If it’s the former, RushLimbaugh.com is a success.
Just what is the Rush Limbaugh brand? Is it simply “Republican”? Or is it conservative personality and entertainer? Serious political pundit and insightful social critic? Or egomaniacal blowhard? As with all brands, perception makes its own reality, but with Rush Limbaugh, the brand is filtered through the prism of politics, which refracts every thread of light into a kaleidoscope of opinions—some more accurate than others.
More than anything else, Rush Limbaugh’s brand positions itself as the American dream, touting him as both spokesperson and spokesmodel. Over his career, Rush’s particular brand has grown so large and important as to define the industry of talk radio. And while Rush’s listening audience shrank from a peak of around 24 million in the 1990s to about 13 or 14 million toward the end of the Bush administration, a little recent brand management—“I hope [Obama] fails”—has Rush’s numbers rising again toward Clinton-era levels.
Hatred is an important barometer gauging the vitality of the Rush Limbaugh brand—and many other brands for that matter. Just ask diehard Apple and Microsoft supporters. Brands that drum up sentiments of “meh” among adversaries are slipping into a netherworld of apathy. Brands that generate conflict are often exceptionally strong and robust. In this respect, Rush Limbaugh’s brand remains Herculean.
While many broadcast personalities utilize their websites as “for more information” platforms—Oprah, for example—Rush unabashedly pimps his site throughout his radio show. Whether it’s for more information on a story or to get his podcasts or to sign up for one of his advertisers’ services, Limbaugh is constantly driving listeners to RushLimbaugh.com.
Broadcasting insiders have been buzzing lately about how conservative talk radio’s average listener is nearly 70 years old. To RushLimbaugh.com, this demographic means no Adobe Shockwave. But that doesn’t seem to matter. Evidencing just how well RushLimbaugh.com is serving its target group are traffic numbers from web-chronicler Alexa that show that Rush visitors spend an average of about four minutes per visit. This is on par with Oprah.com (4.7 minutes), above HowardStern.com (2.9 minutes), but well below (Sean) Hannity.com (8.6 minutes).
It is hard to tell whether Rush is doing his sponsors any favors. The design of the site washes out the advertisements, making them invisible and indistinguishable from the editorial content as they disappear in a cacophony of attention-grabbing headlines and promotions. Again, depending on who you are, RushLimbaugh.com is either web design genius or a toilet bowl of information.