Monday, January 25, 2010

The Politics of Talk

So this week a media experiment officially failed. Air America, a liberal-oriented national talk radio station, filed for bankruptcy and went off-air. This is especially interesting in a time when liberals control the White House as well as Congress. Some of the most profitable talk radio shows (Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity) are conservative oriented. So here's my question to you. Why do you think conservative based shows are more successful than liberal based shows? I don't necessarily want you to discuss why one political ideology is better than the other. I want you to frame your discussion in terms of media success. If another liberal based talk show were to emerge what do you think it would have to do to be as successful as a Limbaugh or O'Reilly show?

Also, please sign the blog with your full name if it is different than your user id. I can't tell who a person is sometimes when their user id doesn't match my role. For example, someone named Hartman posted last week but i'm not sure who to award the points to.


Ken Holm said...

This is a difficult question! I've pondered this a few times. I've never come up with a good answer. I am certain there were many very intelligent people working with quite a bit of data trying to figure out how they could create a successful business model.

My thought process in the past has included their methods, their market, and their message.

Rosie O'Donnell was very confrontational with Tom Selleck in 1999. Keith Olbermann has an ongoing schtick: "Worst Person in the World". From my skewed perspective, it seems much of the method used by liberals dwells on negative things. The anecdote is "bad news sells". Perhaps we are at a point in history when those trying to sell bad news (i. e. - newspapers comes to mind) may be starting to realize that bad news no longer sells.

On the flip side, I have seen Sean Hannity confront liberal guests. Bill O'Reilly started his career as an ambush reporter. Certainly Rush Limbaugh has no problem with pointing what he sees as inadequacies and flaws in those whose opinion he opposes. Conservative hosts can be confrontational as well. So, it may not be the method.

Perhaps the market can account for the difference in success. Conservatives and liberals come in all manner of states. Some are wealthy while others are poor. Some are educated while others are ignorant. Some are extreme in their views and others are moderate. Without some scientific study, any suggestion I might make regarding the differences between the two markets would be pure conjecture. In my mind, I have associated the liberal market as a non-influential market. That is, they are unable to make a financial impact sufficient to save shows like Air America. I cannot come up with a valid reason why this would be the case.

I have never listened to Randi Rhodes. I do not watch Keith Olbermann. I did not do so because I was not interested in hearing what I prejudged to be attacks on my beliefs.

In the past, I have listened to Rush Limbaugh and watched Bill O'Reilly. I sought to bolster my opinions with like minded people.

How can it be that the message may not be valid as evidenced by the election of so many liberal politicians. I assume that politics are almost a required diet for liberals. I know I am painting with a broad brush when I suggest that many liberals are compelled into the voting end of politics, ostensibly through unions and the like. At the same time, conservatives have no externally motivating force to push them to the polls.

Conversely, consuming media is not required of liberals. They get their marching orders from their unions. I do believe most people like to be led. That void in the life of the conservative may be filled by the conservative media.

Zack Harrington said...

This is a very interesting topic which I have discussed frequently with peers. I do not pretend to have the right answer or answers, but I do have a reasonable suggestion. I think Americans are moving further away from the stations that lack substance. Liberal stations have been trying to sell political gossip. Educated liberals and conservatives find this gossip insulting because our country is desperate for answers.
Limbaugh and O'Reilly are doing a good job in terms of communicating the facts. They understand that the American people are becoming disgruntled with issues pertaining to our country. Therefore, Limbaugh and O'Reilly are working hard to provide objective information to their viewers. In addition, Conservative based shows have been having more liberal guests visit the studio. These appearances have not been a right and left wing bash party. They have been more of a debate on issues and what is right for the American people. It is almost as if these shows understand people are eager to find middle ground on issues and make them work.
If another liberal based talk show were to emerge into the market they would have to conduct legitimate scenarios and discussions regarding our stuggles in this country. They would have to allow conservatives to speak their minds and debate accordingly. The American people want to hear both parties speak and then both solutions; not one party speak and one party's solution.

noelle carlin said...

