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The LA Times on Sunday (today) carries a story under the hopeful banner that conservative talk radio in California is waning.

While the article cites anecdotal evidence such as staff cuts to local on-air talk show hosts at several talk radio stations in California it makes no concrete mention of ratings or the factors that drove these decisions. Certainly if conservative talk radio was tanking financially as fast as the short-lived Liberal talk network Air America the Times would have a better story to report. This piece, however, can’t even cite ratings figures at the various conservative talk show stations in California, or even quote some radio station managers as saying that their listeners were simply not tuning into the conservative talk programs anymore.

Local conservative talk show host Inga Barks, who can be heard on Fresno’s KMJ 580, and Bakersfield’s KERN 1180, was quoted in the story, but even her comments did little to help support Times reporter Michael Finnegan’s thesis that Californians are tuning out when it comes to conservative talk radio.

The story reports that the talk stations that have fired on-air staff replaced those folks with syndicated programs, but failed to mention with what programs the stations replaced the local programs. Locally speaking there’s been no recent changes to the formatting at the valley’s popular talk show station, KMJ 580. In fact, the station recently made some formatting changes that increased local coverage, which at the time was reported as something that local listeners very much wanted. I have no inside-information to elaborate on this point, other than to surmise that KMJ’s changes have been met with positive feedback, both by listeners and advertisers.

Reports out recently indicate that the nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh program has in fact picked up listeners. Limbaugh himself reported the other day that his advertising revenue during the first-quarter of this year was up double digits over the same period last year. While Limbaugh likes to joke about his “obscene profit center breaks” (commercials), the fact of the matter remains that Limbaugh gives his growing audience something they want and something they’re even willing to pay extra to receive, as evidenced by those willing to pay extra to receive his entire show via podcast. The net result is an apparent growing list of sponsors willing to pay sufficiently to have their goods and services marketed on the program.

Chalk up the LA Times’ latest piece to nothing more than wishful thinking and a push by mainstream media to marginalize a powerful medium that is more reflective of the average American than is represented by the major television networks and newspapers.

As an industry, American Media is waning because it can’t hold onto its customers (its readers and viewers). Newspapers in particular have sunk in significance not because of the Internet, but because they’ve failed to deliver a product worthy of their readers. Network news has also sunk in significance for much the same reason. In both cases it’s safe to argue that mainstream media’s dumbing down of its products has turned off viewers and readers, while conservative talk radio has done the opposite by working to educate a more intelligent audience.

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