Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern continue to be talk radio's predominant brand names, according to a study by the Benchmark Co. But there was a general decline in the ability of regular talk radio liste

Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern continue to be talk radio's predominant brand names, according to a study by the Benchmark Co. But there was a general decline in the ability of regular talk radio listeners to identify other nationally syndicated hosts, the report says.

Limbaugh is the most readily identified talk show host in the U.S., with 94% familiarity, followed by Stern, at 89%, Benchmark found in a study of 1,120 regular listeners of AM and FM talk radio, the third installment in the company’s series on talk radio that began in 1994.

However, “with the exception of a few, well-established icons like Limbaugh and Stern, it may well be that the number of nationally syndicated radio hosts has gone past the point where the average listener can absorb all the names,” said Dr. Rob Balon, CEO of Benchmark.

In addition, the study found that more listeners classify themselves as political moderates and fewer identified themselves as conservatives, which, according to Balon, “may not bode well for stations that have gone to all conservative formats. We’re at a very critical point for the format. First and foremost, talk radio should be about entertainment. And the industry has tried to divide it into two monolithic camps: conservatives vs. liberals. Endless advocacy can flat-out get boring, no matter which side you subscribe to.”

Nearly a quarter of the study’s respondents agreed that talk radio has a “sameness” about it, while 17% wished that talk stations would feature more two-way talk between hosts and listeners.