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A lot of people listen to talk radio

But not a lot of people in Washington listen to talk radio. They all watch cable news, or read political blogs, which remain decidedly niche products. As Eric Alterman reminds us, however, talk radio is decidedly more mainstream:

48 million people get their news from [talk radio], according to the Pew Project For Excellence In Journalism, and the numbers of radio stations that carry at least some talk shows grew to 2,056 from 1,370 the year before, according to Inside Radio magazine.

That's more than twice the collective audience for the three TV network evening news shows combined, more than five times the audience of the three network Sunday news shows, nearly seven times the combined audience for cable news shows, nearly 10 times the audience for NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," and 16 times the audience for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 15, 2010; 12:45 PM ET
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that talk radio is a bigger source of (mis)information than cable news is important to remind people (btw, can it really be true that the narcissism of beltway pundits is such that they truly don't realize that rush is bigger than cnn just because they watch cnn and don't listen to rush?), but while i'm no expert, it's my understanding that radio ratings do not do a good job of isolating unique listeners.

as i understand it, if i listened to rush every day, i would be counted as 5 listeners, not 1....

Posted by: howard16 | March 15, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I find that hard to believe. Are they counting people who listen to the radio for 20 minutes on the way to and from work? Is NPR part of the total?

Posted by: adamiani | March 15, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

The question is, how many of those get it from the likes of Rush (radio's version of Fox), and how many from NPR (the actually fair and balanced guys on radio)?

Posted by: JERiv | March 15, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

i don't doubt the number of stations

i wonder if they are including sports talk shows in their numbers, i live in philadelphia and we have 3 or 4 daily sports talk shows

i would like to know how they calculated the size of the audience

i listen to some sports talk, some npr talk; i subscribe to nyt and phila inquirer, i visit several newspaper websites, i visit 15-20 political blogs most days, i watch alot of stewart, colbert, charlie rose, and book tv on cspan, as well as some bbc news

i assume i am counted as a viewer/consumer in many categories, i think most people are counted in one or more categories

i would not say i got my news from talk radio

i think the interpretation of the data is bogus

although i agree that talk radio shows are popular, and talk radio is maybe most popular medium because of drive-listening and that talk radio shows do influence opinion

Posted by: jamesoneill | March 15, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Radio ratings are very fungable. They don't measure listeners per hour like television, but instead measure listeners per week. Thus it is very difficult to complare the two mediums. Also, it does not matter if the number of talk radio shows has grown, overall radio ratings are falling steadily and have been doing so for years (talk is still doing better than music formats). Look to some of the radio industry sites for specific numbers. You cannot easily compare radio and TV stats.

Posted by: Chris95 | March 15, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I bounce back and forth between conservative talk radio and NPR (aka liberal talk radio) as I drive.

The primary diference between NPR and conservative talk radio is that conservative hosts tend to do a lot of yelling. On NPR they tend to speak softly.

Another difference, is that NPR often uses panel discussions, whereas conservative radio tends to be more driven by a host and live callers. Of course, NPR panels tend to have three or four people whose views run from left to more left. Numbers of speakers don't really create opinion diversity.

Both NPR and conservative talk radio are "biased." Instead of biased, I would say both advocate positions on the political spectrum. NPR just uses three soft talking liberal professors compared to one loud conservative host to make its point.

Conservative hosts also tend to interrupt callers a lot. Liberals on NPR tend to control the discussion by never coming up for air. They do Hamlet-like soliloquies. They use very few periods, which makes it difficult for others to get a word in.

All media is manipulative by nature. Most journalists choose their careers so they can advocate their views. Some make a lot of money. Others don't. They all advocate.

To protect from manipulation, we all need to sample different media outlets. Even media outlets that appear reasonable in tone manipulate by choosing which stories they choose to cover.

I get interviewed a lot as an expert by print media about business articles. Reporters usually have a specific slant on their story before they call and are looking for a quote from an expert to support the story narrative. You can usually predict which quotes they will use in their story and which ones they will ignore. The art of being a quotable expert for the print media is figuring what the likely story slants are and coming up with a suitable quote for each possible slant. That makes it more likely your name will apear as an expert in the aricle. It's rare that an expert can change the reporter's story slant. What you can do sometimes is alert a reporter that he's going down such a wrong alley that people who know something about a topic will think it foolish. Reporters don't like being so wrong that they get laughed at. Editors like it even less.

Posted by: jfv123 | March 15, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

While a lot of people get their news--or, their "opinion analysis"--from talk radio, it's good to keep the overall influence in perspective.

Rush, and many other conservative pundits, argued against McCain. They argued it was the end of the Republican party if McCain won. And yet, McCain won.

Rush argued that Hillary should win the Democrat nomination, and attempted to get Republicans to vote for her in order to spoil the nomination process for Obama. When Obama won, Rush--and everything other conservative talk show host--warned of the disasters that would befall us all, if Obama won. It would be the end of the world. Yet who won the election? And by a better (and real) margin than Bush in Bush v. Gore. And the conservative talking heads of course supported Bush against Gore . . . so, despite the high ratings of talk radio, it's pretty clear the people listening don't all go do what they're told.

If they did, the Democrats wouldn't have taken back the house and senate. Because they were told in no uncertain terms it was important they go vote for anemic and disappointing Republicans. However, despite being told this, they didn't show up to vote.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 15, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

NPR and the BBC are the least biased news sources I've found. It's a toss up in my head which of those is king of neutrality, but I'll lean on NPR since I simply like the station more (This American Life!).

NPR gets liberal guests and conservative guests, and though they do much better at calling guests out for spouting substance-free or incorrect talking points, they do let more get by than I would like. They also occassionally frame stories in an incorrect way, usually because conservatives have been so forceful in asserting that frame (ex. Today they reported about the whole HCR bill going through reconciliation, bizarrely, in the House.).

Still, overall they do a good job of presenting both sides of an argument without being so balanced obsessed that they can't point out if facts militate against one of the positions. Plus, they do a great job of making news interesting without exclusively focusing on deaths and controversy.

Posted by: MosBen | March 15, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

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