Rush Limbaugh leads Talkers Heavy Hundred radio talk show list for eighth year in a row

Rush Limbaugh was named the most powerful radio talk show host for the eighth year in a row by Talkers magazine, which covers the talk show business.

He's often been credited with creating the modern-day political talk format in the late 1980s.

Limbaugh is now on from noon to 3 locally on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB after spending two decades on 640/WGST.

He is heard by more than 14 million listeners a week nationally, according to Talkers estimates. The lead between him and No. 2 talker Sean Hannity, also on WSB (and a former host based in Atlanta in the early 1990s), has narrowed in recent years. Hannity is estimated to be heard by 13.25 million listeners a week.

The rankings are not  scientific. It's a combination of hard and soft factors. Audience size is considered but so is courage, impact, longevity, potential, revenue, service, talent and uniqueness. The only firm qualification is they must have a show that regularly airs on an AM/FM station or satellite radio.

Three Georgia-based talk show hosts made the annual list.

Clark Howard, heard daily on WSB from 8 to 10 p.m., is the top-rated Georgia-based radio talk show host at No. 29. (Talkers estimates his audience at 3.25 million-plus.) For the past eight years, he has been consistently ranked between 27 and 30, including 20 four years in a row.

"He keeps the role of consumer advocacy alive in talk radio," said Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers. "We still feel its an important genre."

Neal Boortz, who retired two years ago, used to be a consistent top 15 ranker. His time-slot replacement Herman Cain, heard from 9 to noon on WSB, is ranked No. 50, up from 59 his first year on the list in 2013. His estimated audience is 1.5 million.

"Talk radio is so talent driven, so host driven, calling someone a replacement isn't really correct," Harrison said. "It's a fresh start. Herman Cain is a newcomer compared to Boortz. So far, he's done pretty well.  He's getting rave reviews from people within the industry."

Martha Zoller, heard on WGAU in Athens, is ranked No. 91.:"She represents a small-station host who is industrious and talented enough to create a national reputation for herself."

In recent years, Harrison has given more weight to Sirius/XM as its influence and audience size has grown. Howard Stern, once the No.1  radio host in America on the Talkers list as recently as 2006, dropped out of the top 10 after he joined Sirius/XM. Now he's back at No. 7.  "Satellite radio is no longer considered a novelty," he said, now that more than 25 million subscribe.

In 2012, he said the increasing influence of sports talk radio necessitated he create a separate top 100 just for sports talk. That list will be released later this year.

Here is the top 10, courtesy of Talkers magazine. You can get the entire Heavy Hundred here.

1. Rush Limbaugh, heard locally on WSB, noon to 3 p.m. weekdays

2. Sean Hannity, heard locally on WSB, 3 to 5 p.m., 7 to 8 p.m. weekdays

3. Dave Ramsey, heard locally on 640/WGST-AM, 2 to 5  p.m, weekdays

4. Michael Savage, heard locally on 1160/WCFO, 3 to 6 p.m.

5. Glenn Beck, heard locally on 640/WGST, 9 a.m. to noon weekdays

6. Mark Levin, heard locally on 920/WGKA-AM, 9 p.m. to midnight, weekdays

7. Howard Stern, heard on Sirius/XM weekdays, all day on his own channel

8. Ed Schultz, not heard on local AM/FM radio but available on from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays

9. Joe Madison, heard on Sirius/XM on Urban View, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays

10. Thom Hartmann, not heard on local AM/FM radio but available on from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.