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Angelo Carusone

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  • Fox News' ad chief admits that advertisers are leaving. Here's what's going on.

    Most national advertisers reject Fox News’ most prominent hosts -- and with good reason

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A new report published by Politico examines the rejection that Fox News’ most prominent programs are experiencing from advertisers.

    Just how bad is it?

    According to the article, Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s advertiser base has effectively evaporated. Most national “blue-chip” advertisers won’t advertise on her show. Her advertiser base, which had included 229 brands prior to April 2018, has shrunk down to 85, with many of those either being short-burst political advertisers or less desirable direct-response ads.

    In late March 2018, Ingraham publicly ridiculed Parkland mass-shooting survivor David Hogg for not being accepted to a college he had applied to attend. Hogg and online activists responded by showing Ingraham’s history of attacks to her advertisers. Advertisers fled her program in droves, with many publicly announcing their decision and many more quietly removing their ads. Advertisers publicly exited her show a second time a few months later after Ingraham compared immigrant children detention centers to summer camps.

    As Politico observes, Fox News responded to this diminished advertiser inventory by reducing the commercial time on Ingraham’s show by about one-third -- from around 15 minutes per show to a bit more than 10 minutes per show.

    But this time statistic alone doesn’t capture the full scope of the damage, because it includes unpaid ads (like promos for Fox News programs).

    If you look at paid ads alone, Ingraham’s show has about 50 percent less ads per show now than she did before advertisers started to flee. According to a Media Matters analysis, Ingraham averaged 31 paid ads per show prior to advertisers fleeing her show in late March and now averages 17 paid ads per show.

    With most blue-chip advertisers refusing to run on Ingraham’s show, the companies filling the available slots are direct-response advertisers that “often look to buy leftover space at discounted rates and are less picky about where their ads appear,” Politico noted. Over time, this trend has the net effect of driving down the ad rates for a show. (The exact same thing happened with Glenn Beck’s Fox program, as I chronicled here in great detail.)

    In dollars and cents, Kantar Media’s Jon Swallen tells Politico, Ingraham’s advertising revenue could be down a staggering 15-30 percent!

    The advertiser problems aren’t limited to Ingraham’s show either. Dozens of companies have removed their ads from Sean Hannity’s program, and even more have told me that they block Hannity and other more extreme Fox News programs so their ads never appear in the first place.

    Fox News’ head of ad sales, Marianne Gambelli, blamed Media Matters and activists for making advertisers uncomfortable with aligning with certain content.

    Gambelli’s assessment is partially correct. Activists have been a potent force here. And, I admit, Media Matters has doggedly chronicled Fox News, and we have spent considerable time over the past year warning advertisers and media buyers about Fox News’ intensifying extremism and the risks of associating with it.

    But Gambelli ignores the bigger cause of Fox News’ growing advertiser problem: the channel’s own talent.

    Fox News’ most prominent shows -- the ones that are supposed to be most palatable for advertisers -- are also defined by bigotry, extremism, conspiracy theories, and outright volatility. From a business perspective, they’re a bad bet.

    Additionally, those shows and the network as a whole often function as an extension of the White House’s communications operation. It’s one thing for a show to have an ideological or political perspective, but much of Fox News’ programming these days is more akin to a political propaganda operation. That puts advertisers in the position of not just aligning with an ideology, but actively participating in politics -- something just about every advertiser is loathe to do.

    Earlier this month, I tweeted out this observation following a series of recent conversations with media buyers:

    In the past two weeks, I've spoken pretty extensively [with] media buyers that place a lot of ads on Fox News. There is deep anxiety brewing that they will need to shift their clients' ads away from Fox News before a massive controversy forces them to after causing reputation damage.

    After a then Fox News contributor tweeted that Prof. Blasey Ford was a "skank," one buyer who I had been pushing on for some time reached out to me saying, “This is what you've been warning about. Thank god for advertisers this didn't happen on air.”

    But what that buyer missed and I pointed out is: It just as easily could have happened on air because that kind of stuff is not abnormal for Fox News, it's actually the norm. And you can see similar odious comments daily.

    Those sentiments I was hearing were echoed by the advertising executive quoted in the Politico report:

    One advertising executive said that most brands he works with find it easier to steer clear of the Fox News prime-time block. He said CNN and MSNBC are not subject to the same concerns, since those networks’ hosts have not courted controversy at the same level.

