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Air America Idiot Update

The ratings numbers for April have been sliced and diced, and Air Idiot’s poster boy has reasons to be cheerful:

An analysis of recently released figures from Arbitron, the radio ratings service, showed that in New York Air America beat Rush Limbaugh’s station among 25-to-54-year-olds during the period that Limbaugh and Al Franken, the host of the flagship show “The O’Franken Factor,” go head-to-head.

The April audience estimates, which are the first data indicating whether or not Air America’s brand of liberal talk radio can find an audience, come from a third-party analysis of Arbitron data, called “extrapolations.”

Insiders cautioned that, while it is standard to use extrapolations as a guide to the performance of a station, they are preliminary and prone to a certain margin of error.

“They’re like a second-inning score in a baseball game,” said Tom Taylor, the editor of Inside Radio, a trade publication. “But you have to say that the visitors are on the scoreboard.”

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., a period that includes Franken’s show, WNTD pulled in 3 percent of 25-to-54-year-old listeners in Chicago. That number puts the fledgling network in the same league as WGN-720 AM, which scored a 2.1 percent share of the same demographic, according to the extrapolation of April figures. WLS-890 AM, which airs Rush Limbaugh during the same period, beat WNTD with a 4.8 share.

But in New York, where Air America still broadcasts over WLIB-1190 AM, the network beat Limbaugh’s station, Disney-owned WABC, among both 25-to-54-year-olds and 18-to-34-year-olds during the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. period. In the 25-to-54 demographic, WLIB garnered a 3.4 share to WABC’s 3.1; among 18-to-34-year-olds, WLIB won sevenfold with a 2.9 share to WABC’s 0.4.

I’ve been catching no end of shit about these numbers from FrankenFans who think these numbers are some sort of evidence that “my side” is losing. That they seem to be pulling respectable results in NYC in that time frame means little to me. Franken & Co. had an incredible media push when they launched; they damn well better have drawn some listeners with all the free advertising they received. But attenuating the numbers for a certain timeframe doesn’t mean much. Why cut it down to 10AM-3PM? They have shows on before and after those hours, which are the morning and afternoon rush hour shifts, when people are in their cars and likely to be listening to their radios as they commute to and from their jobs.

Why they ignore morning drive is summed up in two words: Howard Stern. His legions are Air Idiot’s hoped-for foot soldiers in their battle against the VRWC. So “Morning Sedition” and the first hour of “Unfiltered” amounts to cannon fodder in their ideological war. Speak not ill of the doomed.

So those numbers only reflect that Franken might have some legs; it says more to me that nobody is talking about anything else on their roster showing any kind of traction. Even if Franken battles Limbaugh to a draw or edges ahead in NYC, Rush has dozens of fellow travellers scattered all over the rest of the day, dial and country. Picking one timeframe in one city is like saying “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” It’s not how a “network” should work. The same article also points out that for the one month Franken went head to head with Limbaugh in Chicago, he got his head handed to him, and Limbaugh was on vaction for one week of that matchup.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t give a damn about Al Franken’s numbers, no matter the demographic breakdown. The only numbers I’m looking at are the overall 12+ numbers for the entire station.

Franken alone can probably make a go of it, but as an overall outfit, I think they are gonna crash and burn. By concentrating on Franken, all the Air Idiot supporters are emphasizing that he’s all they got. If he walks–and I’m willing to bet he does before the network’s first birthday if Kerry loses the election in November–it’s over, because you can pretty much take as a given that the underwriting of this operation will dry up at that time. And the ad revenue won’t be flowing near enough at that time to keep the puppy network in kibble. Hell, even Franken has had to pass on getting paid during the current crisis. If I’m that SNL nerdboy’s bimbo, I’m looking for a sit-com. If I’m Randy Rhodes, I’m hammering myself in the head and asking, “Why the fuck did I sign on for this?”

So all you moonbats looking to bark, be my guest. But you’re riding a One Trick Pony. It’s gonna take two years for Air Idiot to grow “The O’Franken Factor” enough that it can be considered a credible counter to established shows like Limbaugh, Hannity (who comes on in NYC at 3PM, when they stop looking at the numbers…pounding Rhodes into the pavement?) and their cohorts on the “right wing” side. They’ll have to get Franken’s show on at least one ‘blowtorch’ station to jack up their advertising rates to a level that will entertain program directors to add him to their menu. They are not gonna be able to find stations in LA and Chicago that will broadcast the whole package like their lease agreement at WLIB provides. That business model is gone. They’ll probably have to jettison the rest of the lineup and put all their bets on Franken’s success. And nothing can convince me Franken is going to be willing to put in that kind of time. Not with him already talking about running for a Senate seat. Without him, the experiment ends.

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