Rush Limbaugh tops Talkers Heavy Hundred for ninth year in row

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rush Limbaugh remains the king of modern-day talk radio for the ninth year in a row, based on a ranking by Talkers magazine.

Talkers ranks the most influential talk show hosts every year based on a wide array of subjective and objective criteria and has not found a compelling personality that could overtake Limbaugh.

Limbaugh helped popularize current political talk format in the late 1980s and despite controversies and setbacks, he remains top dog. His audience size was higher a few years ago but remains at a robust 13.25 million-plus weekly nationally, according to Talkers estimates.

"Advertising boycotts have caused some numbers erosion, but talk radio is still extremely popular,"  said Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers magazine. Plus, he notes online listening is hard to measure.

Howard Stern was the last host not named Limbaugh to top the list back in 2006, but since he went to satellite radio, Talkers has deemed him less prominent. (This year, he is at No. 7.)

Limbaugh in Atlanta is now heard from noon to 3 on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB.

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 12.5 million listeners a week, down from 13.25 million in 2014.

The rankings are not  scientific. Audience size is a factor but so are criteria such as courage, impact, longevity, potential, revenue, service, talent and uniqueness. The only firm requirement is they have a show that regularly airs on an AM/FM station and/or satellite radio. (Podcasters are not included.)

Only two 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. 46, his lowest ranking in the past decade. (Talkers estimates his weekly audience at 2.5 million-plus, down from 3.25 million in 2014.) For the previous nine  years, he has been consistently ranked between 27 and 30, including 20 four years in a row.

"I think relative to other people up and coming, Clark is not the up and comer anymore," Harrison said.

Neal Boortz, who retired in early 2013, used to be a consistent top 15 ranker. His time-slot replacement Herman Cain, heard from 9 to noon on WSB, slipped to 64 from 50 last year and 59 his first year on the list in 2013. He was not in Talkers' top 30 of talk show hosts with the biggest estimated audience. "Herman is doing very well in Atlanta, which is why he's at 64. His position as a national figure has faded," Harrison said.

Talk radio has remained a bastion for guys. Only one woman made the top 20: Laura Ingraham.

Dennis Miller and Ed Schultz (who was No. 8 last year) left the radio scene last year and were dropped off the list. Athens' talk show host Martha Zoller left WDUN-AM last year and fell off the list as well.

Harrison hopes down the road that radio adds more talkers discussing subjects other than politics such as science and arts and entertainment. "I wish there were more iconoclasts who people listen to for their personalities, not to just have their ideologies confirmed," he said.

A separate list for sports talk hosts 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., weekdays

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 100 and 101 channels

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

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

10. Mike Gallagher, heard on Answer 920/WGKA-AM from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays

List of Atlanta radio stations

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About the Author

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