Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A question about the financial condition of Rush's audience 

I'm not really in touch with conservative talk radio. I think I have listened to Rush Limbaugh two or three times in my life, including this afternoon driving to the office from Newark Airport. I couldn't resist hearing what he had to say about yesterday's election of Scott Brown to the United States Senate. He sure was enthusiastic.

My interest, though, has to do with the advertising. It seemed that just about every ad had something to do with personal finance. For the solvent, there were at least a couple of ads flogging investments in gold. One that claimed that gold could hit "$3000 to $4000 an ounce," presumably during the lifetime of the investor. For the less solvent, a raft of spots offering to help you out with your crushing debt or to negotiate relief from the Internal Revenue Service. That was it -- schemes for investing in hard assets and for paying less to one's creditors. Nobody offered traditional financial services for people who save their money and invest it in businesses (via either stocks or bonds). You know, free enterprises that hire people and increase the national wealth.

Deadbeats and gold bugs have at least two things in common: They are pessimists about the future and are not using the money they have to make the country stronger. Why do advertisers seem to believe that Rush's audience includes a lot of such people?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 20, 11:34:00 PM:

All the conservative talk shows have this same problem. The hosts need to be high integrity, but many of the advertisers are low integrity.

The one category that seems to be consistently reasonable are the internet software ads- back up services, remote access services, etc.

A lot of the ads are sold locally rather than nationally. I wonder how much control the hosts have over the placement of the local ads.

As much as I would love to be a radio talk show host myself, I can't imagine shilling some of the dubious crap like they do.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 20, 11:40:00 PM:

Hey, I remember about a decade ago Rush himself promoted on his show Ruths Chris steak house. That's for an affluent audience, right?  

By Blogger Jana, at Wed Jan 20, 11:57:00 PM:

Yeah, I listen to Rush a bit, along with some other conservative hosts (I'm a stay-at-home mother). Gold is a biggie right now on all a.m. talk shows, it seems. I've heard Levin, Beck, Limbaugh, and Medved advertise for different gold sellers. Even Dave Ramsey (financial coach, not a conservative talker), who is about as straight-arrow as they come on advertisers plugs "Gold Stash For Cash."

I will say that Rush doesn't ever seem to indicate he purchases gold, while, for example, Beck is open and unapologetic about his frequent gold purchases. Rush is also gleeful and enthusiastic about making sure his audience knows his breaks are "profit centered." I'm not sure if that means anything, but I've never assumed that talk show hosts are endorsing every product/service that is advertised on their program.  

By Anonymous Dave R., at Thu Jan 21, 12:26:00 AM:

Some of that is just am radio in general, or at least talk radio channels generally, and not Rush specifically. Rush does get some flower advertisements, but seasonally, not continuously.  

By Blogger Brian, at Thu Jan 21, 01:04:00 AM:

Beck isn't only open about his gold purchases, he personally hawks gold in his own advertisements. I can't imagine a worse investment.

To be fair, the exact same ads are on liberal talk radio.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jan 21, 02:53:00 AM:

Glenn Beck promotes gold as insurance, not investment -- if the bottom falls out of the dollar, he says it would be useful as an alternate valuable currency, while as an ordinary investment, one might make or lose money on it. And he insists that the listener figure out for him/herself whether buying gold makes sense financially and otherwise. Then he says that for those who still want to buy gold the particular dealer he's promoting is a good one (and why). That's not hawking gold at all.  

By Blogger randian, at Thu Jan 21, 05:02:00 AM:

Hey, I remember about a decade ago Rush himself promoted on his show Ruths Chris steak house.

I wonder why they dropped him. Hannity pushes Rush's Chris now.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jan 21, 05:40:00 AM:

Frequently, media buyers like to buy "personality" radio spots since there is a belief that the credibility of the personality will rub off on the product. My guess is that that is what you're seeing/hearing on the Rush media buys.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jan 21, 06:35:00 AM:

It is ironic to see the Goldline ad at the top of this site  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Thu Jan 21, 07:05:00 AM:

I listen to a fair amount of XM radio in the car and the number of ads for resolving your IRS debt, shirking your creditors, buying gold, etc has gotten to the point of annoyance...especially when they feel forced to repeat the phone number four and five times (when it is diplayed on the radio as well).

