Did Social Media Take Down Rush Limbaugh?On Monday, AOL announced in a Facebook post that it was joining the flood of advertisers pulling their spots from the Rush Limbaugh Show… At Slate, we’ve been arguing about the role of social media in the corporate backlash against the conservative host. Are Limbaugh’s advertisers deserting him because he pushed the envelope further than he ever had before, or was he felled by a lethal combination of offensiveness, Twitter, and Facebook?
For now, the ad boycott is uncomfortable but not crippling for Mr. Limbaugh, who is estimated to make $50 million a year and whose program is a profit center for Premiere Radio Networks, the company that syndicates it. The program makes money both through ads and through fees paid by local radio stations, and while it often has sparked outrage during more than two decades on the air, efforts at ad boycotts in the past have had no measurable effect. Liberal groups and activists, however, hope that this time is different.
There’s an attribution bias here. Twitter and Facebook are buzzing about all sorts of things, every day of the week. Whenever one of those things has real consequences, we want to trace it backwards to Twitter and Facebook. But what about the zillions of trending topics that don’t go anywhere?