    “Those prime-time personalities for the most part have proven themselves over time to be more trouble than they’re worth,” the executive said of Fox News.

    Indeed. The advertising industry has ample reason to feel this way.

    Last fall, Fox News viewers began smashing their Keurig machines at Sean Hannity’s behest after the company advised me that it would remove its ads from Hannity’s show:

    Fox News basically let the situation unfold for days before seemingly intervering and pressuring Hannity to tamp down the boycott of his former advertiser. But the business damage was done, as more media buyers recognized that the best way to protect their clients from the inevitable next outrage was just to keep their ads off the program in the first place.

    There’s been a steady stream of reminders, too.

    For example, Tucker Carlson courted controversy earlier this summer when he began effectively promoting an ethnonationalist ideal of people living with their own kind by arguing that diversity actually makes society weaker.

    Just a few weeks ago, citing an increase in non-white people in America, Laura Ingraham lamented that “in some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore.”

    And there are plenty more where those two examples came from.

    The bottom-line takeaway from this latest Politico piece is consistent with what I have been saying for some time now: A portion of Fox News’ programming is increasingly toxic to advertisers due to its extremism or volatility, and those shows are experiencing deep and sustained advertiser losses.

    It’s clear that Fox News isn’t going to change or address the issues either. So those advertiser problems are about to get even worse.

  • Fox News’ ad revenue nose-dives, declining a whopping 17 percent

    Hannity’s advertiser losses signal that Fox’s business model is not sustainable

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    Fox News’ role as a secondary communications shop for Donald Trump and host Sean Hannity’s advertiser troubles are apparently starting to affect the network’s bottom line.

    In September 2017, Fox News’ ad revenue dropped a whopping 17 percent as compared to September 2016, while CNN’s dipped 1 percent and MSNBC’s increased 2 percent.
     

    To be fair, modest fluctuations in advertising revenue between presidential election years and off years are absolutely normal and expected; typically, year-to-year revenue will decline in off years compared to presidential election years.

    You can see those typical fluctuations reflected in MSNBC’s minor gain and CNN’s minor decline. Fox News’ decline, though, is sharp and wildly out of whack with its cable rivals.

    The relative disproportion of Fox’s 17 percent loss means that it can’t be attributed merely to normal market fluctuations. If the market as a whole was the primary cause, then you’d see larger changes at CNN and MSNBC too. Accordingly, this massive loss indicates that there are other factors unique to Fox that are driving the drop.

    The single biggest factor likely driving this decline is the fallout from advertisers leaving Sean Hannity’s program.

    Yes: Sean Hannity is losing advertisers! And, as we have seen before, when advertisers start leaving, revenue begins to decline.

    Advertisers first became skittish about Hannity’s program in May of 2017 after he began promoting conspiracy theories about the July 2016 murder of a Democratic National Committee staffer. The conspiracy theory drew widespread backlash, including from the victim's family, journalists, and even others at Fox News. Yet Hannity carried on peddling the conspiracy theory, and he actually started lashing out at Fox News and its advertisers.

    Hannity signaled that he was volatile and that his volatility could prove bad for business. So advertisers started paying attention. At this time, I also started to hear rumblings about advertisers dropping Hannity’s program.

    As the weeks went on, Hannity’s conspiracy theories, smears, and attacks intensified. In early August, Media Matters responded to Hannity’s escalating extremism by launching an effort to educate advertisers about his conspiracy theory peddling, his collaboration with the White House to advance Trump’s interests, his efforts to undermine the rule of law, and the odious and reckless nature of his claims.

    In early September, The Associated Press looked at the first few weeks of the Stop Hannity campaign. Its resulting report included a public statement from Cadillac about why the company had stopped advertising on Hannity’s program; it also pointed out that Media Matters had heard from over a dozen companies that had similarly ceased advertising on Hannity’s show.

    Based on my extensive experience with these kinds of campaigns, my sense is that Hannity’s advertiser losses are more significant than the dozen or so large companies that have provided explicit statements. Rather, Hannity’s volatility has become so widely recognized that media buyers, out of concern for their clients, are simply excluding Hannity’s program from their selections from the outset in order to avoid getting sucked up into one of his conspiracy theories or contemptible attacks.

    Hannity’s recent collaboration with and defenses of serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly will only make advertisers more wary about associating with him. And the fact that Fox News eagerly embraced this collaboration and actively promoted it will validate advertisers’ concerns about the Fox News brand as a whole. Rightfully so!

