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Cumulus again tries to throw Limbaugh under Media Matters’ boycott bus

Cumulus again tries to throw Limbaugh under Media Matters’ boycott bus

It’s Deja Vu all over again, earnings season bringing another attempt by Cumulus Media to throw Rush Limbaugh under the Media Matters’ boycott bus.

For a bit of history on the Limbaugh boycott organized by and still pushed by Media Matters, see my prior posts from spring 2012:

For the Cumulus treachery, including trying to set up Mike Huckabee as a Rush alternative, see my post, The real threat to conservative talk radio is not what you think:

There is a strange confluence of interests here.

Moving in on Rush’s territory makes economic sense for Cumulus, which would rid its stations of high cost deals.  Replacing Rush with Huckabee, an in-house personality who presumably would allow Cumulus to keep more of the pie, may make economic sense given the financial pressure on Cumulus.

More worrisome for the future of conservative talk radio is that Cumulus is using Huckabee to advance a ”more conversation, less confrontation” conservative talk radio strategy.

Watered down conservate talk radio fits in perfectly with the Media Matters/Think Progress/Color of Change demand that confrontational conservative talk radio hosts like Rush be taken off the airwaves.  Not surprisingly, Media Matters was gleeful at Dickie’s talk about replacing Rush with Huckabee.

The Huckabee strategy didn’t work out for Cumulus from the start:

And it hasn’t gotten any better.  Limbaugh remains at the top of the Talkers magazine 2013 Heavy 100.  Huckabee is No. 46.

Which brings me to Cumulus’ whispering campaign trying to blame the Media Matters’ boycott for Cumulus’ earnings problems, via Talkers:

Limbaugh-Cumulus Talk Radio Sales Issue Plays Out in Consumer Press.  In a piece in the New York Daily News published over the weekend, the war of words over challenged sales of talk radio time at Cumulus Media properties (specifically WABC) became public as the paper quoted a “source close to Limbaugh” said, in effect, that Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey needs to stop blaming Rush Limbaugh for sales trouble at his news/talk stations.  Dickey has made public statements – at both investor conference calls and in media appearances – about the negative effect of Rush Limbaugh’s February 2012 Sandra Fluke “slut” controversy that he says is still dragging down sales at his major market news/talk stations.  As the Daily News story reports, Cumulus claimed that the high-profile controversy was responsible for lost millions in the first two quarters of 2012.  But the story quotes the Limbaugh source stating, “Dickey keeps complaining about falling revenue, but his stations have long lagged behind their competitors in sales by a substantial margin.  Rush Limbaugh’s ratings have outperformed every other program on WABC and many other Cumulus stations for years.”  The piece notes that Cumulus is not commenting on this latest salvo.  Limbaugh’s Premiere Networks contract with WABC, New York expires at the end of 2013 and with Clear Channel’s recent purchase of crosstown WOR, some industry watchers expect his program will move to WOR in 2014.

At an investor conference call this morning, Cumulus avoided blaming Limbaugh, Dickey Skates by The Rush Issue:


On the conference call Tuesday, when asked specifically about the network business and the impact of the talk segment, CEO Lew Dickey made a passing mention without naming names. “We’ve had a tough go of it this last year. The facts are indisputable over the last year.” In recent days, the Rush Limbaugh camp made it clear they were not happy with Dickey blaming any revenue shortfall on Rush. People close to Cumulus tell Radio Ink, “48 of the top 50 network advertisers have “exclude Rush and Hannity” orders. Every major national ad agency has same dictate.”

Cumulus has problems, not the least of all is that Limbaugh doesn’t need Cumulus.  My guess is that Cumulus is just preparing the analyst battleground for a year from now when Limbaugh leaves Cumulus, so Cumulus can say “no problem, we’re better off.”

Cumulus should own up to its performance problems, and stop trying to throw the No. 1 rated conservative talk show program under the Media Matters’ boycott bus.


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parteagirl | May 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Cumulus did the same thing to a local conservative talk show host in the DFW area, Mark Davis, who happened to be a fill-in for Rush from time to time. Davis has a very loyal 18-year long relationship to his listeners who simply followed him to his new radio station.

Cumulus assumed, wrongly, that we were loyal to listening to a certain station at a certain time and wouldn’t notice or care if Mark Davis wasn’t hosting any more. What idiots.

    smfoushee in reply to parteagirl. | May 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    I’m glad Mark found a home at 660AM after what the execs did to him following WBAP’s sale to Cumulus. His replacement, Ben Ferguson, doesn’t have the presence or likability of Davis.

    punfundit in reply to parteagirl. | May 7, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Davis is the goods.

A ”more conversation, less confrontation” conservative talk radio program sounds good—provided the host is savvy enough not to abrogate principle for the sake of congeniality.

Tax Hike Mike is not that host.

    punfundit in reply to gs. | May 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm


    Who and what is a “more conversation[al]” host? Will the Hannitized audience stay tuned for something other than “missster librul!” and “answerthequestionanswerthequestionanswerthequestion!”?

    Newt Gingrich use to fill in for Neal Boortz in Atlanta. There’s no question the man is well-spoken, debates very well, and knows what the hell he’s talking about.

    Of course the Weiner Nation crowd would reject him…

Socratease | May 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Cumulus took over KSFO in San Francisco and just killed the quality of programming. I stopped listening a long time ago, their own incompetence and not understanding their market is what is driving their ratings down.

As far as I can tell, Rush is on about 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. That leaves a lot of other slots open.

A ”more conversation, less confrontation” conservative talk radio program is just fine, if it’s IN ADDITION to whatever’s out there. Adding to the spectrum is a winning strategy. Maybe we can get to hear some Libertarians, too. The more, the merrier.