One would think that if you can splurge on an XM radio, you would not be shirking your taxes and trying to find ways to pay off a hundred thousand dollar credit card debt!

All that only rivals the ads for snake oil medications, hair restoation, rooster pills and skin wrinkle creams for pure annoyance.

I suspect the demographic is just "Baby Boomers" regardless of political affiliation.

I guess the folks on "Madison Avenue" just think that we are a collection of bald, wrinkled, impotent idiots who will buy gold with our credit cards and fail to declare it on our taxes.

Well...we elected Obama.....  

By Anonymous Edward Lunny, at Thu Jan 21, 07:20:00 AM:

How many celebrities, of all stripes, are actual users and consumers of the products or services that they hawk ? In most, if not nearly all, cases I suspect that it's just another revenue stream and not a genuine preference for the product or service.  

By Anonymous Opinionated Vogon, at Thu Jan 21, 07:40:00 AM:

Ask yourself who is available during the day at that time to listen to the Radio. Employed people have to do actual work.

Cheers :)  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Thu Jan 21, 09:16:00 AM:

Re Anonymous 6:35. Good one. Touche!

Nothing like stereotyping a group of people based on the advertisements.

Rush also sells steel buildings. Does that mean all his listeners are going to put a machine shed or warehouse up in their back yard?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jan 21, 10:06:00 AM:

"Deadbeats and gold bugs have at least two things in common: They are pessimists about the future and are not using the money they have to make the country stronger. Why do advertisers seem to believe that Rush's audience includes a lot of such people?"

Maybe because, in general, it does?  

By Blogger Mrs. Davis, at Thu Jan 21, 10:08:00 AM:

Many of those employed people are driving trucks or are between sales calls. That and the retired are the target demographic. There's little else on the radio worth listening to. If you really want to enjoy the ads, get a Sirius XM radio.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Jan 21, 10:34:00 AM:

I'm not ripping on Rush. I am simply curious about the audience profile that encourages ads for gold bugs and debt relief. To be clear, usually the debtors want inflation because that shrinks their debt, and the gold bugs fear inflation (see, e.g., William Jennings Bryan's "cross of gold" speech, which was a call for inflation to help the debtor class). In this case, the thing that would seem to tie these groups is pessimism.  

By Blogger DEC, at Thu Jan 21, 11:01:00 AM:

TH: "ads for gold bugs and debt relief"

I have seen a lot of those ads on local TV in the Washington, DC, area. What does that say about the people in the federal government?  

By Anonymous Jim MIller, at Thu Jan 21, 11:15:00 AM:

Those ads may say as much about the ideology of (some) advertising men and women, as they do about the audiences.

For instance, when I visit Salon, I often see an ad for Lexus automobiles. Is that because Salon readers are especially likely to buy Japanese luxury cars -- or because some Lexus ad guy likes Salon's ideology?

In contrast, Limbaugh courted Apple for years, with no success. (He's a dedicated Mac user, who often plugs them on his program.) Was that because they didn't think he could sell computers for them, or because they didn't like his politics?

FWIW, there have been studies of Rush's audience. If I recall correctly, and I am pretty sure that I do, the studies found that his listeners were better informed, and had higher incomes than the average person.

The gold bugs appeal is not difficult to understand. If you think that the current administration's economic policies are disastrous, then you look for protection.  

By Blogger Bryan, at Thu Jan 21, 02:07:00 PM:

Bad sample and sloppy research: the sample size is way to small to make any conclusion of any merit, there is no distinction between Limbaugh ads and local station ads, and then you get into bias problems, data collection methods ...