I am a communications major, and to me it seems like even if someone is a liberal, they still want to listen to what the conservatives view is. Humans are curious by nature so when it comes to different views on the nation, the liberals have more of an open mind to listen to what the conservatives say and the conservatives are not open-minded at all. The fact that the United States is basically run by liberals does not make that big of an effect on the audience of the radio talk shows.

If another liberal talk show was the air, it would benefit them to get conversatives on to talk about the different views. People walking in a mall arguing will get more attention then the two that are talking about the same view. As a media thrived country, people care what the media says is popular and is better, but the same person also wants to listen to both sides and pick the better side. Just like the election of the Massachusetts Senetor, because of the speeches he gave, he sent some of the devoted democrates to the polls to vote for him, a republican. People care what the others have to say and they want to be able to make their own opinion about a disagreement.

Melvin Hayes said...

I think the reason conservative based shows are more successful, especially at this period in time is because we have a largely democratic administration. I think this is the case for a couple reasons. The first reason I believe this is because most of the liberal media is not into the new as much as they were when they were trying to get their desired officials elected. They have their people in office, and now the hype is over and people aren’t paying attention as much as they used to. Also, since the conservatives are not the majority, they are very engaged in what their officials are saying. They want to know what’s going on and when they are going to get their seats back. This is keeping them heavily in the news and gearing up to make their big debuts during every voting opportunity. It seems that the liberal media has become complacent, but the recent lost of Ted Kennedy’s seat to a conservative should be a key indicator that they need to wake up. The second reason I think conservatives are more successful in the media is because they have more controversial opinions, and they aren’t shy about expressing them. This type of behavior does well media and conservative media is smart and shrewd enough to play the game. People love drama and the more drama these individuals bring, the better it is for ratings, hence more money for them and the networks.

I think that if a liberal based talk show emerged, they would have to bring the pain. People enjoy watching each other behave politically incorrect. Many people would deny this, but the proof is in ratings of these types of shows. If it didn’t work, the shows would fail, but they aren’t. This is not specific to politics, but it also works for politics. The people who are most successful (liberal or conservative) are those who say what many others think or what many others wouldn’t dare to say aloud or outside the comforts of their homes. Conservative media does an excellent job at this. This is why Limbaugh is so successful. A liberal based talk show would have to bring something other than stories that refer to everyone loving each other, helping each other, and living happily ever after. These types of stories are nice at first, but they get old real soon. Anyone, liberal or conservative, can deliver a happy-go-lucky story, but everyone does not have what it takes to effectively deliver controversy like the conservative media. I don’t see liberals taking that trophy home anytime soon.

Brandy Stuart said...

I agree with some of the others students and their veiws. Conservative based shows speak their mind on any views that they have. Liberal talks more political stuff. I think that the coservative shows are more succesfull because they show both sides and thats what most people want to hear. To me I think that liberal are just for their party and their only.
I do not care for either side. I have watched O'Reilly and Olbermann bash everyone that doesn't have views as they think they should. However, Limbaugh has to but he has a better tackfull way of doing it.
I also belive either if your conservative or liberal you want to know what the other side says and how they feel, although in my point of view the whole white house and congersmen are liberal. Sometimes the liberal side does make more sence then the conservative but at times the points are widely veiwed and explained evenly on the conservative side and I think they are more succesfull becuase they look at both point of views.

Angela Doles said...

I’m not sure about which show would be successful, but at this time and day I would probably say a liberal based talk show would be more successful than a conservative. People are looking to the government to solve their medical, safety, and financial concerns. They don’t want to figure it out themselves so they are looking to the government to solve all the problems. I would prefer a more conservative show since it would allow people to voice their own opinions and not just go along with what a certain political party believes. But people tend to like confrontation so a conservative talk show maybe more successful, it would just depend on what type of audience you are polling and who is watching the talk shows.

Chris said...

