Despite their diametrically opposed political opinions, Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken have something in common. Years before he led for that Senate seat in Minnesota, Franken was a comedian, a film star, and even an writer. He was one of the original columnists at “Saturday Night Live” in the 70 s when that show first aired.
Two years thereafter, his writing career took a sharp turn toward the political. “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” was one of these books. Another- “Fair and Balanced”- used former Fox News talk host Bill O’Reilly’s photo on its extend. Fox New sued, claiming copyright infringement because of the book’s title. Franken won the suit, and his working career took off.
But the Al Franken book I remember was first published in 1996. “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot( and Other Observations”) excoriated republican talk shows hosts on both Tv and radio.
As it turned out, Franken was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008, but stepped down in 2017 after intense pressure from both parties over a sexual scandal.
And in the meantime, Limbaugh’s career continues on the radio at ratings of radio stations across the U.S. In 2017, Talkers estimate Limbaugh commanded an audience of more than 15 million listeners.
So, a big, fat moronic? Hardly.
Rush is one amazing radio guy. One of the reasons he’s still at the top of his game is that he’s simply sharper, smarter, and more talented than the majority of members of his contemporaries. He’s always been an entertainer firstly, and then a talk depict host and political animal.
Rush’s response to a caller on Tuesday was a rare window into his radio soul. Radio Ink published several of Limbaugh’s response to a guy called Matteo who called in asking why Rush isn’t more active on YouTube and other digital media canals. I navigated over to www.rushlimbaugh.com where they conveniently printed out Rush’s diatribe.
Rush relished the question- it was right in his wheelhouse. He proceeded to reel off his self-styled radio philosophy( and I’m reordering this a bit for the purposes of this post ). When it comes to radio, that is something that stimulates him tick 😛 TAGEND
I’m in radio.
Radio is my business.
Radio’s what I’m best at.
Radio, I own it. I enjoy it. Radio is where I am best able to do what I do. I’ve got a Dittocam here. I don’t need YouTube. I’ve got RushLimbaugh.com. Why should I help some other business enterprise? Why get caught up in the choked arteries of YouTube when anybody can come to RushLimbaugh.com and watch me say things in my natural element? If I were gonna do YouTube videos, I would just take ’em from the Dittocam and cut ’em up and threw ’em out there on the YouTube channel, and then what am I doing?
I’m urging people to leave my website and go to somebody else’s! It builds no business sense. But “youre telling”, “Wait a minute. You gotta reach people that you’re not reaching. You gotta persuade people.” No. The objective ever has been to get ’em to come here. So now and then, guess what? We do end up on YouTube now and then, and we do end up on Twitter now and then. But I never make a big deal out of it, because they’re not the primary means or the primary vehicle for me. I could, if I wanted to — and this is not ego speaking.
That stirs feel. Like a lot of people in the radio business, the “mother ship” has always been the terrestrial airwaves- the ether. It begins and points there- the mic, the transmitter, the tower, the receiver. I talk. You listen.
For Limbaugh and so many others who stirred their calls in radio( and Tv) in the 70 s and 80 s, that’s the whole story. I hear the same type of philosophizing each year at the Radio Show and at other industry assembles. Sure, people can listen to us on a river, on their phones, and on Alexa. But we really don’t want them to. We induce our fund on the airwaves.
But has anyone at Premiere introduced Rush to Gordon Borrell or Erica Farber. They’d tell him that when it comes to traditional smudge revenue, radio’s been flattish to down for some time now, while the digital flowing has turned crisply positive. Does he know that AM radio- the dwelling for Rush Limbaugh on so many stations across America- has atrophied, diminished, and is now even being left out of dashboards in some electric cars? He is likely to be delivering it every day, but like a nice storage in a mall that’s in a sketchy neighborhood, ever fewer people- of all ages- are spending hour there.
One of the best minutes in Limbaugh’s soliloquy was his thoughts about intimacy, and radio’s remarkable ability to connect with people in a way that’s unique to other media.
I actually do believe, Matteo — and you have just inadvertently, unknowingly proved it — that radio done right and done well offers the greatest intimacy in media. And I don’t … I’m not talking about sexual intimacy.
I’m talking about relatability, bail of contact: People understanding, getting to know each other, and having no doubt about what they’re hearing. It’s simply the best if it’s done right, and it’s because you’re not watching anything at the same time that’s distracting you. A good radio person or daughter/ lady paints the pictures that you insure, or you do it yourself. But the friendship that radio can cause to happen likewise improves persuadability out the wazoo, because it’s in that intimacy that you develop the trust and the believability, hopefully, that the audience invests in you.
