There is one thing that is true, no matter what comes next: There will never, ever be another Rush Limbaugh.
That is largely by design, too. Rush built an entire industry as he built his show, and because it was his own business model, he owned it in ways that other hosts simply could never. That’s why he was able to do everything he wanted to do, and his charisma was such that audiences kept coming back, whether they agreed with him or not.
His death left a huge hole in the airwaves. The 12-3 daily slot will not be filled by anyone who is remotely like him. But, there are players moving in to make their own names in that spot. Last night, one of those names became official: Dan Bongino will be on the air every day from 12-3, courtesy of Westwood One.
The company, owned by Cumulus, is making an aggressive play in a spot that will have a lot of competition. There are other names floating around, but as of yet, nothing official. Bongino is the first big name that’s been made official, and even Premier (the company that ran Limbaugh’s) doesn’t even have a replacement ready yet.
I think Bongino has the potential to tap into the most active part of the conservative talk audience, and he has his own platform already in the Bongino Report website and podcast, so he can launch from that.
Likewise, Todd Starnes (formerly of Fox News Radio) has built his own show and not too long ago expanded his show to fit the 12-3 spot on several stations around the country. Starnes has long made his mark as a critic of the Left’s cultural war on socially conservative values.
Dana Loesch, likewise, has a show in the same time slot that has been growing for a while now. With a gap in the market, she is also in a position to make a play. She is a culture warrior in ways that Bongino and Starnes are not, and she provides a unique perspective you really can’t get anywhere else.
There are a few more moves we’ll see in the coming weeks that will really give listeners a tough choice on which show to go with. The big question that remains up in the air, though, is who will Premier put in that spot?
In a conversation with a friend of mine in the radio business, he was on board with the idea that Premier should give James Holden — the man known to Limbaugh’s audience as Bo Snerdley — a chance, even temporarily. Premier also hosts Sean Hannity, who has seemed somewhat adrift in the post-Trump era, though even before that, Hannity was losing some markets as his time slot is ideal for local stations to begin local content.
So, Premier could possibly put Hannity in that spot to “save” his radio show, but they could very well keep him where he is already established and work on rebuilding his show to fit the “new” era.
There is one person, though, that I think could be an instant success in Limbaugh’s spot, and if radio companies have not thought of this already, I want a commission on it: If I were in charge, I would be throwing money at Tucker Carlson right now.
There is so much out there that Carlson has spoken on and is capable of speaking on, and he hits populist notes in a way that few besides Rush really could. He’s got a huge platform, being a dominant force on Fox News and in the primetime spot overall. He also has something few other hosts have in that he is already being attacked more than any other right-leaning personality by all the left-wing media outlets.
It is a very, very interesting future we’re facing in talk radio, and I don’t think that it’s a dying industry at all. Rather, it’s an industry that is having to make a big adaptation at a time when they were already having to adapt to a major economic meltdown. There is a chance for a new voice to take the reins of the conservative base, too.