His career in radio started more than 20 years ago when he won a contest to be a DJ for an hour, and he rapidly moved up the broadcasting career ladder. Glen Beck is now host of the 4th-most-popular radio show in the nation (heard locally on WTDY 1670 AM) and it’s estimated he has about six and a half million weekly listeners. El-Rushbo reaches about 13.5 million people a week, and is the most-listened to show in the nation.
Beck’s TV show doesn’t do nearly as well as his radio show (remember when Rush tried to do TV years ago, and how horribly he and the show bombed?) but Beck has now “advanced” to the point that his Fox TV show is the target of a boycott. This is what my friend Doug Moe calls “failing upwardly”.
When Beck called the President a racist on the Fox morning show July 28th, the civil rights group Color Of Change swung into action and began a boycott. Most boycotts fail, and even the best have mixed results, but rather than asking people to stop watching Beck’s show, Color Of Change contacted Beck’s sponsors.
You are probably not aware of the boycott, but more than fifty sponsors have pulled their ads from Beck’s show. Color Of Change has learned the lesson that if you make a big public noise about boycotting viewing or listening to an on-air personality, all it does is drive the ratings up. (Two words: Don Imus.)
The list of companies which have pulled their ads from Beck’s show is a Who’s Who of huge corporations, including the granddaddy of them all, Wal*Mart. Among the others companies which have decided to pull their ads are outfits like Best Buy, Mercedes Benz, Capital One, Progressive Insurance, GEICO, and Travelocity. Each one is a huge enterprise that spends a lot of money advertising.
Amy Goodman, co-host of another extremely popular radio show (Democracy Now!, heard locally on WORT 89.9 FM), says more “mainline” groups like the NAACP are now starting to pay much closer attention to Beck’s racist rants, and she says the advertiser boycott of Beck’s show is not likely to just fade out.
I’m not sure I agree with Amy, having a “few years” of broadcasting experience under my belt. What sells ads initially, for advertisers as large as Wal*Mart, are concepts like “reach and frequency” and “cost per thousand”. You don’t need to know exactly what that jargon means, only that what counts is how many viewers or listeners the show delivers, and how much it costs to reach them.
In most cases, sponsors cancel when pressure is brought to bear; but they’re back on the show in the next fiscal quarter. And new sponsors usually “fill the void” quickly when there’s an opening. So, the “pain” is immediately tangible, but short-lived. Ad sales people are very skilled at “re-selling” boycotters, giving (often false) assurances that “things have changed and your absence really made a statement”.
For the boycott to be even modestly successful, Color Of Change is going to have to keep the pressure on the advertisers who dropped off and deal with the new sponsors that come on. That’s usually too tall an order for most watchdog organizations. They don’t have the resources or manpower.
If advertisers made their buying decisions based on morals, Beck and Limbaugh’s shows would have been gone a long time ago.