    The timing of Fox News’ massive ad revenue loss lines up almost exactly with Hannity’s loss of advertisers. It’s safe to say that it’s more than mere coincidence. They’re connected.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Sean Hannity is costing Fox News. Fox News accepts this either out of the goodness of its executives’ hearts, or, more likely, because the network prioritizes advancing a political agenda and Hannity helps advance that agenda. Those political priorities create an additional contributing factor to Fox News’ revenue drop: the bigotry, vitriol, lies, and rank partisan machinations that have come to define Fox News’ brand.

    Aside from the Fox News lies that are put on full display for all every time Trump parrots a Fox & Friends segment, a look at the network’s coverage of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, back in August tells you all you need to know about Fox News’ maleficence. On that day, a protestor was run over and killed by a white supremacist. Instead of covering the tragic death for what it was, Fox News spent several hours maligning the people protesting white supremacists and repeatedly suggesting that the white supremacist driver was acting out of self-defense -- needless obfuscation from Fox News that seemingly contributed to Trump’s initial “both sides” comment.

    That’s not an outlier. There’s a list a mile long of examples just like that, because it’s the Fox News brand.

    Mostly driven by concerns around digital advertising, companies are becoming increasingly mindful about brand safety and intentionality in that advertising. And that mindfulness is starting to influence other advertising decisions as well, like television sponsorships.

    Companies do not want their advertising to be associated with rank partisanship, bigotry, or deceit. They recognize that it’s bad for business. But Fox News continues to offer all three in spades, and as a result, I suspect it is beginning to have a downward effect on the network’s commercial viability as a whole.

    Bottom line is this: Fox News’ ad revenue plummeted. It’s likely largely attributable to Hannity’s growing advertiser losses. And it also appears to reflect a deeper vulnerability in Fox News’ business model of bigotry, deceit, and partisanship.

    ------

    Visit StopHannity.com to learn more about how you can get involved in the effort to hold Sean Hannity accountable. Your participation matters. Onward!

  • Statement By Media Matters President Angelo Carusone On Trump Blacklisting Media Outlets

    Carusone: Outlets That Participate In Briefings While Outlets Are Banned "Lend Legitimacy To A Process That Is Fundamentally Inconsistent With A Free Press"

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone issued the following statement after the Trump White House banned members of the media from attending a briefing:

    Media Matters sounded the alarm about the clear and present danger Donald Trump presented to a free press. We told White House correspondents that Trump’s blacklist was only going to get worse over time if they didn’t act. And it wasn’t just us. More than 300,000 people signed a petition urging White House correspondents to stand up to Trump’s blacklist by refusing to participate if Trump banned one -- or more -- of their colleagues.

    Today’s actions underscore the importance of White House correspondents standing up to Trump’s blacklist. It's no coincidence that the outlets that have been at the forefront in breaking stories about Trump’s conflicts of interest and his associates’ ties to Russia were banned from today’s gaggle. Trump is trying to delegitimize and punish news outlets for practicing rigorous journalism while simultaneously giving their spots to pro-Trump propagandists.

    Outlets like Time and The Associated Press did the right thing in standing up to Trump’s blacklist by refusing to participate in the gaggle in solidarity with their banned colleagues.

    It’s unfortunate and damaging for the profession of journalism that ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, and Bloomberg chose to support Trump’s blacklist by attending the briefing. It may sound harsh to characterize their participation in the event as support, but that’s what it is. By participating, these outlets not only make it easier for Trump to continue blacklisting journalists, but they also lend legitimacy to a process that is fundamentally inconsistent with a free press.

    Over 320,000 individuals have signed Media Matters' petition calling for the White House press corps to stand up to Trump's blacklist.

  • With Donald Trump Abandoning Its Debate, Fox News Scorched By Its Own Chicanery

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    Donald Trump

    GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump backing out of Fox News' debate is a damning indictment of the creature that the right-wing media helped create and that the rest of the media enabled for far too long.

    Not only did Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media manufacture many of the lies that serve as the refrain of Trump's campaign, but they also fomented much of the racial antipathy and sexism that Trump is using to fuel his campaign.

