Well. This is interesting. Over at Talkers.com (here) and Mediaite (here) Michael Savage is at it again. Saying, among other things, that he has “stomped” Sean Hannity in the ratings. But the Talkers story is particularly instructive since Talkers is devoted to the business of talk radio. In fact, the publication makes a point of saying that as a rule of thumb, precisely since it is devoted to promoting the institution of talk radio, it doesn’t like to get into what Talkers calls “personal vendettas” between hosts. So it is striking that this story appears at all — and obvious as to why it does. Writes Talkers:
Unusual "Ratings Battle" Between Savage and Hannity Heats Up. Prior to the rollout of his WestwoodOne-syndicated talk show on Cumulus-owned news/talk stations — many of which had previously carried Premiere Networks’ Sean Hannity show — Michael Savage took an aggressive stance in both industry and consumer press proclaiming he would beat Hannity in the ratings. Now, two Nielsen Audio PPM rating periods later, WestwoodOne is waging a PR offensive that many industry watchers note is rarely seen in the syndication business, going so far as to use words like “trounced” and “demolished” with respect to Savage’s ratings versus Hannity’s.
This is politely put, but it is in fact the equivalent of calling an industry penalty flag on Savage. Talkers goes out of its way to give Hannity’s Premiere Network plenty of room to respond. As was noted in this space over a month ago:
The change-over of radio stations took effect in January and the results are in. Hannity's ratings are surging, while the numbers of his replacement (Michael Savage) in the major markets of New York (where he shifted to WOR from WABC) to Los Angeles and San Francisco, are plummeting.
What Westwood One is trying to say in disingenuous fashion is this: Savage inherited the Hannity audience, and now beats Hannity in market A or B or C. Conveniently left out of this version of events is that in moving to other stations, Hannity was essentially starting all over with whatever preceded his appearance on that station. And more to the point, as the Talkers story indicates, the Hannity audience that Savage inherited has steadily started to bleed away. Talkers makes a point of noting this from Premiere Networks VP for operations and affiliate marketing Eric Stanger:
In New York on WABC as well as on Dallas on WBAP, in the key demo of A25-54, Savage has lost a whopping 49% of the audience that he inherited from Sean Hannity. Other key markets tell a similar story as you can see below. All in all, Savage has bled away almost half of the audience on the key stations that were given to him in 2014 (In Los Angeles, where Cumulus has decided not to air the “Savage Nation,” KABC-AM has dropped 27% without Hannity).
The point here cannot be missed. Not only is Hannity a continuing success on radio, as noted over at Mediaite he continues to be second nationwide only to Rush Limbaugh. And for conservative talk radio listeners there is a point in all this that is a version of the same point that Talkers publisher Michael Harrison makes when he says:
This industry faces enough competitive challenges these days from external sources for us to turn our guns on each other in anything more intense than healthy, sportsmanlike competition.
This applies in spades in terms of the conservative movement. Attacks on prominent conservatives by others who try and pass themselves off as conservatives are the equivalent of the old circular firing squad routine. Savage’s relentless attacks — many of them personal — on Sean Hannity have less than zero to do with conservatism. They shriek that Savage has a considerable problem with the old green-eyed monster of simple jealousy. Quite aside from Hannity’s well established reputation as, in the word of Fox’s Roger Ailes, “the nicest guy in the building”, it is one more sign that Savage, unlike Hannity, isn’t about conservatism. Savage is about…Savage. Over the years he not only has repeatedly attacked Hannity as being everything from a “shrill, communist street agitator” to a “pawn” of the GOP Establishment he has gone after what he calls the “Limbaugh cartel” and assailed Mark Levin as a “despicable …low-life.” He has even claimed that “Hannity’s TV rating’s collapsed…because of me!” In the latter case, as Mediaite has reported just yesterday, Hannity is trouncing his TV competition. But none of this is really the point. The real reason Savage is bleeding audience is because he is seen by many conservatives as anti-conservative. When he says things like “I don’t want to hear the word ‘conservative’ anymore. It has no meaning whatsoever…” (as noted in the Daily Caller) and spends his time repeatedly attacking the most respected conservative names in the business, is it any wonder Savage is bleeding conservative listeners? The Talker story is amazing. And a considerable indication of the old adage that the louder someone shrieks the more concerned they are about losing what they value most. In this case? That would be an audience.