According to what I read and hear about liberal media compared to conservative media is that conservative media is more likely to expose the full story or at least a broader view of it. Compared to liberal shows, which many viewers see as one-sided and in many cases truth altering in order to push an agenda.
Audiences looking for more than just a left-wing view of an issue would be more likely to tune in to a conservative show. In addition, it seems that more of the country, liberals and conservative alike, holds ideals and values that line up with the conservative views.
As for Air America specifically, it was estimated that one of the station's more popular host had 1.75 million listeners each week. Not an expert on radio ratings, but those numbers would indicate that there was a fairly large audience. Thus bringing us back to the question of why liberal shows are less successful? I have no definite answer, but one major point I can think of is consistency. Based on what I've read and have noticed from my own viewing, conservative media shows (exceptions can be found of course) consistently provide information that covers the full spectrum of a given issue. Perhaps this type of integrity in tackling issues in the media has won audiences over time.
Or, perhaps it could be due to marketing and exposure. Personally, I have been more likely to watch Fox news and CNN primarily because I always hear about them. Fox in particular saturates the news market. If more people are simply familiar with the name, then they will probably watch it more consistently than other shows.

Taryn Holland said...

It is hard to discuss this topic at hand without pushing your views out there so I will try my best. This is a good question and honestly I am not really sure. It could be any number of things but I do agree with Zach and Noelle in the fact that these conservative shows are having guest that make more of an interesting show. Take a step back and look at what Americans are interested in today, drama. When you have two people having different views debating it is more entertaining. Also, when there are debates it seems that more information gets out there. In a debate you are doing everything you can to win and will bring up a wide range of topics or opinions. It is hard not to watch these shows and not be interested in them.
This is the only reason I could possibly think of and agree with on this topic. Again, this is hard to talk about without bringing up my political views and why I believe mine is better than the other. So, I won’t even say whether I am conservative or liberal. To sum it up, the liberal shows not only need to bring up important information, they need to also bring a sort of entertainment to the show.

Anita Griffin said...


I think conservative base shows are more successful than liberal based shows, because I think they have different views on certain topics. It is not just one way or one sided. I know conservatives have different viewpoints on certain issues such as political, religious, affirmative action, healthcare, environment, etc. However, on the other hand Liberals are not afraid to speak their mind and promote their ideas, even though to a conservative it will seem unacceptable and strange. Conservatives like to preserve existing conditions and are limited to change which can be a good thing. I guess if you have an open mind, you may be able to understand some of the things liberals do, but if you don’t have an open mind then you probably will disagree with most of the things that they do. I think a lot of people like conservative based shows because of the way they deal with issues. I think conservative based shows can be very successful even during this day and time. Liberal base shows focus a lot on the political issues. I think people like to see that too. Religion and politics are always touchy subjects to discuss; however, they are very much talked about. I think if another liberal based talk show were to emerge, I think they could be successful. Although, I have only watched Rush Limbaugh a couple of times, he has held the #1 spot in radio ratings for years. He expresses his views in an entertaining way. I do like to watch O'Reilly from time to time. Whether or not another liberal base talk show could be as successful as Limbaugh or O’Reilly, maybe, but maybe not.

Lucky said...

I believe that one reason that conservative talk radio shows are staying on the air is because people are interested in what they have to say. Yes, these people might not have conservative beliefs, but they are interested in what the other side has to say. Also people might listen to conservative talk hosts because they get to the point of an issue quicker. Most liberal talk shows, that I have listened to, usually take all day to get to the point of an issue. People today are in a hurry to find out information.

If another liberal talk show appears, I am not sure what will happen to it. It all depends on what happens in the political arena. The main thing that a producer will have to remember is the marketing. You can sell anything if you have the right marketing strategy. If the liberal talk shows got together and made a strategy of what they want to achieve with the show, and work toward these goals, then they might be able to give the conservatives a run for their money.

Tanya Mathews said...

