Is social media toppling Rush Limbaugh?

Exodus now a stampede as 141 advertisers pull ads from radio show after 'Slutgate'

Within days after radio talk host Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" -- for three straight shows, though he didn't intend it as a personal attack! -- a handful of advertisers responded to the outrage of customers by pulling their sponsorship of the program. That was two weeks ago. Today, thanks primarily to a sustained campaign on social media, the number of sponsors demanding that their ads no longer run on Limbaugh's show has grown to 141. Let's face it, losing a couple of advertisers is no big deal. But when a trickle becomes a roaring stream, well, that's an entirely different matter. (Et tu, Preparation H?) And Rush's allegedly massive audience will mean nothing to Clear Channel Communications if it can't make money off the show's listenership. The latest update on the growing sponsorship exodus comes from the Traffic Directors Guild of America, a broadcasting association, which posted a memo on its website before quickly taking it down. However, the political website ThinkProgress grabbed a Google snapshot of the site and got the names of the advertisers who have fled The Slutland Show. And while losing Preparation H must have been a particularly personal and painful blow to Limbaugh, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Some huge national and international companies are fleeing the show, including Honda, Rite Aid, Subway, Staples and General Motors. Numerous tech companies also have discontinued advertising on Limbaugh's show, including IBM, Netflix, Yahoo, AOL, Citrix, Hotels.com, Intuit/Small Business and Stamps.com. Of course, since Rush's latest outburst is just an extreme example of the abuse-talk he's been spewing for years, it's fair to ask why they sponsored him in the first place. Remember, this is the guy who thought it was funny to compare a 13-year-old girl's looks to a dog's on his television show. Hilarious! The girl was Chelsea Clinton. The furor lasted briefly, then died away. However, that was when the commercial Internet was in its dial-up infancy and well before social media. This time around, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and even Pinterest are there to help consumers communicate their displeasure directly to Limbaugh's advertisers -- in a determined and sustained way. And the advertisers have responded, not just by pulling their sponsorships, but by taking to social media themselves. Some advertiser tweets: Netflix: "Spotted your tweets and wanted to let you know that Netflix has not purchased and does not purchase advertising on the Rush Limbaugh show. We do buy network radio advertising and have confirmed that two Netflix spots were picked up in error as part of local news breaks during the Rush Limbaugh show. We have instructed our advertising agency to make sure that this error will not happen again." AccuQuote: "AccuQuote has instructed our media agency to immediately pull all our advertising campaigns that support Rush Limbaugh. His recent comments do not reflect the values of AccuQuote." One would hope not. St. Vincent Charity Medical Center: "Mr. Limbaugh's recent derogatory comments regarding an individual testifying before Congress are not acceptable." ServiceMagic.com: "[R]ecent comments on the show do not align with the values we hold at the core of our company and as such, have requested to remove our support as an advertiser." AOL: "We have monitored the unfolding events and have determined that Mr. Limbaugh’s comments are not in line with our values." Quicken Loans: "Due to continued inflammatory comments – along w/valuable feedback from clients & team members – QL has suspended ads on Rush Limbaugh program" Here's my favorite one... Carbonite: "No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show." Can you imagine any of this happening without social media?

Chris Nerney writes ITworld's Tech Business Today blog. Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisNerney. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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