    In this conservative universe, facts don't matter. Which is exactly why Donald Trump can claim that he is backing out of the Thursday's debate due to the fact that Fox News doesn't treat him well, despite the fact that Trump has appeared on Fox News at least two and a half times more than any of his GOP primary opponents. (I'll save the irony of Fox News being burned by the same kind of fact free attacks that the network conditioned its audience to respond to for another day.)

    In his rationale, Trump also cited concerns about the debate being moderated by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Trump has openly attacked Kelly since the first Fox News debate in August. But make no mistake, Donald Trump does not have a problem with Megyn Kelly because she's a serious journalist who asks really tough questions (she isn't). Nor is it because she challenges Trump's policies. Remember, Kelly was one of the first media figures to defend Donald Trump's claim that Mexican immigrants are rapists and killers.

    Trump has a problem with Megyn Kelly because at the first Republican primary debate, Kelly asked Trump about his misogyny and his long record of sexists attacks against women. Trump reacted by attacking Kelly, suggesting that she was on her period and subsequently threatening to boycott Fox News.

    Media Matters' John Whitehouse succinctly summed up the connection between the Kelly/Trump dynamic at play here and the right-wing media: "For decades, conservatives have not only made it clear that misogyny is allowed and acceptable, but that any attempts to silence it are wrong." Indeed. In 2012, Rush Limbaugh went on a multi-day tirade against then law school student Sandra Fluke, calling her a "slut," a "prostitute" and demanding that she post sex videos online among other attacks. Instead of condemning the attacks, conservatives lined up to defend Limbaugh's comments (including Megyn Kelly and then presidential candidate Mitt Romney.)

    Kelly's confrontation of Trump's misogyny was inconsistent with the values that the right-wing media audience has been steeped in. In this universe, facts don't matter, sexism is acceptable, and trying to stop misogyny is a punishable offense. Trump made gains within the conservative movement because of his prolific misogynistic offensive against Kelly, not in spite of it. With this latest gambit, I suspect his calculus is that he'll either make additional gains or suffer no consequences.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the news media has enabled Trump's bigoted bullying and chicanery by creating a consequence-free climate for Trump to operate in. Put aside that they have not given the Republican front-runner any meaningful scrutiny consistent with front-runners in previous elections. And, put aside the perverse incentive they advance by rewarding Trump with attention for each drop of vitriol. They have sat mostly idle while Trump intimidates and suppresses the news media in a way not seen in modern politics. Trump has thrown reporters out of events, had security guards threaten journalists not to interview rally attendees and banning entire media outlets from attending his public events. Instead of standing up for their colleagues and profession, the rest of the news media not only ignored Trump's attacks on the 4th Estate, but tripped over each other to give Trump even more attention.

    As this campaign season unfolded, we have seen the coalescence of fact free and consequence free.

    Just a few days ago, Donald Trump (who is fond of reminding people that he often carries a gun on his person) bragged that he believes his supporters are so devoted that he could shoot someone in cold blood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and in cold blood and not suffer any political consequences. Is it any wonder that he thinks he can get away with skipping this debate, especially among an audience that is already conditioned not to care about the facts?

  • Rush Limbaugh Dropped By California's KOWL, One Of His "Original" Affiliates

    California's KOWL Says Radio Host Has Become "Toxic" To Advertisers

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    California's KOWL has dropped Rush Limbaugh's radio show from its lineup. Describing the station as "one of the original Rush Limbaugh affiliates," the announcement release emphasized that the decision was based exclusively on "economic reasons," citing Limbaugh's "toxic brand."

    The release elaborated on the economic reasons: "And now the free market has spoken. Rush has repelled local, regional, and national advertisers from KOWL costing the stations [sic] thousands of dollars in advertisers." It went on to state that "advertisers would rather just avoid the whole station then [sic] take the risk of being associated with Rush's increasingly toxic brand."

    KOWL's explanation for dropping Limbaugh's show is very similar to reasons offered by Boston's WRKO and Indianapolis' WIBC, which both recently dropped Limbaugh from their lineups.

    The commercial viability of Limbaugh's show has suffered since 2012 following Limbaugh's prolonged attack on then-law student Sandra Fluke. That attack and resulting firestorm led advertisers to recognize that Limbaugh's volatility and brand were bad for business. Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported on the industry-wide damage Limbaugh is causing. Limbaugh's toxicity is so severe that it has cost radio stations millions of dollars in lost ad revenue and contributed to dramatic reductions in advertising rates for talk radio as a whole.

