornings when I’m getting ready to go into the office, but beyond that, I just keep track of what’s going on by checking Drudge, Jim Galloway’s blog, a handful of other site covering national, state, and local news, and, of course, Peach Pundit online.

Now, I’m not saying that Rush, Sean, Herman, and our own Erick Erickson will be fading away any time soon.  I hope they’re on the air for many years to come, but it will be interesting to see how the format adapts to capture a new generation of listeners.

What say you?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

IndyInjun January 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

Most are a decade past their “sell by” date.

I would not write off talk radio, but its direction will change.

seenbetrdayz January 23, 2013 at 11:31 am

Considering that TV killed the radio star, it only makes sense that radio would stand no chance against the internet age.

Three Jack January 23, 2013 at 11:47 am

Talk radio shows that integrate well with new media will be the only way the format continues to thrive. Even then, if conservatives don’t put forth a better message than ‘Obama sux’, they will find their audiences dwindling. On the rare occasion that I flip over to Hannity these days, I listen to see how long it will be before he lays into Obama for something…usually lasts about 5 seconds then back to music.

Spacey G January 23, 2013 at 11:49 am

My old kitchen boom box still picks up loads of radio waves from the air, Cox Plantation, etc., and broadcasts them into the immediate area. Even while I’m busy down The Pipes. It’s all a matter of what kind of noise pollution, or not, one allows into one’s spaces. Thank goodness I was always able to move the dial to some other spot when Boortz came on. Even after the cassette player broke.

David Staples January 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm

“I’m sure that Herman Cain will do a great job in Boortz’s old time slot, but will the format hold up in the future”

Difficult to say, as many would say that Herman is a format change from Boortz. Herman, being a former preacher, references God and “we are a Christian nation” quite often, which is in stark contrast to Boortz’ typical commentary. Not that there’s anything wrong with Christian radio, but if I wanted to listen to Christian radio, there are already several other stations I could choose from. I listened to Boortz for the entertainment factor. The “we’re not stupid” and “thank God my surgeon wasn’t a muslim” format can only last for so long. I tried listening this morning and flipped the station after about 5 minutes over to The Bert Show. It just isn’t the same.

Noway January 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm

So did I, Dave. It just ain’t happening any more!

Joshua Morris January 23, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Good riddance to Neal. His constant and often unfounded vitriol and his unwillingness to debate issues without denigrating his opponents and cutting people off was a detriment to talk radio. He is a terrible debater, and he covered that up by silencing those who were better than he. Many of those he browbeat and tongue-lashed on air could mutilate him on an equal platform.

For talk radio to continue, it must have useful substance.

Baker January 23, 2013 at 3:09 pm

I refer you to WGKA, Talk 920 and the likes of Prager, Medved, Hewitt, & the best of the lot, Dennis Miller. Not that they are all free from the cutting off of opponents, but there is substance and debate on their shows, as opposed to the vacuous, “Obama sneezed wrong, it’s a signal to the Russians and a communist plot” or whatever BS hyperbole Rush is going on about as of late.

Three Jack January 23, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Spoken like someone who was handed his a$$ by Boortz. If he was a ‘detriment to talk radio’, please explain how he lasted over 40 years, expanded his audience annually including syndication and would have been welcomed back by WSB to stay on the air as long as he wanted.

Joshua Morris January 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm

The same way Honey boo boo and the Kardashians stay on TV. The ‘dumb masses’, as he calls them, flock to controversy and sensationalism. He’s a showman, plain and simple.

And no, nothing was ever ‘handed’ to me by Neal. I would relish an equal platform debate with him–RELISH it.

Rick Day January 23, 2013 at 11:19 pm

He and his lasted for 40 years (arguably more like 18 years, since Clinton 1) because his target audience was fat with white male boomers. Now his audience is just fat and old. The last boomer and their tainted GenX children will probably fade out in 30 years. The majority of them will start to care more about their insulin and new hips than the liberals in 8.

Which coincides with about how longer you guys have left on the right to be relevant to the process, if you don’t dump the image of the fat white talk show blunder buss.

