(This week The Curmudgeon is taking a look at the myth of the liberal media. On Monday he outlined what the issue is and looked at the degree to which newspapers and newspaper columnists are or are not biased toward the liberal perspective. On Tuesday he looked at newspaper endorsements and magazines. Yesterday he considered television news and what he calls “opinion television.” Today is devoted to talk radio and web sites. And on Friday he concludes by looking at what he considers a special situation and offers a brief conclusion.)
Next we turn to talk radio, where what we find is more conclusive than with any other medium.
The Curmudgeon identified the 16 radio talk show hosts with the most listeners per week. Here’s that list (as of May 2015):
Rush Limbaugh – 13.25 million listeners a week
- Sean Hannity – 12.5 million listeners
- Dave Ramsey – 8.25 million
- Glenn Beck – 7 million
- Mark Levin – 7 million
- Michael Savage – 5.25 million
- Jim Bohannon – 2.75 million
- Mike Gallagher – 2.75 million
- Michael Medved – 2.75 million
- George Noory – 2.75 million
- Doug Stephan – 2.75 million
- Bill Bennett – 2.5 million
- Clark Howard – 2.5 million
- Dennis Miller – 2.5 million
- Thom Hartman – 2 million
- Laura Ingraham – 2 million
The Curmudgeon confesses that until he started doing research for this piece he’d never even heard of Levin, Bohannon, Gallagher, Noory, Stephan, and Hartman – half of the top 12. And he thought Michael Medved was just a movie critic. Of course he’d rather go to the dentist, or watch a soccer game, than listen to talk radio, so perhaps that explains his ignorance.
Now let’s throw out a few: Ramsey and Howard have financial talk shows, Stephan’s show is considered general interest, and Noory’s show centers on mystery and the unknown (seriously!).
That narrows down our original 16 to 12, and this time, let’s add a notation of the political perspective of each:
Rush Limbaugh – 13.25 million listeners a week (conservative)
- Sean Hannity – 12.5 million listeners (conservative)
- Glenn Beck – 7 million (conservative)
- Mark Levin – 7 million (conservative)
- Michael Savage – 5.25 million (conservative)
- Jim Bohannon – 2.75 million (middle-of-the-road)
- Mike Gallagher – 2.75 million (conservative)
- Michael Medved – 2.75 million (conservative)
- Bill Bennett – 2.5 million (conservative)
- Dennis Miller – 2.5 million (conservative)
- Thom Hartman – 2 million (liberal)
- Laura Ingraham – 2 million (conservative)
Pretty conspicuous, isn’t it, that 10 of the 12 most popular political radio talk shows in the country are conservative and only one is liberal. And who are the people on this list who are most widely considered influential? Clearly, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck. And are they influential? Well, consider the same word The Curmudgeon offered as proof of the influence of opinion television: Benghazi. There is no – no – liberal counterpart to the manner in which conservatives have chosen to raise the profile of that sad but ridiculous issue.
Next we come to another category for which solid information is hard to come by: web sites (or, as some people insist, although The Curmudgeon is resisting, websites). The Curmudgeon had a difficult time finding hard numbers for how many people visit individual web sites but he did find a widely respected source for rating the relative popularity of web sites based on how many visitors they have – although strangely, no one seems interested in breaking down those ratings into hard numbers of visitors. The source is called Alexa ratings, generated by a company called Alexa that a Google search describes as “…a California-based company that provides commercial web traffic data and analytics. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com.” Before sharing some Alexa ratings, The Curmudgeon should note, in fairness, that some conservative groups believe Alexa ratings are biased. As far as The Curmudgeon can tell, the only explanation he has encountered to support this charge is that when Alexa reported a drop in ratings among some conservative web sites, conservatives immediately insisted that the ratings therefore must be biased.
Which makes perfect sense, right?
To give you a frame of reference, the top ten web sites in the U.S. – “top” as in “most frequently visited” – are pretty much what you’d expect:
No major surprises there, except maybe for Reddit.
According to Alexa ratings, the ten most popular conservative web sites in the U.S. today (and the number following the name of the site is its overall ranking (it’s not clear whether this is a U.S. or world-wide ranking, but The Curmudgeon suspects it’s U.S. only)) are:
Fox News (212)
- Wall Street Journal (294)
- Independent Review Journal (341)
- The Drudge Report (635)
- Western Journalism (819)
- New York Post (870)
- The Blaze (1045)
- Breitbart (1533)
- WorldNetDaily (2500)
- Conservative Tribune (2555)
The Curmudgeon confesses that he’s never heard of five of the ten. Well, he’s not conservative, so maybe that’s not so surprising.
How about you? Have you heard of all of these sites?
Now, the top ten liberal sites according to Alexa ratings:
- CNN (52)
- Huffington Post (393)
- Time (553)
- NPR (1524)
- Slate (1569)
- Newsweek (1690)
- S. News & World Report (2408)
- Politico (2470)
- Salon (2455)
- Indy Media (3534)
A few observations here.
First, The Curmudgeon has heard of nine of the ten; “Indy Media” is the unknown.
Second, he doesn’t think Time, Newsweek, Politico, and U.S. News & World Report are liberal at all and he doesn’t think CNN’s web site, which he assumes people visit more for breaking news than anything else, is liberal, either.
And third, overall, the top conservative sites appear to be more popular than the top liberal sites – but not by a whole lot in the greater scheme of things. Also, The Curmudgeon questions whether these are really the “top” sites in these categories. Whether they are or they aren’t, it’s certainly hard to accept any suggestion that the most popular web sites lean left, isn’t it?
Tomorrow: We look at a special situation and offer a brief conclusion.