Rush Limbaugh dominated a medium that has fallen out of favor with younger audiences
4.3%: That’s the percentage of the radio audience in the 18-to-34 age bracket who tuned in to talk radio during an average 15-minute segment in 2019, according to Nielsen Research data cited by the Washington Post. That paltry number is a reminder, in the wake of talk megastar Rush Limbaugh’s death, that the form’s future does not look as bright as its past.
Limbaugh both rode and helped create the wave of talk radio popularity—especially right-leaning talk radio—over recent decades, particularly since 1987, when the Federal Communications Commission abolished the so-called fairness doctrine, a rule that required broadcasters to give equal response time to potentially controversial viewpoints. Limbaugh’s show aired on an estimated 650 stations, had about 15 million listeners (he claimed many more), and inspired a generation of like-minded hosts, from Sean Hannity on down.
But as the Post recently reported, Limbaugh’s audience had gotten “quite gray” — only about 8% of regular talk radio listeners are between age 25 and 54, with most older than 65, according to research — and many younger listeners skip radio altogether in favor of podcasters like Joe Rogan. Lately, Clubhouse has offered a fresher version of what talk and drive-time radio have long provided. It’s not clear if a new generation of old-school talk radio hosts can keep that traditional business performing or if listeners would prefer to tune in to something more modern.
No word yet on what this means for “My City Was Gone” royalties.