Close your eyes and imagine the GOP a hair more organized than the LP is today. Cling to your antiquated ideals at your own political peril.

Scott65 January 23, 2013 at 8:10 pm

I used to enjoy listening to Boortz when I moved here almost 18 yrs ago (and screwed up looking for channels on the radio…landing on WSB on AM). He made me laugh (in between ranting about something or another). I didnt always agree, but it made me think sometimes. With the acquisition of a car with satellite radio, however, AM was just way to “last century”. I tried listening a couple of times after Royal passed and I dont think the show, or Boortz, were the same after that…something I think he acknowledged later on. Herman Cain comes across as an opportunist (cant imagine why???), and he does not possess the finesse needed to make people tune in to outdated technology

Joseph January 24, 2013 at 5:00 am

To answer one question – Americans as a whole are listening to radio at roughly the same rate as before and in-fact younger demo’s (teens and millenials) are listening to radio at a higher rate than previous generations) – so radio is getting better on a whole.

Now, here is the thing about Boortz, he is/was an Atlanta “phenom” – in almost every other market – you must have the “Holy Trinity” of Conservative talk in order for your station to be successful. That is of course the line-up of Glenn, Rush, and Hannity. All other talkers are on a 2nd much much lower tier – now this if from a pure raw audience share evaluation. The other product out there is good and there are people that listen, it just does not command anywhere near the audience of the Trio.

Boortz did well in Atlanta because he was in Atlanta and was able to dedicate part of his show to Atlanta (that was not sent out on the network, btw).

The other question is, what happens when Rush decides he’s tired of making $20mil+ a year. Atlanta’s own Cumulus is making a go with Gov. Huckabee as a head-on challenger / replacement to Rush – the verdict is still out, but the Gov’s show is much different from Rush’s style (the Gov’s slogan is “He’s Conservative and not mad about it). From a pure – rouse up the base, firebrand, take it to the libs kinda show, keep an eye on Erick for a future prime-time slot (radio prime time is somewhere 6am to 7pm).

I don’t think Talk Radio is loosing its edge – but what is going to start hurting some is the all-news formats. When executed properly – it’s a great format. Also – did you know, the number one billing radio station in the country is WTOP? That’s the all-news format in DC. Out of all the stations in the country (Z100 NYC, KISS FM LA, etc) – that all-news station raked in the most money.

…and done, that’s two novels I’ve written this week for PP. I’ll go back into hiding now!

martha zoller January 24, 2013 at 7:49 am

Talk will always be a format. Tim Bryant and I have teamed up for “Zoller and Bryant” on WGAU in Athens to put together a format for a morning show that could be picked up by smaller stations around the state. The problem with many radio station is that people cost money. If you can create a regional product, much like I did with my program before I ran for Congress, that could be carried around the state, you give the smaller stations a local sound, without the cost of “talent.”

Since the election, we are seeing that conservatives, who are the audience for most talk radio, are a little burnt out. They want to talk issues and they don’t want to fight. That might change, but right now, people want dialog.

you can listen live from 6 to 9 am at marthazoller.com or in the Athens area on Fox News 1340. And hopefully in your hometown around Georgia very soon.

Baker January 24, 2013 at 9:06 am

+1 for Martha and for regional products!

Nathan January 24, 2013 at 11:30 am

+2 Thanks, Martha! It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Of course, the doom and gloom morning hosts in Chattanooga predict that Clear Channel and Cumulus will snuff out local hosts in favor of big market syndicated hosts. That might happen, but I figure that hopefully the corporate motherships have astute businessmen and women who realize the value of local/regional talk radio.

IndyInjun January 24, 2013 at 8:47 pm

You go, Martha! I cannot stand Hannity or Limbaugh. They have not changed and their spiel is malarkey.

Lapdog partisanship should be DEAD and conservatives cannot trust the GOP.

The Last Democrat in Georgia January 25, 2013 at 7:03 am

“conservatives cannot trust the GOP”

…Ain’t that the truth.

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