“Talk radio’s potency in primary elections derives from hosts’ special relationship with listeners. Listeners consider hosts to be friends who share their sensibilities and worldviews—after all, they spend hours together each week. So listeners take a call to action from a host as seriously as they might if a friend or family member encouraged them to act. “ -Brian Rosenwald author of “Mount Rushmore: The Rise of Talk Radio and Its Impact on Politics and Public Policy”

Talk radio is a platform which is often overlooked during media analysis. It’s harder to track than digital platforms such as twitter. Furthermore, stations pop-up in rural and hard-to-reach areas.

Types of radio stations across the country, the most popular genre is country, the second most popular is talk radio
Types of radio stations across the country, the most popular genre is country, the second most popular is talk radio

We performed an initial exploration of talk-radio and built an interface in augmented reality to listen to stations live. In a way, we built the world’s most expensive radio receiver:

In addition to the augmented reality experience, we built an immersive talk radio experience, where you can fly over America and select talk-radio stations to listen to live.  The experience gives you an astronaut’s view of the Earth, while at the same time allowing you to be immersed in multiple channels of talk-radio. While listening to stations, we realized that there were many subjects that were heavily discussed in talk-radio shows which we had never heard of.

We also overlayed information about congressional districts and how they voted in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 election. By selecting a station, you could also see who the congress-people for that district are.

As a follow-up, we began studying the reach of the most popular shows. We utilized Neilsen rating data from 260 markets to compare the distribution of Rush Limbaugh (conservative) and NPR (liberal):

Top: Percentage of listeners to NPR data in each market (Nielsen, left is not normalized, right is normalized). Bottom: Listener percentage to Rush Limbaugh stations in each market (left is unnormalized, right is normalized)
Top: Percentage of listeners to NPR data in each market (Nielsen, left is not normalized, right is normalized). Bottom: Listener percentage to Rush Limbaugh stations in each market (left is unnormalized, right is normalized)

Our findings show that NPR listenership is slightly more concentrated than Rush Limbaugh llisternership among the 260 markets we have data for.

After this initial exploration, we are focusing on transcribing the words spoken and correlating that information with other media (CNN, Fox News, twitter). From there we can create tools for analysis of talk radio, sentiment, and influence.