October 16, 2008

Numbers Show Radio Talkers Like To Talk About Themselves

% of Stories
Michael Savage 7.6
Rush Limbaugh 5.1
Randi Rhodes 2.7
Ed Schultz 2
Sean Hannity 1.6

7.6%—Percent of Michael Savage’s segnments in which he is the top subject

Commercial talk radio hosts are not reticent about offering their opinions and putting themselves in the middle of the discussion. But which major hosts spend the most time talking about themselves?

According to PEJ’s weekly content analysis of five of the most-listened to talk radio shows, it is Michael Savage, the conservative/contrarian with a weekly audience that Talkers magazine estimates at 8 million. From Jan. 1 – Oct. 12, 2008, Savage was the lead newsmaker in 7.6% of his show’s stories. (Lead newsmaker means he accounted for at least 50% of a story). Next, at 5.1%, was conservative powerhouse Rush Limbaugh, with the largest estimated audience, at about 14 million. After that comes liberal host a Randi Rhodes, who spent 2.7% of her time talking about herself. Syndicated liberal talker Ed Schultz (2.0%) and conservative radio talker and Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity (1.6%) and round out the five.

Even if they factor prominently into their discussions, the hosts are not their own favorite subjects. In 2008, that designation fell to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama who has been a lead newsmaker in 16.8% of the stories on the five talk shows. In contrast, his opponent John McCain has been a lead newsmaker in 7.7%. That’s not surprising given the conservative dominance of talk radio and the fact that most hosts tend to spend more time attacking foes rather than lauding favorites. But if it hadn’t been for Obama, Savage would have been the top topic on his own show in 2008.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