air america

David Tomm
Wed Aug 3 00:36:55 EDT 2005

On Aug 2, 2005, at 4:14 PM, Keating Willcox wrote:

> The discussion on Air America's popularity can be answered in a single 
> word....ratings. Conservative talk shows are everywhere because of 
> ....ratings, plus the propensity of listeners to stay with a station 
> through a station break. Opera and NPR don't have very 
> good....ratings. That is why the government takes its money, that is 
> your money, and spends it on these programs, and now that Air America 
> has become an opportunity for Democrat in-kind fund raising, that sort 
> of speaks to its poor ratings.

As Donna previously mentioned, it took Conservative radio years to 
develop the audience it now enjoys.  When Limbaugh first emerged, he 
was on a lot of low powered stations and got modest ratings.  Over a 
period of a few years, he gradually built an audience and his show 
"upgraded" to better signals in many markets.  With Rush as the star, 
these stations quickly found complimentary programming to surround his 
show, and over the last 15 years have built long term listenership.  
Heck, look how long it took WTKK to grow into a formidable competitor 
to WRKO.  Six years.  Despite having one of the best FM signals in the 
metro and a conservative lean, the station had to go through years of 
growing pains to get where they are today.  Even now, they often trail 
680 in the 12+ beauty contest, but 96.9 beats them 25-54 in most 
dayparts.  When you consider that WXKS/WKOX has terrible signals, an 
all satellite lineup, and little promotion so far from Clear Channel, 
no wonder they've had a rough start.  And as far as NPR goes, WBUR is a 
non-comm so it doesn't appear in the published 12+ ratings, but 
subscribers know that 90.9 often ranks in the top 5 or 6 overall and 
their 25-54 performance is impressive.  So much for that ratings 

Progressive talk formats won't be on par with right wing radio 
overnight, or even in five years.  Liberal talkers have to build their 
audiences over time and eventually move to competitive signals, just 
like Rush and his clones did in the early to mid 90's.  In markets 
where Air America and other progressive talkers are on city-grade 
signals and have at least some local programming, the early results are 
very positive.  Still, it will take time.

> Does anyone have figures for how well these talk shows do on the sat 
> broadcast? How about direct to cell-phone and direct streaming to 
> other wireless devices?

It is far too early in the game to know how talk programming will do 
with new technologies.  Both satellite services offer left and right 
wing channels and most nationally syndicated talk show hosts (both 
liberal and conservative) are dabbling in podcasting.  I'm sure that 
younger listeners from both sides of the political aisle will sample 
some programming that suits their viewpoints.  That could mean trouble 
for terrestrial talk stations down the road if this becomes widespread 
with younger talk listeners.

> I assume that in five years, the music portion of radio will be 
> devastated by these new technologies, just as the recording industry 
> has been destroyed by downloaded and I-pods. Maybe local talk and 
> entertainment shows, s well as ethnic shows will be the last men 
> standing???

All forms of terrestrial programming will be affected by new 
technologies, not just music.  With national hosts podcasting more and 
more coupled with the fact most  local radio stations can't afford to 
program all local talkers 24/7, talk radio could be in trouble too.  I 
see more Urban, foreign language (particularly Spanish) and infomercial 
programming coming to the AM & FM bands in the coming years if these 
new technologies take off the way they're expected to.

--Dave Tomm
"Mike Thomas"

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