Tuesday, August 12, 2003

There's a rather manufactured controversy going on regarding a supposed feud between Rush Limbaugh and the blogosphere. InstaPundit and several other bloggers have picked up on it.

My take is this: The radio audience is much bigger than the blogosphere will ever be. Rush Limbaugh is an excellent, professional talk show host, and he will continue to be an important influence on popular opinion as long as he keeps going. Rush's target audience is approximately high school graduate level, same as Time and Newsweek and the network news. Radio gets huge numbers of listeners, and if I am correct, Limbaugh has the single most popular talk show in America. There are few choices on the radio, though--there are not many information sources, 20 or 30 stations in a city of which two or three are news-talk, and a whole hell of a lot of information receivers, anyone with a radio.

The blogosphere is just the other way around. There are a tremendous amount of information sources and a much smaller number of information receivers. How many people, bloggers and blogreaders, are active in the political B-sphere? We're not counting kittybloggers or techheads, we're counting Reynolds and Den Beste and Quick and their ilk, and let's define active as reading at least one blog a week. I bet it's fewer than one million people all totaled. Limbaugh gets what, five million listeners a day?

Blogs are also generally aimed higher than mass-market radio; I figure most political blogs are written for a college-graduate audience. One thing this means is that blogs are only going to appeal to the top 30% socioeconomically, while Rush appeals to that big middle seventy percent. (There are overlaps, of course, but the bottom twenty percent are reachable only through the most basic TV programs.)

So I'm really not sure what the big deal is. Limbaugh and bloggers, I think, are aiming at different audiences and so there's not that much competition between them. Sure, some of the blogosphere also listens to Limbaugh, but I don't see that either is taking audience away from the other, unlike what the blogosphere and the net in general are doing to the daily newspapers (showing how much they suck) and the weekly newsmagazines (showing how out of date they are; it's a dying format).

Prediction: Limbaugh is a loudmouth but he is very far from being stupid. He might not have been too hip to blogs before this little contretemps, but I'll guarantee you he is now, and I would not be at all surprised to see him mention several of the more prominent conservative bloggers on an upcoming program. Why turn the bloggers into an enemy when he can so easily have them as an ally?

Comment: One of the shibboleths of the left is Rush Limbaugh. You have to hate his guts if you're a liberal. Well, I've actually listened to Limbaugh with some frequency, and he is the opposite of angry, mean, and rude, as his enemies paint him. He's actually one of the calmer and less obnoxious radio talk-show hosts. He's made several well-publicized errors, but that'd be hard not to do when you're on the radio 900 hours a year. I wouldn't put myself down as a big fan, but Rush is definitely the best radio guy in America now in his field.

No comments: