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How Much Patience Do You Need for Your Rush Limbaugh Replacement Show?

Patience is a virtue in these situations. If it’s not popping by the end of this year, it may be the time. Sometimes shows don’t work. The show may just be what it is.

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A photo of Todd Starnes, Dana Loesch, Dan Bongino, and Erick Erickson

How long do you give a show to work on a news/talk station? It’s a real dilemma for many stations after the passing of Rush Limbaugh. 

If you work for Cox, iHeart, or Cumulus, your new show is part of your corporate package. What happens if you or your employers picked wrong? What now, if you can’t get out of a show that is not working for your market?

Whether it is news/talk or sports talk, the entire lineup on your station is like several morning shows. A music station just has one morning show. The rest is just the music of the format. If you want to kill a music station, keep changing morning shows. It takes time for the audience to build a relationship with the host or team. 

If it is a new local show on your news/talk station, it takes time for the host to connect with the audience, even if they have been in the market for years. Changing the lineup should be carefully executed with a long-term commitment to the new show. Clay Travis and Buck Sexton, Dan Bongino, Erick Erickson, Dennis Prager, Markley, Van Camp, and Robbins, Todd Starnes, and The Dana Show were offered for that time slot. Most of these shows did not have the strong ratings record that is often used as a guide to success. It was a crap shoot. 

If you were not owned by a company supporting a particular show, you had to make a guess.  So, three hours on your station has changed, and for many stations, Limbaugh was the highest-rated show. Obviously, every radio station manager was worried about the choice. 

At my station, we went with Clay & Buck. It was not because of any inside information. We felt that both hosts had long-term runs in syndication. It was a shotgun marriage, but I felt that it would be difficult to compare the Clay and Buck show to Rush Limbaugh. 

It was going to be different. I personally did not want listeners to compare the choice to Rush Limbaugh.  We also realized that we would not know whether or not this would work for two years.  Patience was key. Two years. Two long years. Well, two years in, and Clay and Buck have blown up with Rush Limbaugh-style numbers. The boys are number one in the men 35-64 demographic. The show appears to be working. I am not criticizing the other shows. This was the right move for my station. 

We live in a win-now world. Sometimes foresight and patience are considered old school.  

Changing shows can be just a terrible idea. A while back, I was in a building where the General Manager was frustrated with a morning show. It was on an Adult Contemporary station that was winning the workday against the other AC. The morning show was narrowly losing to the Morning Show at the Heritage AC Station across town. So, the General Manager entered the Program Director role and hired a dynamic woman with a history in another format to replace the station’s show. 

Well, it was a huge failure. The change butchered the ratings on the station and damaged the actual Program Director’s position with the company. The new morning show didn’t fit the brand of the station. You must find the right fit. 

Some shows sound perfect coming out of your station’s speaker. Years ago, I added a show that was doing well nationally. This show was on top stations, getting buzz, and I thought it would be perfect for the market that I was in at the time. I soon realized though that show was not going to work the first time that I heard it come out of the speaker. It didn’t feel like my former station. I kept with the show for two years and then moved on. I couldn’t change out of the show immediately, because it would be too disruptive to the station. I took ownership that the show didn’t work in that market. 

I have noticed that some stations are already swapping out of their choice to replace Limbaugh. I am obviously not in their seat, but I would give your replacement more time.  Patience is a virtue in these situations. If it’s not popping by the end of this year, it may be the time. Sometimes shows don’t work. The show may just be what it is. That is another quandary.  If the new show is not underperforming the station, you may be fine. Just because Clay and Buck are crushing it for me, doesn’t mean that it will work for you.  

If you are thinking about changing, call Program Directors who are carrying the show you are considering. PDs are inherently glass-half-full people unless they know lightning in a bottle has been captured. 

Realize that your station is different now. No Rush Limbaugh means change. Have you updated your station’s overall sound? Are you using the same station imaging voice? 

Your station may need a fresh new coat of paint and perhaps a new attitude. Dress up the imaging with updated promo beds for the shows. I usually will scour my imaging service for a bed that feels like my station. Every station that I have programmed has its own personality.  Find that and make sure that everything around the station sounds fresh. 

I would not swap out your Limbaugh replacement if the ratings are consistent with the rest of the station. If it is underperforming the lead-in and the show following, I think you probably need to move onto something new. 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Tom Langmyer

    August 26, 2023 at 5:10 am

    A great thought-starter, Peter!

    “If you were not owned by a company supporting a particular show, you had to make a guess.”

    Of course, that would be the ideal situation for a PD in any given market. However, I might add that it would also need to be an “educated guess.”

    That said, there really a number of factors to consider, even if you are not owned by a company that has “chosen” your solution for you.

    In a situation where one owner controls the (talk) format options in a market, you have the latitude to program each of your stations for a desired outcome for their roles within the cluster.

    In highly competitive markets, especially where multiple ownership groups are in the game, where good local shows are a listener choice and where PPM is employed, programmers unfortunately may not have the privilege of a captive audience or the advantage of time to wait for lesser impact players.

    In the case of Clay & Buck, the old saying may apply. “You don’t want to replace the legend. You want to replace the person(s) who replaced the legend.”

    If you look back at what’s now ancient history, look no further than the realization that Paul Harvey could not be replaced, Johnny Carson couldn’t be replaced, and Howard Stern couldn’t be replaced on terrestrial radio.

    Rush Limbaugh was bigger-than-life, and while they do work in some markets, Clay & Buck had the unenviable task of stepping into the chair of that bigger-than-life phenomenon.

    While certainly wise and an obviously good move to pay homage to Rush, at some point they need to carve their own path – and it needs to stand out on its own and do so with great impact.

    Clay & Buck aren’t necessarily dynamic nor impact players. They are not particularly revolutionary in terms of thoughts, surprises, nor commentary. They are certainly predictable in terms of their positions, as well. They are competent executors. While the can work the topics, they aren’t memorable orators, humorists, nor storytellers.

    Rush Limbaugh, was all of those things.

    However, before thinking that they aren’t good, and can’t do a good show, make no mistake about what I’m saying.

    They can.

    However, their show needs to be designed and more structured in some ways so that content can be showcased differently. It needs to showcase the content – and them for what they’re best at; and manage the areas where they’re not.

    Stronger benchmarks, more use of production, and voices, perhaps someone with some creative prowess to make the show more entertaining with some elements and features can help, as well. From what I know coming a generation removed from watching Ed Sullivan, he was not exactly a “Rush Limbaugh” either, but his show was. It was bigger-than-life.

    Rush Limbaugh was big enough to BE the show. The content and forward momentum to direct listeners to what’s coming next and why they can’t miss it, is what’s missing. Rush Limbaugh was so big, he didn’t need to do it all that “radio stuff” quite as much, simply because he was bigger-than-life.

    It doesn’t sound like Clay & Buck get very much coaching, and after the strategy of paying homage to Rush Limbaugh faded, as it should by now, what emerged on the other side is an opportunity to create something different to get out from under the shadow of what can’t be duplicated.

    Clay & Buck are very solid “studio musicians.” They play the correct notes.

    That being said, in what ways can they be made to be true “impact players?” How can their personalities become distinctive and different from each other? What are their characters? What are their roles? For what are each of them “famous?” by that, I mean, if you were asked, could you say that either one of them is particularly funny, smart, quirky, compelling, etc.? Outside of their predictable point of view, does either one of them have a particularly memorable or different way of looking at things? If you missed their show, have you actually really missed anything? Are there memorable benchmarks or special elements that make the difference?

    The point to all of this is they inherited an audience of more than 15 million listeners. They have about 9 million listeners, while their two main competitors are pretty close on their heels with 6 – 8 million listeners, without their having the benefit of rabid and loyal audience that was left for them to inherit.

    In the interest of keeping radio strong, the hope is that Clay & Buck will be able to step out from under the shadow of Rush Limbaugh, and become their own unique and remarkable selves. However, they and the show have to be more in order to do that.

    They also need to be in a position to not rely on elements of Rush Limbaugh, who isn’t there to endorse them.

    Even into the world of minutia, when people heard the stinger going into the spots, or the end of the show, Rush Limbaugh, use that very same stinger to artfully hammer home a point.

    Clay & Buck Just use that signature stinger because there’s a break in the clock they have to take. Even their using it actually calls attention to the difference between Rush’s dynamic personality, and the show as it is today.

