If you only read Media Matters and Think Progress, you’d think Rush Limbaugh was on the verge of losing his radio empire because 50 or more advertisers “dropped” him.
While Limbaugh has lost some important advertisers, it appears that many of the advertisers dropping him never advertised in the first place, and one of his highest profile and longest advertisers, Sleep Train, wanted back in but was denied. As I’ve chronicled here, another high profile advertiser, Carbonite, shot its entire business strategy in the foot by dropping Limbaugh.
I take boycott seriously, as the totalitarian Media Matters (remember The Daily Caller’s exposé) is fully behind it running daily blacklists of companies still advertising in the hope of forcing Limbaugh off the air.
But not everyone on the left is buying into the likelihood of success of the boycott. Leslie Savan at The Nation writes:
So it’s been a bad week for Rush. Though maybe not quite as bad as CNN, MSNBC and some blogs have made it sound. They all reported that on Thursday WABC suffered more than five minutes of dead air time where ads were supposed to have run on Limbaugh’s show, leaving the impression that radios across Gotham fell into real radio silence.
But it wasn’t quite as simple, or as satisfying, as that. The five minutes and thirty-three seconds of dead air (distributed over four commercial pods in the three-hour show) occurred, as Media Matters reported, only on WABC’s online show, not on the station’s broadcast.
Savan goes on to quote an editor at Talkers as stating that the one week loss of advertisers is the biggest he remembers, but that the strength of Rush’s listener base makes a long term loss questionable:
“Here’s what matters: how many listeners start to pull out,” [Michael] Harrison continues. “Then there’s a problem for the future. We suspect that his audience is increasing now. The irony is that Limbaugh’s advertising is probably worth more than ever. But unless you believe that the American advertising industry has a high bar for standards and taste, then there will [eventually] be more advertisers coming on. We’re talking about nobody advertising on the number-one show in the business. How likely is that?”
Harrison notes that if Limbaugh left “terrestrial radio” for satellite, the loss of revenue to so many stations “including many stations that play liberal hosts, it will be another nail in the coffin of terrestrial radio.”
I think it will be worse than that, as conservatives organize to hold advertisers accountable for consistent advertising policies — drop Limbaugh, why not MSNBC in its entire evening schedule (there’s plenty to work with in the O’Donnell, Maddow and Schultz archives), and a host of liberal commentators.
The dust up over Sleep Train, along with the blowback suffered by Carbonite over that company’s public denunciation of Limbaugh, demonstrates that the iconic radio talk show host is dealing from a position of strength in the campaign to deprive him of advertisers. One tends to prosper when one advertises on Limbaugh’s show. But cross him, and one will suffer.
The one overwhelming fact is that Limbaugh commands many millions of listeners. There is no evidence that any of them have stopped listening because of the kerfuffle with Sandra Fluke. Indeed, one suspects that Limbaugh has gained listeners, curious about what the fuss is all about. As long as the show maintains its listener base, it does not matter if any advertisers bail on Limbaugh for political reasons. There will always be others who will want to take their place, because it is good business to advertise on the most listened to radio talk show on the planet.
The situation demonstrates the power of the marketplace over politically inspired efforts to drive an iconic conservative radio voice off the air. Once again Limbaugh has defeated his enemies and has humbled them into the dust.
As for me, of course I’m concerned because this never has been about those two words or even the three days. It’s an attempt to intimidate and silence conservative talk radio, so better safe than sorry.
Tomorrow I’ll have an example of the advertising double standard and how plenty of name brand companies do not hesitate to advertise with one of the leaders in attacking conservative women. [New post now up, Gawker more acceptable than conservative talk radio for advertisers?]
Update: The Hayride has an interesting post and video, NOW’s war on Rush.