2012 has been a busy year for Talk Radio.  Rush Limbaugh survived another self-ignited detonation when he labeled a Georgetown law student “a slut.”  Glenn Beck started his own TV network and signed a five-year contract extension with Premiere Radio Networks.  And Geraldo Rivera draped his mustache over the radio microphone with a weekday show airing in New York and Los Angeles, with plans to syndicate nationwide.

Oh, and did I mention this is an election year?

Expect controversial talkers to fan the flames over the next few months, criticizing President Obama helping a little old lady across the street as the reason her elbow now shows signs of bruising from his guidance.

Both political parties will use the radio airwaves to engage in more finger-pointing than Al Sharpton at a Dunkin’ Donuts.  (Sharpton now hosts a weekday talk show on SiriusXM, in case you haven’t heard.)

Former Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is ramping up his nationally-syndicated show, attempting to woo the Limbaugh loyal with a similar platform, but a decidedly less-abrasive tone and delivery.

There are also more SportsTalk stations popping up, as markets add a second sports-themed station to compete with the established market leaders.  National programming providers ESPN, Fox Sports and now both NBC Sports and CBS Sports will provide national content and clout to fortify the local hosts.

So why all the talk?  Simple.  Follow the money.

Most radio listeners embrace music formats in their teens and 20s, then begin the shift to spoken word formats (like News, Talk and Sports) in their 30s and 40s as their lifestyles changes.  The music of the day is no longer “their music” and their need for information increases.  SportsTalk station and personalities like Howard Stern sometimes bridge that transition at an earlier age, but by the time adults reach their peak earning (and spending) years, they’re spending more time with spoken word formats and less time with music.

Direct response advertisers – who empirically measure and manage the ROI from every campaign – will tell you that spoken word formats typically outperform music stations, simply because spoken word format listeners are “actively listening” for program content, rather than “passively hearing” music.  This puts the radio listener in a much better state of mind to hear, process and act on commercials played on spoken word format stations.

Talk personalities also make excellent spokespersons, as trusted authorities on the topics covered during their show.  Endorsing products and services becomes a natural extension of parceling out good advice to their audience.

So whether it the nationally-syndicated Sean Hannity Show on the national Premiere Radio AM/FM Network – the Sean Hannity Show playing to a smaller national audience via SiriusXM – or a Sean Hannity Show buy placed one market at-a-time, talk radio offers a wealth of marketing options for just about every advertising budget and objective.

If Talk Radio isn’t part of your current marketing plan, call us.  And we’ll talk about it.

Mark Lipsky is the President and CEO of The Radio Agency. Please follow The Radio Agency’s Blog “Sounding Board” by subscribing to the email or RSS links above.Visit our website TheRadioAgency.com