Does Talk Radio Spend Too Much Time Talking About Politics?

This week we’re looking at one of the continuing discussions in spoken word radio and peering into our 2016 NuVoodoo Ratings Prospects Studies for answers.

In our data, among those who think the talk or news/talk station they listen to most is great, 16% complain that Talk radio spends too much time talking about politics.  But among the larger group who would change at least a few things about the talk or news/talk radio station they listen to most, 42% complain that there’s too much time spent on politics.

Among those who are happy with their talk station, a majority resonates with the opinions expressed on the station.  While among those who would make a few changes, the number drops to 40%.


Perhaps it’s not surprising that where we see the widest concurrence with opinions on talk radio is on the right end of the ideological spectrum.


Although even among the right wingers, over a quarter feel there’s fatigue with political talk suggesting there’s unrest even there with the offerings on the menu.


Compounding the problem of too much talk about politics are two factors regarding the slice that’s responsible for the biggest AQH at many commercial talk and news/talk stations.


The deepest support comes from the right wing, but that slice accounts for just 8% of our national sample (though it varies market to market).


So, not only is it a small slice in many markets, but as it turns out it’s a slice that’s somewhat less inclined to participate in the very research necessary to keeping its favorite stations alive.


When we tested possible talk show topics, the top ranked topics among those happy with their talk radio or news/talk radio stations all mentioned Obama.  But, among the larger group who are engaged with talk radio or news/talk radio stations, but might change a few things on their station, different topics leaked in – and the Obama-focused topics they responded to best were those that had a direct impact on them.  During our fielding in early November 2013, in addition to many Obamacare-related topics, those less happy with talk radio responded to topics about changing the minimum wage and proposed laws to ban smoking when children are in a car.

So, just like the metaphor we brought up a few weeks ago comparing changing the music targeting on a station to the process of turning a cruise ship – changing course without upsetting the comfort of the passengers – picking topics to involve a wider audience is a tricky maneuver.  It’s a matter of finding topics that people to the right of center or moderates who align to the right on some issues can resonate with and scheduling them carefully alongside the red meat topics that have become the mainstays of many talk radio stations.

The best performing non-political topics are often those that invoke instantaneous reactions about what’s right and what’s wrong, those that deal with societal morals, ethics and values.  It’s these topics, which require no prior reading, no personal research as a prerequisite for participating, that perform best with the larger audience available to many talk radio and news/talk radio stations.