Limbaugh's primary sponsors are a mattress company, a cloud backup service, a meat packer, and legal services for business development, among others. Listen for those ads that he narrates or the sponsors he mentions in dialog if you want to consider what he considers suitable revenue sources. Keep in mind that his ideology serves his business and not vice versa and that balance probably has a lot to do with his success.

Anyone who offers impressions of Limbaugh without taking the time to gain a proper sample and the effort to understand the actual message is often making a fool of himself. There are reasons for Limbaugh's audience size and success and they are not trivial.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Thu Jan 21, 03:20:00 PM:

Don’t read too much into advertisers on national talk shows. I’ve listened to Dave Ramsey go into a ten-minute rant on how stupid gold investment is, followed by a commercial for…you guessed it, gold; Dean Edell go on for a rant on how stupid Homeopathic medicine is followed by a commercial for some medication he had just gotten done pasting. These are local buys”, because both Dave and Dean will not run ads for these product.

National political talk radio is a minefield for any advertiser, generally your customer base does not buy your product because of political leaning, but they *can* be swayed into *not* buying your product because of such. Remember how Rush used to advertize Florida orange juice and Snapple? Not any more, because certain people who hate Rush for his political views attacked him by attacking (by boycotting) his advertisers. He’s sold millions of dollars worth of orange juice, SelectComfort mattresses, Snapple, cars, and other products to those of us who listen in offices and our cars, on the internet live and recorded, and, because we live in a capitalistic society, has reaped the rewards.  

By Blogger Mark, at Thu Jan 21, 09:22:00 PM:

You say: "I'm not really in touch with conservative talk radio. I think I have listened to Rush Limbaugh two or three times in my life, including this afternoon driving to the office from Newark Airport. I couldn't resist hearing what he had to say about yesterday's election of Scott Brown to the United States Senate."

You couldn't resist. After all these years of resistance. That is strange. What accounts for the sudden urgency? You should tell us, because this post does not ring true.  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Thu Jan 21, 10:01:00 PM:

I hate all those gold ads, but like gold just fine as a crisis investment. It is a historically bad investment in times of prosperity as has been stated. However when the government interferes with the market and imposes interest rates close to zero, the opportunity costs of owning some plunge. Currently, gold yields only slightly less than US Tbills.

I'll agree it is particularly relevant to pessimistic investors. Gold is a compact and somewhat portable way to store wealth in times of extreme crisis. It holds value when fiat currencies degrade, as all eventually do. An ounce of gold bought a good men's suit 100 years ago, and still does.  

By Blogger Eagle1, at Fri Jan 22, 06:31:00 AM:

Well, think about it -
how much fuss would be kicked up if companies that received TARP/bailout money -
like banks, GM and investment houses - suddenly started (or in GM's case, restarted) sponsoring Rush?

The Democrats would go even nutser.

What companies does that leave?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 24, 04:10:00 PM:

A great under-the-hood look at the talk radio industry is the late David Foster Wallace's 2005 Atlantic piece, "Host". It is fascinating. He covers the economics of local vs. syndicated programming and advertising, and also speculates about what advertisers and programmers think of their audience (or, rather, "market", as listeners are always referred to, Wallace sadly observes....)


Prescient paragraph from 2004/5:

How often a particular spot can run over and over before listeners just can't stand it anymore is something else no one will talk about, but the evidence suggests that KFI sees its audience as either very patient and tolerant or almost catatonically inattentive....
...As of spring '04, though, the most frequent and concussive ads on KFI are for mortgage and home-refi companies—Green Light Financial, HMS Capital, Home Field Financial, Benchmark Lending. Over and over. Pacific Home Financial, U.S. Mortgage Capital, Crestline Funding, Advantix Lending. Reverse mortgages, negative amortization, adjustable rates, APR, FICO … where did all these firms come from? What were these guys doing five years ago? Why is KFI's audience seen as so especially ripe and ready for refi? Betterloans.com, lendingtree.com, Union Bank of California, on and on and on.

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