    The other thing that makes the show more of a challenge, is that Clay & Buck refer to the listener in the collective form. Rush Limbaugh was perhaps one of the only people that could get away with referring to his audience as “all of you,” “many of you,” “some of you,” “everyone,” “everybody,” etc. Rush Limbaugh was almost a cult-like figure. He had a true legion. Clay & Buck aren’t of that ilk. Plus, these guys are talking to each other instead of the listener at many times.

    Radio is a one-on-one and very personal medium for those who listen.

    If Clay & Buck and those involved could create initiatives and truly activate an audience to do things and take action, versus just a passive listening experience, they could chart a NEW and unique course!

    I guess that’s a long way of saying there are many factors at play here, and while “your results may vary,” there is opportunity to grow in a more urgent and impactful way, particularly in situations where the show’s success is of critical consequence – and other talk programming choices from competitors are breathing down your neck.

    Thanks for a great take, Peter, and the opportunity to add some thoughts, as well.

    You’re working for great broadcasters at Zimmer. Have always respected them!

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BNM Writers

Why I’m Jumping Back Into Local TV

I want to join the fight for light that disinfects from the front lines. And there is no more advanced position than local news.



Jim Avila
(Photo: ABC News)

Yesterday, I started what I believe will be the final phase of my nearly 50-year career in broadcasting, spanning both radio and TV.

I have roamed the streets of San Francisco looking for breaking news as the late news reporter at KPIX-TV. I picked garlic in the fields of Gilroy to expose the terrible working conditions of California farmworkers for KCBS Radio.

In Chicago, I helped topple the democratic machine by exposing the dead voters registered in the Mayor’s race that tried to prevent Harold Washington — the city’s first black mayor — from winning an election.

Next stop? Los Angeles, where I covered the O.J. Simpson trial for KNBC, coverage that earned the station an Emmy and Golden Mic awards. It also earned me a ticket to NBC network news where I became a national correspondent for Tom Brokaw’s Nightly News. Our team picked up an Emmy for the flood and fire that destroyed Grand Forks, North Dakota, and led to assignments in New York for 9/11 and then off to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Next up were 18 intense years at ABC, where I served as 20/20 correspondent, Primetime correspondent, Senior Law and Justice correspondent, Senior National correspondent, and finally White House correspondent.

In 2020, after health issues, I retired and was offered the opportunity by Barrett News Media to write about the only true profession I have ever known. No longer bound by the rules of just the facts, I was invited to give my opinion on the junction of news and politics. I have enjoyed it and thank Jason Barrett — and you, the readers — for taking the time to follow my thoughts on the great institution of the news media.

But now it is time to return to actual journalism. I have been offered the privilege of reporting again. I have started a new adventure at KGTV ABC10 in San Diego. The location is ideal and the job as Senior Investigative Reporter will be a welcome challenge and a break from the retired life.

It also comes at a time when journalism is under attack by those who feel their opinions trump facts. (Pun intended).

So I want to join the fight for light that disinfects from the front lines. And there is no more advanced position than local news. I will be holding authorities and politicians to account. Keeping big business honest by protecting the little guy. I take pride in my career in journalism and I want young reporters to be proud as well. A free press unintimidated by would-be dictators is what is needed now more than ever.

So thanks, and once again, I will see you on TV.

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Is Oliver Stone the Michael Moore of 2024?

“They went too far in hating and in dumping on Trump. And people don’t like that in America. People don’t like dumping on. They did it too much.”

Rick Schultz



A photo of Bill Maher conversing with Oliver Stone
(Photo: Club Random)

In mid-2016, Americans felt the tide turning — with the country rallying around a Donald Trump electoral victory — when liberal filmmaker Michael Moore predicted Trump would win Michigan and the election. Could Oliver Stone be on a similar path in 2024?

Moore was prescient. He heard the people and could sense their overwhelming sentiment. More than anything, he was sounding the alarm bells for his fellow Democrats for what he felt was about to happen.

Last week a media member may have unknowingly let free the 2024 canary in the coal mine, and interestingly, this canary may have been another controversial filmmaker.

Oliver Stone appeared on Bill Maher’s podcast, Club Random, last week and seemed to echo many of the same sentiments from Moore’s premonition eight years earlier.

