The relationship between the music industry and radio has been changing drastically ever since iTunes came along and showed people another way they could consume their music. This was apparent when the ipod became the number one selling music device on the planet. The way people consumed music and radio was without a doubt going through a seismic shift.
Talk radio has gone through a similar transformation. Podcasts are widely available across the Internet and are generally free. If someone wants to take one of his or her favorite shows on the go it’s easier than ever. Comedians like Joe Rogan and Adam Carolla have built huge followings releasing a steady stream of podcasts free of charge. Their money generally comes from in-show advertisements.
With the emergence of Satellite and Internet radio services such as SiriusXM and Spotify, the scope of the technology has broadened. Satellite radio service SiriusXM went through a major merger to become the only satellite radio service. Which means they can broadcast their signal worldwide and control their own market. It has provided an alternative to terrestrial radio, which is regulated by the government.
With mobile and online listening emerging as it has, especially with young listeners, it’s easy to think the idea of public radio might be losing ground. Yet, there are still a lot of listeners in radio who want to hear interesting original stories, the kind that This American Life and other public radio shows excel at. But even the public radio format has gotten hip with the times and some of their most popular shows are often available in podcast form.
Conservative talk radio has many of the highest-rated shows in the medium. A resurgence in the format began in the 1990’s and it continues to dominate progressive talk radio. Conservative shows vastly outnumber progressive radio programs and usually have two to three channels in each market compared to one progressive channel. As you’ll see on this list, conservative radio hosts hold many of the largest audiences in radio.
With the current state of radio being as diluted and fractured as it is, there are still voices and broadcasters who come out above the rest. They are the ones who have built huge audiences, who broadcast to millions of people. They have figured out a way to insert their unique personality into the public consciousness. The most influential radio personalities are the ones who have carved out a particular niche, which has helped elevate their voices above the rest of the chatter.
10. Ira glass
Ira Glass hosts a syndicated radio show on called This American Life distributed by Public Radio International. In the realm of public radio, This American Life is among the most popular. The show presents a story with a different theme for each episode. It boasts a weekly audience of over 2.2 million listeners syndicated across 580 public radio stations. In 2007, Glass produced This American Life as a television show, as half-hour episodes for Showtime. This American Life has helped propel certain contributors into their own flourishing literary careers, including Sarah Vowell and David Sedaris.
9. Dr. Laura
Laura Schlessinger hosts The Dr. Laura Program. Dr. Laura is a popular conservative radio host whose show was in syndication for 16 years. During her peak as a broadcaster, her show came second in the ratings to The Rush Limbaugh Show, being heard across 450 radio stations nationwide. She had more than nine million listeners weekly. Her terrestrial radio show came to an end in 2010, announcing on Larry King Live that she was unable to speak her mind and wanted to “regain her First Amendment rights”. Her show moved to Sirius XM Radio in January 2011.
8. Terry Gross
Terry Gross is the host of Fresh Air, which is distributed by National Public Radio. Her show is listened to by 4.5 million people weekly. She’s been at the helm for over 35 years and the mainstay of her program has always been in-depth, probing interviews of prominent figures in the art, entertainment, and culture fields.
She is known for her well-researched and intensive interview skills. She will make painstaking preparations for a guest, including reading their book(s), listening to their albums, and making herself as familiar with the interviewee as possible. This is part of what makes her show so appealing to casual listeners and cultural critics alike. She won a Peabody award in 1993, which recognizes outstanding public service from media organizations and individuals.
7. Laura Ingraham
Laura Ingraham hosts The Laura Ingraham Show, which launched in 2001. She had an audience of over 6 million listeners at her peak and is considered one of the leading female conservative voices in the nation. She was a part of conservative magazine Newsmax’s “25 most influential women in the GOP” list.
Her show has often engaged in heated rhetoric involving her stance on immigration and people who depend on government assistance. She has three New York Times bestselling books, which focus her attention on those “liberal elites,” who in her mind are leading to the “pornification” of America. She often espouses her conservative values in education, culture, and family life. She is a frequent guest-host of the O’Reilly factor, when the honourable Bill O’Reilly is absent.