Even though I recognize the names of some of the different personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Dennis MIller, I have never really gotten into the debate issues on hot topics, political or otherwise. In the 1980s and early 1990s when Limbaugh would come on the radio station that I was listening to, I'd change the station. Sometime during this time, Limbaugh broadcast his radio show live on television. Far from being able to quote spcifics about this time, I know there were many heated debates over the hot topic of the day.
Liberalist do not seem to embrace the same style of talk radio as the conservative talk radio in the fact that the liberals don't find the need to commercialize their debates with the heated topics. The heated passion of the conservatives such as Limbaugh bring about the heated debates because they look into the souls of the listeners with the open hand to provide an area of discussion that weighs greatly on their minds. Liberalists are not so ready to hand down the topics in the same way. The only comparison that I can think of is that Limbaugh should be in religion as a hell and brimstone preacher as it's easier to criticize those in power with that kind of heat and passion. Limbaugh can also be viewed as a modern day version of Father Charles Coughlin, the controversial priest that went on the air in the mid-1930s, known for criticizing the New Deal and FDR.

Alvin McKinley said...

I believe there are definite reasons that Air America has closed. As we have discussed earlier to what our preferences are as far as media sources are concerned, we found out that more and more people are shifting their preferences for news and political commentary towards internet based media and TV shows.
The decline in the number of listeners has a great effect on the profitability of radio stations. The impact of the radio commercials does not even compare to that of TV stations. It is very well known that humans are more likely to process visual information rather that audible information.
Hence, the ethos, logos and pathos that can be delivered to the consumer makes a better impact when presented in graphical form.

The number of TV station viewers is much larger than the number of listeners of radio stations. I do believe that the liberal or conservative viewpoint matters only slightly in this case. I can draw a conclusion that there is a definite gap in political views between younger and older generation. I think it is true that older generation is more likely to follow radio newscast and commentary and is more likely to be conservative in their beliefs. I gave consulted with the findings of the American National Election Studies (ANES) in terms of percentage of Republicans, Democrats and Independent. What I have found, is that between 1952 and 2004, the number of Republicans increased from 34% to 41%, the number of Democrats decreased from 57% to 49%, and the number of independent increased from 6% to 10% (according to So here we see a different trend pointing to the increase of conservative population. Also, the number of people who claimed independent rose and they are the people who are not likely to follow either one of the stations - conservative or liberal, but rather get the political commentary from independent media. Most of the central states in America are conservative and the big residential hubs are more liberal. That will affect the way people receive their news. I also believe there is a correlation of educational level and political standpoint.
To summarize, I'd like to conclude that there is a definite shift towards sources of media other than radio. I believe it is associated with our perception of information as well. And lastly, the gap between Republicans and Democrats is becoming narrower in the last few decades. Even Obama voted affirmatively on certain legislature that was definitely conservative.

Paul Miller said...

I believe that one of the reasons conservative radio programs do so well is the motivation of the listening audience. For many listeners, they feel that this is the only outlet to hear news events from their point of view. If you listen to a conservative radio program, a good portion of the program is devoted to how bias mainstream media can be.
Another thing to put into consideration is that the Rush Limbaugh has been around for over twenty years. He has had time to build his audience. This has developed him into a brand. You can say any of his slogans to almost anyone in America and they would know where it came from. This has also helped other programs like Hannity. People enjoy the style of program that Limbaugh has and are willing to listen to one that is similar.
I am not sure the details of how Air America failed. But, I don’t believe that it has to do with a lack of interest. If a liberal radio program were to work, it needs to be entertaining. That is one thing you have to say about Rush Limbaugh he can grab your attention. Having someone like Al Frankin won’t cut it. He maybe a funny comedy writer but when he is speaking it can put you to sleep. Also, I would only broadcast in liberal markets first. Hit the northeast, west coast, and larger urban areas of the Midwest and build a base. I feel that if they did this they would have the audience to be profitable.

Jessica Williams said...

Jessica Williams
Blog 3
With the question to me being why conservative orientated shows like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity are more successful than liberal-oriented national talk shows such as Air America, I would have to lean towards my opinioned being based on that Americans tend to be more conservative due to the fact that that is seen as what is right and how we are suppose to view thing, conservatively. Americans were typically raised conservatively with conservative views on things such as church and family, therefore see what political conservatives have to say are seen as right and therefore more popular than liberal oriented radio shows.

