Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

Localizing Talk Radio

The Boston Globe carries an interesting nugget today that has significance beyond just that one media market. Local AM radio station WRKO has decided to drop Rush Limbaugh in favor of local Republican operative Charley Manning.

Donna Halper, a radio consultant and college professor, is quoted in the piece saying, “There’s just so many stations that can air Rush Limbaugh.” She’s right: Rush has strong appeal, but at this point in the conservative talker’s long and successful career, he’s not as unique as he once was.

With traditional media struggling, the notion of finding a niche is something more ought to consider.

Fox News Channel stands out because it unabashedly takes a different view on the news than other cable news networks. MSNBC has now chosen the same path.

Media must differentiate their products just as packaged goods companies do.

Newspapers in particular would be wise to heed this lesson and offer up more local content. Take a look at your hometown newspaper rack today. Often too much of the front page remains dedicated to national and international events, usually covered through a wire service or syndication agreement.

Publications and broadcasters succeed when they offer a unique view or indispensable information not available elsewhere. Readers, listeners, and viewers are customers who have many choices. With so many options now available, consumers no longer consume media based simply on what’s easily accessible.

Rush Limbaugh won’t feel the pinch of differentiation any time soon. And in some markets he is still a stronger choice than Charley Manning.

But I’m betting that in a market like Boston, the local angle will have strong appeal because it’s easy these days to get a conservative take on Washington, but much more difficult to get some real local political flavor. And Boston is a city where politics gives the Red Sox a run for their money as the leading sport.

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