Ragspierre | May 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Mike Hucksterbeee has a radio show…!?!?

Wow. Who knew…

Great post, Professor.

crosspatch | May 7, 2013 at 3:21 pm

KSFO has certainly gone down hill. I listened to them in the mornings until they replaced Limbaugh with Huckabee so then I started listening to KMJ in Fresno in the morning and KSFO in the evenings to catch John Batchelor. Then they took Batchelor off for all but one hour to put Savage on and I haven’t listened to KSFO since. Then Cumulus dropped KMJ as an affiliate and I have to switch around to a hodgepodge of different stations.

There used to be a station in the area that carried Medved and Prager and Hewitt but that station changed format to business radio. The only thing we really have left is 910 KKSF which I only listen to now for Rush in the morning if I happen to be in the car when he is on.

I can do just fine without Huckabee and Savage. Heck I can do without Levin, too.

When a CEO starts blaming his team and/or outside forces for problems, you can bet he is trying to divert attention from his own poor performance.

And it may also be a peremptory strike for the contract negotiations, which Cumulus may not be able to afford anyway.

moonstone716 | May 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm

WHY would anyone think that Huckabee would take down Rush? I mean, Huckabee is a nice man, can be entertaining, I guess (especially if you’re over 80) but he is nowhere near Rush in sheer talent. Or intelligence.

I R A Darth Aggie | May 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Rush is syndicated by Clear Channel by way of Premier Networks, and is a Cumulus rival.

Cumulus is trying to get a foot hold in the 12-3 Eastern time slot.

It isn’t working that well, but that’s not Huckabee’s problem.

Let Cumulus replace Rush with the Huckster. He’ll fail like he always does, Cumulus will go mammaries up, and Rush will be the last man standing.

Win. Win. Win.

It’s all talk anyways 😉 I prefer action hehe.

Geeeez, so they’re after Limbaugh again, eh? Seems that they didn’t learn a thing about free publicity and how that can backfire on the persecutors!

Rush will win against these clowns, just like Michael Savage won his landmark case against his syndicator.

I wonder why the likes of these guys don’t start their own network and take over the business.

chilipalmer | May 8, 2013 at 1:18 am

I sold local radio advertising in NY City for 14 yrs. For some years Rush, Howard Stern, and Bob Grant all had huge numbers, but big ad agency media buys frequently began with: “No Howard, no Rush, no Bob Grant.” (When Stern was on terrestrial radio). Ad agencies long ago decided they didn’t want to be around any kind of “controversy.” Nothing else mattered except controversy. Cumulus started bad rapping Rush at least a year ago, advertisers hear the station’s own management being negative about a host so it’s another reason not to buy them. Listening to Rush on Cumulus station WABC several months ago the station broke into the show at around 12:37pm with “breaking news.” The reason for the “breaking news” interruption? Lindsay Lohan had fainted somewhere in California. Mike Huckabee is a “media Republican” which means he must be removed from the public stage if democrats are to be beaten. Here he is at his Jeb Bush-like best: 2/27/12, “Mike Huckabee Says He Didn’t Run For President Because Of The ‘Toxic Atmosphere’ In GOP,” MediaIte

“On Sunday, former Governor Mike Huckabee was in Israel and gave an interview with a local news station. Midway through the conversation, Huckabee was asked why, despite high poll numbers, he chose not to run for President. Huckabee, who announced the decision all the way back in May, explained that his choice had to do with the “toxic atmosphere” in the Party.”…

    IF WABC loses Rush to WOR, they will go full crash and burn. Limbaugh’s audience stays for Hannity, who then passes the audience on to Mark Levin. WOR has WABC’s former “super sub” and Saturday stalwart, Mark Simone, poised to be a much better lead-in for Limbaugh than that “10 to Rush” numbskull Geraldo. Dittoheads won’t the channel from 710 to 770 if they believe WABC did El Rushbo wrong, and Hannity doesn’t have the chops to make them do it.

To this day, Media Matters is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, which means their partisanship is ignored by the IRS (now on Obama’s team). A key MMFA Vice President is Angelo Carusone @goAngelo, AKA @StopRush and @StopBeck. Can’t get much more partisan than that. Carusone takes credit for getting Beck off FOX News, and had the #StopRush advertiser-attack template ready-to-run immediately following the Fluke nonsense.

How does #StopRush work? MMFA circumspectly pays a core group of online activists to run a round-the-clock Twitter presence (#StopRush and #FlushRush). This core group, some 6 or 7 known members, have numerous Sock Puppet Twitter accounts who then Re-Tweet their Tweets to Limbaugh’s advertisers. These RTs amongst paid activists (and their puppets) stir up more attacks on advertisers from various far-Left groups they belong to (e.g. #UniteBlue, #p2), who then re-circulate these Tweets to even more like-minded Followers. As result of these back-to-back Tweets and Re-Tweets, there’s a deluge of abusive(spam) messages to Limbaugh’s advertisers. It’s no wonder many of them recoil.

I’ve watched this happen for over a year now. In opposition, I’ve actively countered many of their attacks, and for it I’ve been DOXed and personally attacked by these thugs, who will stop at nothing to achieve their end goals.

This #StopRush attack is organized, ongoing, paid, and has blessings from the Obama administration (via Van Jones, who played a significant role in getting this ‘grassroots boycott’ organized and funded).

Twitter helps #StopRush stay active, even though, by definition, unsolicited Tweets attacking Limbaugh’s advertisers is obvious spam. ‘Paid and Organized’ is not ‘grassroots’, Twitter! Organized means spam! Seems Twitter is but a Fellow (Left) Traveler.