    KOWL Station Manager Steve Harness offered some behind-the-scenes insight and touched on the additional problem of Limbaugh's syndicator fees (which at this point adds injury to injury by having radio stations that are losing money due to Limbaugh also pay him for the disservice of losing them money), explaining in the statement: 

    "I spent a lot of time negotiating directly with Limbaugh's syndicator. I told them that we didn't want to lose his show, but that we couldn't pay him a fee in addition to him losing us money repelling advertisers and they refused to drop the monthly free. Ironically, they lost the fee anyway and a long-time affiliate."

    Indeed. From the initial days after the Fluke controversy, Limbaugh and the team around him have shown little regard for the damage to the industry Limbaugh caused. In the first few days, Limbaugh resisted apologizing, which further inflamed the controversy -- eventually only apologizing for two but remaining steadfast in refusing to apologize for the other 44 personal attacks he had lobbed. Subsequently, he continued to engage in the same kinds of indecency and vitriol that ignited the controversy in the first place. This only served to emphasize Limbaugh's volatility and calcify the recognition that Limbaugh is bad for business.

    Advertisers continue to leave and stay away thanks to a dedicated group of independent organizers in the Flush Rush and #StopRush communities. Their participation matters and is having a big effect.

    Onward!

  • What Everyone Watching Republicans Debate On Fox News Should Keep In Mind

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    GOP Debate on Fox

    Beware the low expectations you have for Fox News.

    Tonight, Fox News will host the first Republican 2016 presidential primary debate (as well as a forum at 5pm for candidates that Fox has deemed less deserving of the primetime spotlight). The debate will be moderated by Fox News' Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace.

    At Media Matters, we spend considerable time steeped in Fox News' misinformation. As part of our larger media monitoring efforts, we watch Fox News every day from 6AM until 11PM. We're well versed in their chicanery and adept at combating their deceit with airtight research. It's why we often say of Media Matters, "We watch Fox News, so you don't have to."

    But on nights like tonight, many people who don't usually watch Fox News will tune in. These viewers -- be they progressives, people who regularly get their news from other networks, or just casual political observers who engage only around big events -- have some impression of what Fox News' brand is. They tend to have a sense that Fox News is very conservative and that Fox News lies. And they probably initially associate Fox News with some of its legacy personalities like Bill O'Reilly, or even former ones like Glenn Beck.

    These viewers tune in with the expectation that the Fox figures moderating the debate will align with their impression or sense of Fox News' brand of bloviating, bias, and bigotry. In effect, the bar is set -- and it's pretty low.

    Here's a rough version of this that ends up playing out on nights like tonight: Fox puts its best foot forward. The Fox figures conduct themselves in a way that exceeds the low impression that these non-regular viewers have of Fox personalities. Many of these viewers think to themselves, "Hmm. Well, those moderators were pretty reasonable." Some may even pass remarks to this effect on social media or in their social circles.

    Think back to your social media feeds from nights like this. I bet you saw some posts from friends or even some mainstream media figures either giving accolades to Fox or mentioning something along the lines of 'Fox News is conservative, but that news side moderator seems pretty okay.'

    In reality, no, they weren't 'pretty okay' or 'reasonable' as some non-regular viewers might believe. It's just that the bar is really low.

    Fox is well aware of this dynamic. They need nights like tonight.

    A few years ago, the idea that Fox News is not news but rather more akin to a political operation finally broke through and became a widely-shared opinion in political and media circles. In late 2011, Roger Ailes, Fox News' Chairman & CEO, responded by conceding that Fox News needed a "course correction" and retreating to what the network claims is a separation between its commentary and hard news side.

    Since then, Fox News has often touted its supposed "news side" to deflect criticism or to create a veneer of legitimacy. Nights like tonight are pivotal to this strategy.

    In the lead up to tonight's debate, there were well choreographed pieces in Politico and The New York Times that emphasized the distinction between Fox News' commentary side and news side and advanced the narrative Fox wants told about how hard-hitting the anchors moderating tonight's debate are.

    It's very likely that the Fox anchors moderating tonight's debate will exceed the low expectations that occasional viewers have of Fox News.

    Don't be fooled though!

    Just because the three people sitting at the moderators' table won't remind you of Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck, be wary of giving them too much credit.

    When not performing for an audience of non-typical Fox viewers...