I am not saying one way or the other that one is right but in my opinion that would be why the conservative shows seem to have more longevity. If there were another liberal show to come out I am not sure what exactly they would have to do to be as successful as Limbaugh or O’Reilly other than appeal somehow to the growing population of liberals. With the “new“ state of our country there seem to be more and more liberals and that would give these types of shows the opportunity to grab a section on the market. They would have to differentiate themselves in a way that they are not seen as just another Liberal show, soon to fail. If I were in that position I would take the topics that are important for the liberal party and take a very daring approach to that topic that would grab peoples’ attention. The only way a new show will make it is if they are different and more entertaining than the ones before.

Jessica Williams said...

Jessica Williams
Blog 3
With the question to me being why conservative orientated shows like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity are more successful than liberal-oriented national talk shows such as Air America, I would have to lean towards my opinioned being based on that Americans tend to be more conservative due to the fact that that is seen as what is right and how we are suppose to view thing, conservatively. Americans were typically raised conservatively with conservative views on things such as church and family, therefore see what political conservatives have to say are seen as right and therefore more popular than liberal oriented radio shows.

I am not saying one way or the other that one is right but in my opinion that would be why the conservative shows seem to have more longevity. If there were another liberal show to come out I am not sure what exactly they would have to do to be as successful as Limbaugh or O’Reilly other than appeal somehow to the growing population of liberals. With the “new“ state of our country there seem to be more and more liberals and that would give these types of shows the opportunity to grab a section on the market. They would have to differentiate themselves in a way that they are not seen as just another Liberal show, soon to fail. If I were in that position I would take the topics that are important for the liberal party and take a very daring approach to that topic that would grab peoples’ attention. The only way a new show will make it is if they are different and more entertaining than the ones before.

Sandy said...

In my opinion, conservative based talk shows are more successful because they have a dedicated audience that welcomes reinforcement especially in the areas of patriotism, tradition, and community. Even though stories change from day to day, there is always the same repetitiveness that bashes liberal thoughts while boosting conservative ideology. Conservatives such as Limbaugh and O’Reilly have a long-standing history and commitment to their viewers of reporting fair and balanced news. The image is portrayed that the news that is being reported is unbiased and is left up to the viewers to make their own inferences. This fair and balanced tactic has been and continues to be a successful strategy, thus creating media success for these two talk show hosts.

In contrast, liberal based talk shows have their own form of propaganda that is often very liberally slanted. In my opinion, liberal audiences demand originality and ideology that breaks with tradition. These liberal talk shows tend to repeat the same rhetoric that is going on in day-to-day life, especially under the control of a liberal White House and Congress. Therefore, there is no controversy, thus making talk radio such as Air America boring. Because of this, liberal talk shows have not been a media success. Recent television and radio ratings have been unsuccessful for such liberal hosts as Jon Stewart and Al Franken. To be successful, these liberal talk shows should move from the far left on the political spectrum to a more centered approach. This transition would allow for a broader listening audience, thus creating higher ratings and media success.

Vanessa Collier said...

I think much of society is tired of the negativity that most liberals bring to the table. Most conservatives believe in American core values and how we can improve them in society. Conservative talk shows are willing to allow liberals to speak their minds even if they do not always agree. In contrast, liberal talk shows seem to only have one track minds meaning their ways are always right and better for the country. They do not even seem to care what the other side has to say. Most liberal beliefs are very controversial and many believe they have no place in America, causing their talk shows to be rather unpopular. I am not trying to make an argument about which one is better politically; however, I do believe this is the main reason for the success of one and the lack of success of another.

In order for a liberal based talk show to be successful, I think they have to open their minds about their beliefs. I am not saying they have to change their minds, but they definitely need to welcome conservative beliefs to be heard without so much negativity. I also believe they need to take a break from the demands of government interference as most listeners believe we have too much government involvement as it is. Remember we are in an economic crisis which many believe was caused mostly by the government.