6. Dave Ramsey
The Dave Ramsey Show is a three-hour broadcast, which has an audience in the neighborhood of eight million listeners. He is syndicated across 500 radio stations throughout North America. He has four New York Times best-selling books.
Ramsey uses his own experience in the financial sector to help coach people on many financial issues, most notably on helping people get out of debt. He often communicates to his audience in an emotional and spiritual way as opposed to relating the pure mathematics of financial issues. He incorporates his own Christian perspective on life’s concerns with callers and discusses how they should best deal with their financial interests. He often urges his listeners to avoid debt-collectors, considering them “scum” and completely dishonest.
Delilah Rene Luke hosts Delilah, go figure. Her show is extremely popular among women aged 25-54, with roughly eight million listeners. She describes her show as a kind of “electronic hearth,” where listeners can feel safe and share their secrets. She broadcasts the show entirely from her own home. Delilah’s dedicated following comes from its blend of music and use of callers. Often times, Delilah will listen to a caller’s story and then choose music to suit their situation. In 2012, she was honoured with a GRACIE award, which celebrates influential women in Media.
4. Sean Hannity
The robin to Rush Limbaugh’s batman, Hannity boasts a weekly audience of 13.25 million, which is second only to the aforementioned Limbaugh in the U.S. The Sean Hannity Radio Show is syndicated across 500 affiliate channels. A self described “Reagan Conservative,” his show blends a mix of monologues on political issues of the day and interviews with newsmakers. In 2008, he signed a five-year contract extension worth $100 million. His opinions have helped him gain a reputation as a polarizing broadcaster, in which he will espouse his conservative ideology and provide unabashed commitment to certain political candidates.
3. Ryan Seacrest
Ryan Seacrest in a one-man media conglomerate. In addition to having the number-one-rated music show on radio, he owns a production company, and he is the host of multiple television programs including the top-rated American Idol. In 2004, Seacrest took over as host for American Top 40. Legendary broadcaster Casey Kasem created the show and Seacrest’s successful turn as host led to its re-branding as On Air With Ryan Seacrest. It is syndicated across 150 radio stations in North America alone with a worldwide audience of over 20 million listeners. His television production company produces shows across multiple networks. From Keeping up with the Kardahshians on the E! network to Jaime Oliver’s food revolution on ABC.
2. Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh is one of the most prominent conservative voices in the U.S. and has been for quite some time. When his career began in the 1970’s he was fired from multiple radio stations because as a news commentator he was seen as too controversial. Since The Rush Limbaugh Show took off, Limbaugh has become one of the highest paid people in media. In 2008 he signed a deal that was worth somewhere in the vicinity of $400 million, which would take him through 2016. In 2012 “talkers magazine” listed Limbaugh as the highest rated talk show host, with 15 million listeners weekly.
Rush has been a source of controversy his entire broadcasting career. One notable example of his punditry that caused quite a stir included accusing Michael J. Fox of exaggerating the symptom’s involved with his Parkinson’s disease. This controversy had to do with Fox’s promotion of stem cell research, which Limbaugh has stated his opposition to. He is a frequent voice of opposition to what he perceives as liberal bias in mainstream U.S. media.
1. Howard Stern
Midway through his career, Howard Stern proclaimed himself the “King of all media” as a sort parody to Micheal Jackson famously declaring himself the “King of Pop”. The name stuck, however, and soon Stern was turning his raunchy humor into a full-fledged media empire. He became unbeatable in the ratings, moving to Washington D.C. and asserting himself as the number one disk jockey there. He was lured to New York and became a phenomenon, where his show was syndicated across the country to over 20 million listeners PER DAY at its peak.
He now resides in the world of satellite radio, controlling two channels at SiriusXM. Many are still afraid to sit opposite Howard Stern, as he has a tendency to conduct some of the most revealing interviews in the business. His ability to coax some of the most intimate details out of people’s lives is part of what has helped stern maintain such a large and dedicated audience all these years. His latest deal at Sirius XM was reportedly worth $400 million over five years, which would take him through to 2015.
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