    • Megyn Kelly defended Donald Trump's characterization that Mexican immigrants are "rapists" and "killers," and cited Ann Coulter's racially inflammatory book, Adios America, to substantiate this defense. Kelly regularly preys on racial anxieties -- by issuing dire warnings that President Obama is in cahoots with New Black Panthers, decrying diversity, or dismissing concerns about racial justice and policing.
    • Bret Baier is Fox News' lead anchor on Benghazi, diligently promoting emerging falsehoods, baseless smears, and the latest partisan attacks. He even hosts occasional hour-long special investigation shows, which look and sound more like reruns of Unsolved Mysteries than news reports.
    • Chris Wallace, who even Fox News' detractors recognize as Fox's most legitimate personality and voice of reason, still promotes doubt about climate change.

    This is bigger than these three individuals. Kelly, Wallace and Baier are simply window dressing that Fox is putting on display tonight to advance the idea that Fox has a hard news side. But there isn't a meaningful difference between Fox News' supposed news side and its commentary side.

    Look no further for evidence of this than Bill Sammon. Sammon is a right-wing ideologue and serves as an executive on Fox News' supposed news side. He won't be on stage tonight. But, according to Fox News' Digital Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt, Sammon helped lead the team that prepared the questions for tonight's debate. Several years ago, Media Matters obtained leaked communications from Sammon that showed him using his position to impose a right-wing slant on Fox News' supposed hard news reporting as well as instructing on-air reporters to refrain from accurately reporting on rising global temperatures caused by climate change.

    So before you rush to give Fox News credit for exceeding low expectations, just keep in mind that many of the smears, ignorant remarks, and flat-out lies told by candidates tonight were either very likely promoted heavily or manufactured by Fox itself. The landscape has been seeded with Fox News' chicanery. Candidates are well aware of the audience that they're speaking to -- a fact reflected in the decision by some of them to appeal directly to Fox News' core audience with substantial ad buys in an attempt to increase their standings in the polls.

  • Boston's WRKO Dropping Rush Limbaugh's Show From Its Lineup

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    Rush Limbaugh

    Rush Limbaugh's Boston radio affiliate WRKO has announced it is dropping Limbaugh's talk show from its lineup. Limbaugh's syndicator, Premiere, confirmed the news in a statement, which reads in part: "We were unable to reach agreeable terms for The Rush Limbaugh Show to continue on WRKO. A final broadcast date will be announced in the near future."

    WRKO has now become the second major radio station in recent weeks to drop Limbaugh's program. Limbaugh's longtime Indianapolis affiliate WIBC severed ties with him in April. WIBC's parent company noted that Limbaugh's absence could actually improve its advertiser prospects.

    The commercial viability of Rush Limbaugh's show has suffered since 2012, when advertisers began fleeing the program in the wake of Limbaugh's prolonged attack on then-law student Sandra Fluke. The Wall Street Journal has reported on the millions of dollars in advertising revenue stations who carry Limbaugh's show lose, as well as the industry-wide damage resulting from Limbaugh's toxicity to advertisers. Notably, according to the report, the exodus of national advertisers has played a significant part in reducing talk radio advertising rates to about half of what it costs to run ads on music stations, even though the two formats have "comparable audience metrics."

    WRKO dropping Limbaugh from its lineup is just the latest reminder that Rush Limbaugh is bad for business.

    Advertisers continue to leave and stay away thanks to a dedicated group of independent organizers in the Flush Rush and #StopRush communities. Their participation matters and is having a big effect.

    Onward!

  • Rush Limbaugh Dropped By Longtime Indianapolis Station

    WIBC Highlights Advertiser Prospects Associated With Dropping Limbaugh

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    Indianapolis' WIBC has broadcast Rush Limbaugh's show for 22 years. Despite this long history, parent company Emmis Communications announced April 13 that they are dropping Limbaugh's show from WIBC's lineup.

    Charlie Morgan, an executive for Emmis, indicated that the decision to drop Limbaugh was about the "long-term direction of the station," but also acknowledged that there was a "business element to the decision." Underscoring the business considerations, Morgan explained to the Indianapolis Business Journal that the absence of Limbaugh could actually help WIBC's advertiser prospects:

    While Morgan expects some WIBC listeners to be "hugely disappointed" by the change, he said losing Limbaugh could open up the station to more advertising opportunities.