“Well, I mean, he doesn’t concede elections,” Maher said, bringing up President Trump in the far-ranging, free-flowing conversation. “You know, ‘The elections only count if we win’ theory of government. Okay. Well, come on. You know, Trump, he still has not conceded the election. He has not conceded. He does not honor them.”

“I mean, do you know for a fact that he lost? I’m just curious,” Stone responded. “I just don’t know all of the facts.”

Maher seemed astounded. 

“Well, I do. Is there a conspiracy theory that you don’t believe?” Maher asked Stone.

Perhaps Stone was referring to the piles of historical incongruencies and facts, all of which indicated a Trump 2020 win. 

No sitting president in the modern era has received more votes for re-election than in his initial election and lost. 

Of the 18 most dependable “swing counties” that normally indicate an electoral winner, Trump won 18 of 19. Yet, he lost the election. 

No Republican had ever won Florida, Ohio, and Iowa – considered to be a broad cross-section of the American electorate – and lost. Until Trump.

It is difficult to put Oliver Stone in a political box. He has mostly seemed to favor the libertarian philosophy of less government intrusion. On occasion, he has been critical of Trump, while also acknowledging the former President’s ability to tap into populist sentiment that the two seem to share. Less war. Fewer government shackles. More individual and economic freedom.   

“I’m just asking you. I’m not an expert on the election,” Stone told Maher. “I’m not a political junkie. You are. And you follow it very closely.”

“Alright then, I’ll give you the thumbnail sketch,” an agitated Maher said. “They tried it in like 60 courts. It was laughed out of every court, including by Republican judges. The people who saved this democracy were Republicans. Good Republicans. In states where Trump pressured them. Like the guy, the one he’s on trial for in Georgia. ‘Find me 11,000 votes.’ It’s on tape. A guy like that saying to him, ‘Sir, we just don’t do that here. I voted for you. I’m a Republican, but we just don’t do that.’ That’s what saved us. And they were Republicans.”

One of the most accurate political pollsters of the modern age, Richard Baris of Big Data Poll, posted on X that “Not even Oliver Stone buys it. Notice when (Bill Maher) tried to dismiss and refute his election concerns, he used a demonstrably false claim to ‘disprove’ it. Oliver, Bill is full of shit. It was not ‘tried’ in 70 courts. Judges used standing to dodge.”

Baris continued in another post, saying, “Also, (Bill Maher) grossly mischaracterized the phone call, using the common fake news talking points that Trump asked the (Georgia Secretary of State) to ‘find 11k votes’. Don’t be lazy, Bill. Read the transcript yourself. He was talking about signature verification and votes not properly scrutinized.”

In the podcast with Maher, Stone went on to say that he had major problems with the outcome of the 2000 election, which resulted in the victory of President George W. Bush. He similarly indicated that he didn’t think 2020 passed the smell test.

“I don’t know. I mean, you went through the 2000 election. That was horrifying to me, what happened when the Supreme Court closed that down.” Stone said.

“What should we do?” Maher asked. “Do we just keep counting votes forever? Or should we still be counting them now?”

“No. Count them correctly,” Stone responded. “Let’s just get rid of the electoral college. Let’s do a popular vote.”

Oliver Stone continued, calling out the media for their biased reporting in the era of Trump.

“I don’t know the facts,” Stone said. “And I think I would trust the accountants more than the politicians. And I’d like to know what the accountants, the guys who vote, who know the most about votes, who do the Electoral Commissions. I can’t take Biden’s word for it on anything.”

“Well, I mean, if there’s nothing that can be said or argued that would convince you,” Maher offered. 

“I think what shocked people is that Trump got so many votes. You know, that was what was shocking. That he did so well compared to what he was expected to do,” Stone said. “Because we believed all the East Coast media.”

“Then why do you believe he could have lost?” Maher asked his guest about Biden.

“We believed all the East Coast media elite that he was going to fail and boom, they were wrong. We would love to see them being wrong, don’t we? The media elite,” Stone said. “They went too far in hating and in dumping on Trump. And people don’t like that in America. People don’t like dumping on. They did it too much.”

Bill Maher even agreed with Stone, admitting that the media no longer attempts to give a balanced, truthful reporting of the day’s events. In addition, neither mentioned the years-long, Democrat-led coup attempt that was designed to trick the public into thinking Trump was a Russian agent. Most of the mainstream media parroted the hoax.

