Con­ser­va­tives look to pod­casts for young vot­ers

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY DAVID LIGHT­MAN dlight­[email protected]­

Con­ser­va­tives learned long ago how to use what were once new me­dia – talk ra­dio and ca­ble tele­vi­sion – to mo­bi­lize ac­tivists. Now they’re div­ing into pod­cast­ing, aim­ing to lure a younger gen­er­a­tion that has largely eluded them.

Lib­er­als got to the mil­len­nial pod­cast au­di­ence first, thanks to Pod Save Amer­ica, Rachel Mad­dow and oth­ers who racked up big num­bers with a younger au­di­ence as they railed against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and a Repub­li­can pol­icy agenda.

But in just the past few months, con­ser­va­tives have be­gun launch­ing and pro­mot­ing shows, see­ing pod­casts as an in­ex­pen­sive and tech­no­log­i­cally easy way to reach new vot­ers and po­lit­i­cal work­ers.

“You can el­e­vate at­ten­tion to is­sues and ideas that will prob­a­bly not ap­pear on the front page of the New York Times any­time soon,” said Jim Ger­aghty, se­nior po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for the Na­tional Re­view and co­host of the con­ser­va­tive “Three Mar­tini Lunch” pod­cast.

That’s why, when Danielle Crit­ten­den was try­ing to find a way to talk about women’s is­sues in the post-#MeToo era, she asked her 20-some­thing chil­dren how to best reach that gen­er­a­tion.

“They’re not go­ing to read books about this, but they are all lis­ten­ing to pod­casts,” she found.

So “Fem­splain­ers” was born, a pod­cast hosted by Crit­ten­den and Christina Hoff Som­mers. To­day it’s listed by Town­ as of the top 20 con­ser­va­tive pod­casts.

Their style is typ­i­cal of this new breed of pod­casts. They have a cock­tail or wine dur­ing the show. Their pro­grams are not the flame-throw­ing, name-call­ing melees of­ten iden­ti­fied with con­ser­va­tive talk ra­dio and ca­ble tele­vi­sion. They of­ten try to stay away from par­ti­san pol­i­tics al­to­gether.

The con­ser­va­tive pod­casts can fea­ture hosts and guests sit­ting by a fire, com­ment­ing on their dog’s habits and talk­ing in para­graphs as they me­thod­i­cally build ar­gu­ments and try to win over lis­ten­ers in a friendly way.

They have an in­stant star in Ben Shapiro. The 35-year-old for­mer Bre­it­bart ed­i­tor-at-large hosts one of the na­tion’s most pop­u­lar pod­casts, giv­ing his con­ser­va­tive views on cur­rent events.

Shapiro is ed­i­tor of The Daily Wire, which bills it­self as an “ir­rev­er­ent news and com­men­tary site for a new gen­er­a­tion of con­ser­va­tives.” He rou­tinely tries to build ar­gu­ments with talk­ing points and data.

“I think Shapiro does well be­cause he gets it. De­spite his for­mat, his show isn’t a con­ser­va­tive talk ra­dio show repack­aged as a pod­cast,” said Michelle Cordero, host of “Her­itage Ex­plains,” a weekly pod­cast from the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion that breaks down pol­icy is­sues at a ba­sic level.

Shapiro has soared be­cause he’s not only at­tracted the younger de­mo­graphic but has me­thod­i­cally built his brand. He was writ­ing a syn­di­cated col­umn as a teenager. He got no­tice for his books, in­clud­ing “Brain­washed: How Uni­ver­si­ties In­doc­tri­nate Amer­ica’s Youth,” which was pub­lished when he was 20, and an­other al­leg­ing many in Hol­ly­wood were pro­mot­ing a lib­eral agenda.

Shapiro’s show in Jan­uary ranked sixth among all pod­casts, trail­ing the top-rated “The Daily” from The New York Times; “This Amer­i­can Life,” the pub­lic ra­dio show and pod­cast; “Stuff You Should Know” from iHeartRa­dio and “Up First” and “TED Ra­dio Hour” from NPR, ac­cord­ing to Pod­trac.

Con­ser­va­tives for years have ben­e­fited from be­ing more adept at talk ra­dio and ca­ble TV. But those au­di­ences skew older.

Dur­ing the week of Feb. 18-24, con­ser­va­tive Sean Han­nity’s 9 p.m. Fox News Chan­nel show ranked third (Wed­nes­day) and fourth (Thurs­day) for the week in to­tal view­ers among all ca­ble TV pro­grams with about 3.5 mil­lion view­ers per night. Also crack­ing the top 25 were shows hosted by con­ser­va­tive talk­ers Laura In­gra­ham and Tucker Carl­son.

Among lib­er­als, Rachel Mad­dow’s pro­grams were among the best viewed. Last Wed­nes­day, her show edged Han­nity in to­tal view­ers. None of the talk shows, though, was in the top 25 pro­grams watched by view­ers 18 to 49 dur­ing the past two weeks.

That’s why con­ser­va­tives are now slowly build­ing sup­port among the younger de­mo­graphic with pod­casts.

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