    There are some--primarily national--advertisers that refuse to air commercials during Limbaugh's show, Morgan explained. Emmis officials began notifying its advertisers of the change Monday.

    "We believe this could open us up to a new group of advertisers," he said.

    Limbaugh's show has been plagued with woes ever since advertisers began fleeing in the wake of Limbaugh's multi-day attack on then-law student Sandra Fluke. Thousands of local and regional businesses refuse to advertise on Limbaugh's show and the bulk of national advertisers are now reportedly boycotting his program. The cumulative effect of Limbaugh's advertiser difficulties has created a problem so substantial that it has actually spilled over and is hurting conservative talk radio as a whole.

    The Wall Street Journal recently confirmed the industry-wide damage resulting from Limbaugh's beleaguered program. According to the report, the exodus of national advertisers has played a significant part in reducing talk radio advertising rates to about half of what it costs to run ads on music stations, even though the two formats have "comparable audience metrics."

    Further, the report also provides a look at the millions of dollars individual stations have lost. The chart below, which was taken from the Journal report, gives a before and after look at the advertising revenue of talker stations in some of the largest markets. Notably, three of the stations that carried Limbaugh originally (KFI, WSB, and WBAP) experienced the greatest losses:

    What is happening at the stations identified in the chart is happening at other talk stations, especially those that carry Limbaugh's program. While it was already reported that major radio companies were hemorrhaging millions of dollars due to Limbaugh's toxicity, the Journal's analysis of the effect at the local station level was revealing and may offer some additional insight into WIBC's decision to drop Limbaugh.

    WIBC is just the latest in a string of reminders that Rush Limbaugh is bad for business.

    The Journal report also confirmed that advertisers continue to leave and stay away thanks to a dedicated group of independent organizers in the Flush Rush and #StopRush communities. Their participation matters and is having a tremendous effect.

    Onward!

  • REPORT: Cumulus Plans To Drop Rush Limbaugh From 40 Stations

    Still Losing Advertisers, Limbaugh Remains Bad For Business

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    LimbaughPolitico reports that Cumulus Media plans on dropping Rush Limbaugh's show at the end of the year.

    Cumulus has reportedly decided not to renew Sean Hannity's contract either.

    Cumulus carries Limbaugh and Hannity's shows on more than 40 of its stations, including Limbaugh's longtime flagship WABC in New York as well as stations in big markets like Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Dallas.

    Limbaugh's show has been plagued with woes ever since advertisers began fleeing in the wake of Limbaugh's multi-day attack on then-law student Sandra Fluke; the majority of national advertisers are now boycotting Limbaugh's show. In fact, the backlash from advertisers has been so strong that it has spilled over, injuring digital streaming advertising as well as other similar programs (Sean Hannity's, for example).

    The Fallout Continues

    Advertisers big and small continue to flee Limbaugh's show. In just the last few weeks alone, several recognizable companies have taken action regarding their ads and Rush Limbaugh...

    After a CVS ad appeared during Limbaugh's show, CVS advised that it won't happen again, explaining: "The Rush Limbaugh show is not a program on which we typically advertise & a recent commercial was aired on this program in error."

    Upon learning its ads were running during Limbaugh's show, Disney On Ice promptly removed them, stating: "The advertisements you are referring to have been pulled and should no longer be airing during Rush Limbaugh's show."

    Citing Limbaugh's indecent content, fast food chain Bojangles also removed ads. The apologetic chain noted that it didn't purchase the ads directly but as part of a package, adding: "A number of our loyal guests have told us they were offended by some of the content on the program in question. We have looked into that content, and as a result we have taken the steps necessary to ensure our ads do not run on this program indefinitely."

    AAMCO went so far as to make an exception to its policy of leaving advertising decisions in the hands of locally owned franchisees in order to remove ads from Limbaugh's show.

    Advertisers have been taking action similiar to the aforementioned examples for more than a year, which accounts for the scope and scale of the financial damage. 

    "The Facts Are Indisputable."

    Every quarter for the past year, like clockwork, Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey has hopped on a call with business investors and announces millions in financial losses associated with Rush Limbaugh's show.

    A few days before the May 2013 investors call, a "source close to" Limbaugh's show attempted to soften the blow by denying that Limbaugh was having any negative effect on advertiser sales and warned that Limbaugh would walk if Cumulus continued to blame him. After announcing $2.4M in quarterly losses, Lew Dickey rebutted the assertion that Limbaugh wasn't hurting ad sales, stating: "The facts are indisputable regarding the impact certain things have had on ad dollars."