Jack Elliott III said...

I believe that in todays world entertainment is the key to everything. People do want to here what is going on in the world, but at the same time they do not want to fall asleep while listening to a news report. That is one thing that O'Reilly and Hannity bring. Bill O'Reilly show has a lot of hummor to it. Also the conservative shows say that they are fair and balanced, whether they are or not is up for debate. Hannity and O'Reilly do seem to give everyone a chance to state their point, even if they do not agree with their beliefs. Another aspect, that is attractive about their shows, is the fact that they will bash conservative people who make stupid comments, and I believe that the public likes to see that.

So for the liberal talk show host I would say open up and accept people. Sometimes liberals do seem unaccepting of people especially if they do not agree with them. Try to portray your self as friendly and pleasant. Connect with the people and show yourself as wanting to agree the other side. Do not act like conservatives are the devil because after all we are all part of the same country.

ryan said...

This is just an opinion of course, but i thik a lof

ryan said...

This is just an opinion, but it could be because people tend to either love or hate the liberal point of view. So i think Fox News Channel is watched a lot because it allows a broader range as far as point of view goes. The news channel lets both sides of the view point speak on every subject and i think that is a big reason it is succesful. More Liberal based shows tend to only accept their point of view, and i know it can be argued that a lot of conservative shows do that as well. It just seems to me that more liberal shows only accept the one point of view than conservative shows.

I think for a liberal show to become as popular as conservative show, it will have to have a home run hitter like a Rush Limbaugh or like the newscasters on Fox. I think it will take being able to show both sides of the point of view equally like Fox News does.

ryan said...

The comment left on the 31rst by Ryan....was Ryan Wade, i got trigger happy and clicked the publish your comment button a little soon, sorry!

Mary Catherine Carmichael said...

My husband and I have discussed this many this topic many times when listening to radio talk shows or watching news shows on television. I believe that the conservative talk shows are more successful becuse they are more likely to tell both sides of a view or idea. They may not always agree with the more liberal viewpoint but they will usually listen and let whoever is doing the talking talk and not interupt a thousand times. Liberal reports seem to think that if you are not of their opinion than you shouldn't have an opinion and they will degrade and belittle someone for expressing their thoughts. They can be down right rude. I persoanlly like to hear both sides and form my own opinion. I am usually more conservative but sometimes I lean more to the right with the liberals but I like for it to be my option not something that is forced. I believe for a liberal based talk show to be successful that show is going to have to be more open minded in regards to both the conservative and liberal sides and let both sides be heard.

Sandra Perkins said...

In my opinion, the person who yells the loudest, get the most attention. As a parent, I look at my children. I have quiet ones and I have a LOUD one. The quiet ones don't demand that much attention. It doesn't take much to make them happy, but the loud one demands ALL of the attention. In her mind, it's her way or no way. In my view Conservatives have always yelled the loudest and demanded the most attention. For some reason, audiences love to watch loud, and sometimes obnoxious people on tv whether they are right or wrong. I guess they figure if they talk stern enough or point their finger into the camera - that makes them right. Liberals on the other hand, in my opinion, have always tried to be the "peace makers." They want to go along with business as usual. They don't want to offend anybody, when the conservatives don't care who they offend. They have a history of lying down and playing dead hoping that different situations will blow over. I don't think that a liberal show would be as successful as a conservative show UNLESS it is willing to be as loud and obnoxious as the conservative shows.

Emily West said...

This is definitely a great topic! In my opinion, conservative based shows are more successful because they have America's attention. They tend to focus on topics that keep our attention. Who wants to watch a show where everything is monotone and boring? That is what you get when you watch a liberal show.

If another liberal based talk show were to attempt to come on the air, they better start from the beginning grabbing america's attention. They need to prove to America that they have the American people at heart. We want to see discussions on why we are in the shape we are with the economy. We want to hear discussions about why americans are struggling. We don't want to hear quotes and stats. We can read that for ourselves!