Friday, October 07, 2005

Long an outlet for the GOP message, talk radio undergoes a shift


There are signs that the Republicans could be losing some of their overwhelming edge, however. Ratings for Limbaugh and Hannity slipped this spring in some markets. Liberals such as Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller and Al Franken are carving out their own radio niche. And Democrats argue that they have an edge on the Internet, where explosive growth could dwarf the political impact of radio.

Some of that could be just wishful thinking by Democrats. The slip in ratings, for example, could be a normal drop in political interest after an election year. They also could be untrue - radio ratings are difficult to measure. And even if Limbaugh and Hannity have fewer listeners than they did in the past, they still have millions more than liberal talk show hosts.

"We're not there yet," Franken said in an interview.

"My numbers are going up, and theirs are going down. But if I have a million and half people listening to me, that's still just one-tenth of Rush's audience."


Limbaugh lost 30 percent of his audience in Minneapolis-St. Paul this spring from a year earlier. He also lost 9 percent in Miami and 7 percent in Kansas City, Mo. He did have gains in some smaller markets, however, including Charlotte, N.C., and Fort Wayne, Ind.

Some of the loss can be attributed to listeners tuning out after an election year. But they also might be growing weary of the Limbaugh and Hannity format.

"They're pretty much talking about the same thing every day," said Holland Cooke, a Cleveland-based radio industry consultant who said the hosts tend to talk about the same subjects and interview the same guests over and over.

"Last week, Sean Hannity had Newt Gingrich coming on. I've already heard that show. Then he said he had Ann Coulter coming on. I've already heard that show. It's a rerun. You already know what he's going to say."


(Democrats) think they can reach more people through the Internet than Republicans. Internet users are younger and more independent-minded than radio listeners and more open to the Democratic message, Lehane said. Democrats

Howard Dean and John Kerry showed in their 2004 presidential campaigns that they could reach and organize millions of people through the Internet.

Yet if the communications of politics is changing, it hasn't changed that much yet.



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