By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Who listens to Imus?

A Media Nation reader has challenged me to back up my assertion that no one has complained to WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) about Imus’ racist language because, well, no one listens.

It’s a fair point, though proving it is not as easy as it might seem. But there is certainly some evidence that the I-Man is not as big in Boston as he used to be.

Ideally, I would look at Arbitron’s ratings for weekday mornings among listeners in the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic. Unfortunately, companies pay a lot of money for those ratings, and no one’s going to give them to me.

On the Arbitron Web site, I can get data on overall ratings for Boston radio stations among listeners 12 and older. Since these numbers are not broken down by time slot, they’re not much good. For what it’s worth, though, the station came in ninth last fall, the most recent quarter for which numbers are available. News and/or talk stations that finished ahead of WTKK were WBZ (AM 1030), WRKO (AM 680) and WEEI (AM 850). And you can be sure that public station WBUR (90.9 FM), with a news and talk line-up, finished well ahead of ‘TKK, since its morning drive-time ratings are invariably strong — something not reflected in the Arbitron rankings, which only include commercial stations.

I also searched the archives of the Globe and the Herald for the past two years. Although I could not come up with anything definitive, I did find the following from the Herald’s “Inside Track,” published in September 2005:

Ratings-wise, “Imus in the Morning” isn’t exactly a powerhouse for ‘TKK in that all-important male 25-54 age group.

In the last five ratings books — Spring 2004 to Spring 2005 — the perennially PO’d morning man weighed in after WEEI’s sports yakkers Dennis & Callahan; Howard Stern’s strippers-on-parade on WBCN; and all-news WBZ-AM. Classic rock WZLX even beat him a few books back.

Again, WBUR probably beat Imus, too.

The bottom line is that Imus is no ratings monster in Boston. Stern’s gone, of course, but it seems eminently reasonable to assume that three news and/or talk stations — WBZ, WEEI and WBUR — all do better than “Imus in the Morning.”

If anyone has more definitive numbers than this, please pass them along, and I’ll be glad to post them.

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  1. man who's not an imus fan

    Actually, Dan – you can’t post them. Besides the publicly-assessable 12+ numbers (which are next to useless) Arbitron forbids dissemination of the other ratings numbers. They’ve smacked around the listserv a few times for posting Arbitron numbers. That’s why the moderators there guard strictly against it.Besides paying the big bucks to Arbitron, the only way you’ll really know is to call up Greater Media / WTKK and ask them if they’re willing to share the numbers with you personally for your own private edification. But I doubt they’d give you that info, and you wouldn’t be allowed to comment about them on the blog anyways.However, I can echo the same “word around the campfire” that Imus’s ratings, compared to 15 years ago, are in the toilet. But at the same time, even if he’s only getting a paltry 0.1 share…for Boston that still means several thousand people are listening to him. One would think at least a few would be offended. And the Herald noticed this latest screed.Although it’s not like Imus hasn’t rattled off pretty offensive stuff before. Maybe people are used to it.

  2. man who's not an imus fan

    Oh. Whoops – I commented on this post before I read the next one, so you already found the Herald note. Mea culpa.Well, the Arbitron comments still stand.

  3. Anonymous

    I do hope that Mr. Kennedy will excuse me for posting a link to something that is totally off-topic. Der Spiegel, the weekly news magazine from Germany, had an interview (in English) with Larry King, that is very informative and, quite frankly, very funny. URL,1518,druck-476034,00.html I’m sure that some here will find the interview as entertaining as we did.I did not quite understand King’s interviewing technique until his recent explanation. He was not going to argue with his interviewees. One might disagree with his interviewing technique, but it did make sense. Although, in a sense, it did. The best episode of NOVA was the interview with Richard Feynman. They edited out all of the questions, and stitched his reponses together. Extraordinary.–raj

  4. Zach Everson

    My dad listens to–and watches–Imus. Your posts on the I Man remind me of when my dad used to drive me into work in Boston during college breaks. Two friends and I were subjected to Imus the entire trip. My dad would tell us how funny Imus was, but never laugh.

  5. O-FISH-L

    Happy Easter to all in the Media Nation! In re Imus, the elephant in the room is being ignored. Has Sen. John Kerry, prominent Democrat and frequent guest on the Imus program, denounced Don’s comments yet? Will Kerry continue to appear on such a racist, hate-mongering show? Is this acceptable to you Dems? Do tell.O-FISH-L

  6. mike_b1

    O, in case you hadn’t noticed, Dems don’t like Kerry. Else, why would they tell a guy who came a few stolen Ohio votes away from being president not to run in ’08?So they could care less if he denounces Imus. Or Satan, for that matter.

  7. O-FISH-L

    MikeUm, the Dems nominated Kerry in the last Presidential election, pardon me for thinking they nominated a guy that they liked.I guess the Dems are as fickle as their standard bearer. They liked Kerry before they disliked him.Best,O-FISH-L

  8. mike_b1

    You have to nominate someone. Doesn’t mean you have to like him. Nixon won twice that way. So did Dick Cheney. (Of course, they both cheated, but…)Hugs,Mike

  9. Stella

    Huge Yawn!Imus and his ilk pander to their audience. The empty air remains unruffled and emptier heads tune in for the pablum.

  10. Anonymous

    O-FishAre you serious? Romney goes on that show. Mary Matalin. Laura Ingraham. John McCain. Jay Severin. And I’m sure many others of their (and your) ilk.This is typical right wing selective “reasoning” hypocritical nonsense!

  11. man who's not an imus fan

    Stella’s got a point. I’ll add another good one: it’s all about the money.Controversy means attention. Attention means listeners. Listeners mean ratings. Ratings means ad revenue. Revenue means profit! These guys keep their jobs precisely because they say offensive, controversial things. The occasional toe across the line and slap on the wrist is just the cost of doing business.In a sense, the NABJ’s protest is self-defeating because it’s just drawing attention to a guy who’s already pretty far from the spotlight. Although I can understand why they feel that “doing nothing” was not a viable response to Imus’s comments.

  12. O-FISH-L

    anon 10:59When Romney, Mary Matalin, Laura Ingraham, John McCain, Jay Severin, et al receive the Republican nomination for President of the United States and continue to appear on Imus, get back to me.Any word yet from the Dems most recent nominee –who finsished just a few Ohio votes short of becoming President (ha!)– on his friend’s repugnant comments?

  13. O-FISH-L

    Kudos to Jessica Heslam of the Herald, who says she has a call in to both Mitt Romney and John Kerry asking whether they will continue to appear on the Imus program after Imus uttered the hateful comments.I am particularly interested in Kerry’s response, after all, not too long ago he vowed to become “the second black President.” Heslam reports on her blog neither Romney nor Kerry’s flaks have responded to the question. Should be interesting.

  14. Save Imus Gear

    Get your “I Love Imus” shirts, hats, buttons, stickers and more at: I-MAN RETURNETH!!!!

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