“I was actually having this discussion about the CNN network recently. And, you know, I want there to be a CNN in the world. You know, something that I used to be able to count on. And I still do, some of it. Give it to me straight, Doc. Just give me the news,” Maher said.

“And, you know, they had this town hall with Trump about six months ago. And it was, they took a lot of flack for it. But he was adored by the audience who were Republicans, I guess, and independents. I think they said both. But whoever it was, they fucking loved him. And then the panel comes on after and they do nothing but shit on Trump and what a liar he is.”

Like Michael Moore eight years prior, Oliver Stone seemed to be sounding the alarm bell about what’s over the horizon, a mere 11 months from now. He concluded by drawing the analogy of Trump to a legendary baseball player who was famously banished from the game over gambling allegations a few decades ago. 

“I think a lot of people liked him because he got dumped on so, so much. It’s like Pete Rose. You know, when he quit. Yeah. A lot of people started to resent the media for the dumping on Pete Rose.”

Oliver Stone is sounding the alarm. And the chirping canary very well may crescendo in 2024.

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How Did Trust in Media Reach All-Time Lows?

Somewhere along the line, Americans must agree on the facts, or we will continue to be a divided nation.

Andy Bloom



photo of a stack of newspapers

In my previous column, I wrote about Americans losing trust in the media.

Both conservatives and liberals can find ample examples to demonstrate why specific media sources are no longer trustworthy.

We have become a nation of two tribes. Each side has sources of news that it believes and considers the other side fake news or even propaganda.

The Economist and YouGov published a poll earlier this spring measuring how much trust Americans place in 56 media outlets, including social media. 

Respondents were asked whether they “trust, distrust, or neither trust nor distrust” each media organization. The percentage of trust minus mistrust scores was calculated to create a “net trust score” for each.

Overall, The Weather Channel, arguably the only non-political entity measured, is the most trusted news source. It is ironic, considering how often we all complain about the “weather people” getting it wrong. Democrats (+64) and Republicans (+47) trust The Weather Channel.

The top four most trusted organizations were the same as the 2022 YouGov survey.

Here are the overall rankings of the 45 organizations published in the Economist-YouGov Poll.

  1. The Weather Channel +53
  2. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) +30
  3. The BBC +29
  4. The Wall Street Journal +24
  5. Forbes +23
  6. The Associated Press +22
  7. ABC +21
  8. USA Today +21
  9. CBS +20
  10. Reuters +20
  11. NBC +19
  12. TIME Magazine +18
  13. The Washington Post +18
  14. National Public Radio (NPR) +16
  15. The Economist +16
  16. Business Insider +16
  17. The Guardian +15
  18. C-SPAN +14
  19. The New York Times +12
  20. Newsweek +12
  21. The New Yorker +10
  22. Bloomberg +10
  23. The Atlantic +10
  24. The National Review +8
  25. CNN +7
  26. New York Post +7
  27. The Hill +7
  28. Yahoo News +7
  29. Newsmax +6
  30. Axios +6
  31. Politico +6
  32. MSNBC +5
  33. One America News (OAN) +4
  34. The Washington Examiner +4
  35. Fox News +3
  36. The Federalist +3
  37. Slate +3
  38. Al Jazeera +1
  39. The Daily Beast +1
  40. HuffPost +1
  41. BuzzFeed News ±0
  42. Daily Kos −1
  43. Breitbart News −3
  44. The Daily Caller −4
  45. Infowars −16

Note: People who say the media organization is neither trustworthy nor untrustworthy, or that they don’t know, are not included in the calculation.

The differences between Democrats and Republicans are remarkable. In general, Republicans have less trust in the media overall.

Republicans have the most trust in Fox News and positive trust only in Fox News, the New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

Independents have a slight degree of trust in most news organizations, while Democrats have a significant degree of confidence in most of the media groups measured, except for Fox News.

OrganizationDemocrat Net TrustIndependent Net TrustRepublican Net Trust
Fox News-16-11+40
New York Post+18-1+3
New York Times+53+8-30
Wall Street Journal+42+19+9
Washington Post+51+14-14

Republicans and Democrats see information through completely different filters. The results for the entire survey, including crosstabs, can be found here.

Somewhere along the line, Americans must agree on the facts, or we will continue to be a divided nation. The media needs to do its part to bridge the divide.

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