Archive for November 2nd, 2005

Air America’s Fuzzy Math

I recieved this email recently from Air America Radio:
Dear Friend of Air America Radio,

It’s Halloween and the right-wing is terrified…of you. Want to know why? Here are just a few examples:

On October 17th, Rush Limbaugh said this to Sean Hannity:

“In my mind they don’t even exist…for a moment you almost feel sorry for then. Then you realize no, they don’t exist. And they don’t pose a threat.”

But on October 28th, less than two weeks later, Al Franken, broadcasting on a network that Rush once called “Dead Air America,” beat him like a drum:

"Air America Radio announced today that ‘The Al Franken Show’ beat ‘The Rush Limbaugh Show’ for the first time in San Francisco and Portland, Ore., two of the top twenty-five markets, in the target demo of 25-54, according to Arbitron Summer 2005 Metro.  The two shows air at the same time ( 9am-12pm ) in both markets.’

While poor Rush is whistling by the graveyard, his fellow ghouls are out screaming and shrieking and rattling their chains:

Bill O’Reilly recently predicted this to a group of advertisers:

[Air America ] is about to fold … because Americans don’t want to hear that their country sucks 24 hours a day."

But somehow those pesky facts never seem to get inside the "No Spin Zone." Here are a few:

  • The ratings for the Bill O’Reilly radio show in New York were worse in the demo of A25-54 than those on Air America that he described as “catastrophic.”
  • In the key 25-54 demographic which talk radio offers to advertisers, the Summer 2005 Arbitron ratings showed that Monday-Friday from 2-4 PM when O’Reilly is on WOR-AM and which at Air America’s 1190 WLIB-AM contains the last hour of “The Al Franken Show” and the first hour of “The Randi Rhodes Show,” that O’Reilly had a 0.6 share and Air America a 1.8 share.  O’Reilly had a cumulative audience of 45,800 and Air America had a cumulative audience of 95,700 .

Last month, we launched the Air America Associates program and the howling of the right-wing hypocrites was nothing short of hysterical:

Ann Coulter, the undisputed queen of self-promotion, was cackling with glee at the prospect of using Air America Radio as a marketing device for her latest right-wing screed:

"That money you were thinking about donating to become an ‘Air America Associate’ – Air America Ass’ for short – why not do something useful with it? Buy my book for friends and loved ones."

Sorry, Ann. People just don’t seem to be paying attention to you the way they used to. As of this morning:

  • Al Franken’s “The Truth (with jokes)” was at #7 on Amazon while the paperback edition of “How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must) is at #1,042.

But while we may enjoy the right-wing’s fear and loathing of Air America Radio’s success, we can’t afford to sit back and take it for granted. The dramatic growth of Air America Radio over the last 19 months – we’re now on in 70 markets covering more than 60% of the nation – only happened because of you.

And we need to keep growing just as quickly, because only this morning, President Bush’s idea of "Trick or Treat" was to nominate Judge Samuel Alito, Jr. for Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat on the Supreme Court. Often referred to as “Scalito” because of his extreme right-wing views, if confirmed Alito could well change the balance of the high court for a generation to come.

We at Air America Radio make you this promise. We won’t let them get away with this without a fight. But we will need your help to do it.

Then they proceed to ask for money. But are they really gaining momentum? Consider this post over at the Blue State Conservatives, which gives a fuller picture. They say in part:

— AAR has just one station that places in the top ten for its market, KPOJ in Portland.
— AAR has just six stations that place in the top 20.
— For those stations with a rating, the average market position is 23rd.
— AAR is not the top news/talk station in any market.

Is AAR’s audience growing or shrinking? It is a tough call.
— 18 stations showed growth from last summer’s ratings
— 13 stations lost ratings from last summer
— 10 failed to generate a rating
— 4 stations dropped the format
— 2 stations didn’t have a full year of ratings
— 1 station had the same rating as last summer
— Many AAR stations are in VERY small markets and those markets don’t — or haven’t yet — released ratings for the summer. I will update if any more info comes in.

With a ratio of 18 gaining to 23 losing or with no audience, I can’t say that AAR is gaining listeners. The average drop was 0.57 while the average gain was just 0.48. Throw in the total loss of stations in Philadelphia, Providence and Charleston, S.C. and I would argue that Air America is losing listeners, not gaining them.

I commented that they’ve probably topped out. They may have pockets in high density liberal places like Portland and NYC that will have anecdotal success in spots, but listen to Randi Rhodes and tell me how she’ll appeal to any audience outside of hardcore leftists. Isn’t playing in Peoria what keeps you in business anyway?


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I watch Boston Legal. I rather enjoy it and overlook the left leaning subtext because if I took exception to every lefty political statement in entertainment today I wouldn’t very, well, entertained. Besides, what other show has as much humor with fully dressed, attractive women?
The left leaning characters, while flawed, are seen as intellectual and clued in. The conservatives are obtuse, absurdly myopic and in William Shatner’s case, hopelessly clueless about how the world is. How surprising- dumb conservatives and smart liberals.
The typical formula goes something like this: Human drama  and one liners framed around legal cases that deal with contemporary issues like religion in schools, farmed salmon, sexual harassment & corporate mammon.  James Spader’s character Alan Shore suffers from relationship dysfunction except when advocating for his clients when, in his final argument, he transitions from a dark, brooding sardonic wise ass into Dr. Phil. And, the fine associates at the firm always win in the face of what seem to be absurd odds.
Last night was different. The issues were the war in Iraq and how Halloween is handled in schools. The war thing was right out of the DNC playbook: a waify paralegal sues the army when her National Guard brother is killed diffusing a bomb he had no training to handle in Iraq. Of course, the army is immune, but not from fraud. So we get to hear about how his one year commitment was extended for 30 years, no body armor, and how Bill O’Reilly cares more about "a missing girl in Aruba" than the 2000 servicemen who are dead over there. Shore’s passion for the case pisses off the right wing gun nut Denny Crane (Shatner) no end. Alan loses the case, but consider the message sent. Producer David Kelley’s fig leaf for the obvious politicking: Shore’s admission that the war question is complicated. Thanks Dave! And who can handle complicated issues better, your smart liberal characters or the dumb righties?
The Halloween storyline was just as politically overt. Cliche’ Christian zealots object to the alleged satanic component of Halloween and their unlikely allies are Wiccans, who view the Principal’s witch costume as an unfair stereotype of their religion. In fairness, the Christians aren’t as over the top in their zeal as Denny Crane is, but they don’t need to be. The fig leaf here is the Wiccans, added to balance out those stupid Christians. Yeah, really going out on a limb here, Kelley, pissing off all 450 Wiccans in this country. Halloween wins, making the firm 0-2 on the episode, but again, message sent. Silly Christians! If anyone reading this actually knows of Christians who object to Halloween email me. I’ve never met any.

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