    Cumulus isn't the only radio company reporting financial losses associated with Limbaugh's show either; other radio companies have also reported significant losses directly attributable to either Limbaugh's show or the intensifying advertiser fallout.

    Noam Pattiz, CEO of Courtside Entertainment, best summarized the industry wide effect, 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."

    Indeed. During an interview with Bloomberg TV back in February, Dickey seemed to confirm Pattiz's assessment and signal the possibility of a shakeup, saying: "We're sort of seeing a shift in spoken-word radio from political-based talk over to sports." Dickey was sure to note that sports radio is popular with advertisers.

    Still Bad For Business

    For his part, Limbaugh has done little to reassure wary business interests that it's safe to go back in the water. To the contrary, he gives advertisers daily cause for concern by filling his airtime with the same bigotry, deceit and chicanery that have come to define his brand.

    In April, after spending a year dismissing the massive advertiser losses as a couple of french fries that weren't hurting anyone at all, Limbaugh acknowledged that he was having a problem. But instead of accepting any responsibility, he lashed out and blamed his woes on a conspiracy perpetuated "liberal feminists" in the media buying industry. (I imagine this didn't go over well at the next ad sales meeting).

    In the days following the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, Limbaugh vividly illustrated his volatility when he gleefully announced that he can now say "'nigga' with an A'" because "it's not racist." Limbaugh would argue that he was innocently commenting on an interview that Trayvon Martin's friend Rachel Jeantel had conducted with CNN. But given his odious track record of racially charged attacks, it seems Limbaugh felt like he had an opportunity to finally say the n-word on air with impunity. After all, he has been tiptoeing toward that point for some time. Regardless of the reasoning, the fact that he went there reinforces the concern that he hasn't really done anything to address the recklessness that created this mess to begin with.

    Aside from Limbaugh's recklessness, the consequences his show has experienced are due in large part to hundreds of independent organizers, like the Flush Rush and the #StopRush communities. Their participation matters and is having a tremendous effect.

    Whether Cumulus ultimately drops Rush Limbaugh remains to be seen, but one thing is irrefutable: Rush Limbaugh has proven to be bad for business. In the past, Limbaugh's renewal and an increase in subscriber fees would have been almost a sure thing, but not anymore. And, with good reason.

    Onward!

  • On Limbaugh's Advertiser Losses, Cumulus CEO says: "The Facts Are Indisputable"

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    RushOn its first quarter earnings call with investors, Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey reported a $2.4 million dollar decline in revenue associated with syndicated talk (which is a polite way of referencing fallout from the Rush Limbaugh's loss of advertisers without calling Limbaugh out by name). Dickey has reported millions in losses associated with Limbaugh in previous quarters as well.

    Anticipating this report, a "source close to" Rush Limbaugh's show began making the rounds insisting that Limbaugh is not to blame for the losses, while indicating that Limbaugh is considering walking away from Cumulus, which currently carries his show on 40 of its stations.

    Asked to address the Limbaugh issue during today's earnings call, Dickey flatly rejected the notion that Limbaugh is blameless, explaining: "We've had a tough go of it the last year. The facts are indisputable regarding the impact certain things have had on ad dollars."

    Indeed. As I explained yesterday, this Limbaugh source's contention doesn't stand up scrutiny:

    • Cumulus isn't the only company reporting losses associated with Limbaugh
    • It's being reported that the majority of national advertisers are currently boycotting Limbaugh's show
    • Even Limbaugh himself recently acknowledged his advertiser troubles, blaming it on "liberal feminist" media buyers

    In fact, Limbaugh has become so toxic that he's hurting other conservative talk shows. 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."

    Limbaugh has done nothing to signal to advertisers that he's not going to put them in a damaging situation, like he did to so many of his advertisers last year when he engaged in a three-day rant against Sandra Fluke. Instead, he's continued with same bigotry and recklessness that forced advertisers to walk away in the first place.

    Limbaugh is just as volatile as ever. It's why he's having so much trouble filling his ad space. And, this volatility is why Rush Limbaugh remains bad for business.

    Aside from Limbaugh's recklessness, the consequences his show has experienced is due in large part to scores of independent organizers, like the Flush Rush and the #StopRush community. Their participation matters and is having a tremendous effect.

    Onward.