Brilliant. And in the case of Rush and so many who have followed in his steps, it’s been that radio foundation- that unique connection to fans- that has allowed them to build their empires, especially in syndication. Limbaugh may be in hundreds of sells across the U.S ., but “Dittoheads” feel like he talking directly to them. Over the years, he has demonstrated that unique ability to engage, connect, and inspire.
But then there’s the little content of where non-respendable revenues- and the audience- is heading. Radio has no shortage of challenges- topics that we regularly discuss here. For the medium to survive and thrive, it must effectively deal with advertiser disruption, the dashboard, on-demand audio, and so many other big-hearted stones that stand in the way of the medium continuing to be viable.
But perhaps the biggest barrier to future success is generational. Millennials are just the beginning. Radio has managed to stay out of existential danger over the decades due in no small duty to habit. And that’s a good thing. Millions wake up every morning and start their day with a favorite morning appearance. They jump in the car to manager to work, and the radio goes on to accompany them on their( hopefully, long) commute, and they flip-flop on a radio at work( or are exposed to someone else’s)- because they ever have.
But for that next generation of Z’s( or as they called them last week in British Columbia, Zeds ), habit has been about YouTube, Instagram, Twitch, podcasts, Spotify- all brands and platforms that radio can participate in, but it requires personalities, syndicators, owners and operators to recognize altering media usage motifs- and be there.
Rush Limbaugh could be- is due to be- in all these homes. Perhaps his politics are not in-sync with the impression of most Millennials, but that’s how his “Excellence In Broadcasting” network started- winning people over on the medium of their choice. Back in the early 90 s, it was broadcast radio. And while it has served him very well over the years, he knows it’s changing. The question is, what will he do about it?
Here’s Limbaugh’s “take” on changing audiences and how to continue to appeal to them 😛 TAGEND
So I know Millennials do YouTube. I know Millennials are cutting the cord, doing more streaming, doing this or that. But I also have a business responsibility for every radio station I’m on to be as highly rated as is practicable. And if you can find me a whole cluster of other regions, then there’s no need to come to the radio( or not as much) every day. So I don’t want anybody … It’s not ’cause I’m lazy. It’s not ’cause I don’t take it earnestly. It’s not ’cause I’m not “re doing everything” I can.
It’s simply, that is something that I do. This is what I excel at, that is something that I adoration, and this is where I am best.
I know there’s some of you who differ. “Come on, Rush. You own radio. You can branch out. You’re not gonna hurt yourself. People are still gonna find you on radio.” Maybe. Maybe so. But there’s also a little defiance. I’m not gonna cave in. I’m not gonna sit here and say, “I can’t succeed without being on YouTube, ” or Tv or what have you.
I’m also happy, folks. My desires have been met and then some, and my desires continue to exist, and they’re still big and huge. But they’re all self-contained in this universe.
Rush speaks for a lot of people in radio at this stage of their jobs. He’s done it. Truly, one of the most successful broadcasters of all time Our AQ2 survey earlier this year substantiated Limbaugh’s talents and affect, especially among his peers in talk radio. Second simply to Howard Stern, Limbaugh’s impact- not just on radio, but on the political discourse of our times- has been immeasurable.
In his monologue to Matteo, Rush sounds like someone who has accomplished his goals- and then some. It’s hard to think of a radio personality who’s enjoyed more success and impact than him. But as Rush also substantiates, it started on the radio and that where it will certainly end.
That’s great if you’re Rush Limbaugh. But if you’re in the greater community of those who ply their craftsmanship behind a microphone, there’s work to be done, there are new listeners to meet, the authorities have legions of followers to bring into the flock.
Whether you’re Ben Shapiro, the Mens Room, or you’re just starting out on the radio, an intrinsic commitment to being wherever the audience is what future radio dreams will be made of. A digital strategy isn’t just a good mind- it’s table stakes at the media casino where the ante is higher and the odds have worsened.
Limbaugh has lived the American Dream- thanks to his aptitude and the media empires that supported him. He’s constructed untold millions for himself and for the broadcasters who have carried his show.
But talent, operators, and strategists who are inspired by Rush’s vision of radio- its past, present, and future- should do what any American has the God-given right to do.
Note: Thanks to Lori Lewis, who thrown this Rush show in front of me and posed some of the issues you read in this post. -FJ
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