It's been one year since Rush Limbaugh's invective-filled tirade against then-Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke. With hundreds of advertisers and millions of dollars lost, the business of right-wing radio is suffering, but Rush Limbaugh continues to act as if it were business as usual, which is why Limbaugh is still bad for business.
On February 29, 2012, Rush Limbaugh initiated a three-day smear campaign against Sandra Fluke, launching 46 personal attacks against her. This moment and Limbaugh's subsequent refusal to apologize for, or even acknowledge, all but two of those attacks put the spotlight on the right-wing talk business model that Limbaugh helped construct.
During the following weeks, headlines tracked in near real-time the names of advertisers exiting Limbaugh's show as pundits and natterers speculated about Limbaugh's future. As so often happens, the buzz faded and the news cycle rolled on. But the consequences didn't fade, they intensified. This is due in large part to scores of independent organizers, like the Flush Rush and the #StopRush community.
When advertisers began fleeing from his program, Limbaugh dismissed the losses as akin to losing a "couple of French fries" and insisted that "nobody is losing any money here." This position seemed less tenable after Limbaugh employed the services of a crisis manager to handle the fallout, and the right-wing talker's protestations were proven false once financial reports started rolling in.
For example, Cumulus Media, a radio company that carries Limbaugh's show in 38 markets, reported millions of dollars in lost revenue and attributed the losses in part to the Limbaugh advertiser fallout. Dial Global, a radio syndication company, reported roughly $100 million in losses for 2012 and publicly cited Limbaugh as a significant contributing factor.
Owing to the structure of radio advertising, the losses Limbaugh felt rippled outward, intensifying their effect...Advertisers pay media buyers to negotiate rates and coordinate ad buys with radio companies. Typically they're just buying a certain number of commercials during a defined period of time. Consequently, the advertiser is often several steps removed from the actual ad placement. Once notified that their ads are running during his program, advertisers often immediately recognize that they shouldn't be supporting Limbaugh. They contact their buyer to request that the ads be removed and instruct them to exclude Limbaugh from future ad buys. After a few of their clients request the same thing, savvy buyers get the message. They start proactively excluding clients from Limbaugh's show. Many go a step further and exclude their clients' ads from programming similar to Limbaugh's, which amplifies the negative impact on right-wing radio...The Limbaugh advertiser problem is so significant that it has even spilled over into the business of online radio streams, according to Erica Farber, who is CEO of the Radio Association of Broadcasters.
At a Talkers forum last year, Norm Pattiz, CEO of Courtside Entertainment, summed up the destructive effect Limbaugh has had on the entire industry, noting that a "tremendous chunk of advertising revenue was wiped out in terms of support for national talk radio programs." Pattiz added that "the movement in talk radio to some degree is moving away from conservative talk radio and into other genres."
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