“Host”, a story by David Foster Wallace, was published in The Atlantic newspaper. It follows the talk radio show of John Ziegler on his show on KFI AM 640, an imaginary show taking place in 2004.
Overall, the story was very long. I have a hard time reading for long periods of time off my computer and I’m not going to waste paper and ink printing out this story just to read it once. So It took me a couple sit downs to actually get through it.
The story was fairly interesting and I actually learned a thing or two about the radio business, in particular the business of Talk Radio of the industry. On of the most interesting quotes was the following-
“Radio has become a more lucrative business than most people know. Throughout most of the past decade, the industry’s revenues have increased by more than 10 percent a year. The average cash-flow margin for major radio companies is 40 percent, compared with more like 15 percent for large TV networks; and the mean price paid for a radio station has gone from eight to more than thirteen times cash flow.”
I had no idea that the radio industry was lucrative at all. I personally hate talk radio, and don’t really even listen to the radio that much ( thanks to my nifty ipod hookup I bought). Like I am the kind of person who avoids it like its the plague and would rather drive in silence than listen to that crap usually. So for it to be profitable is almost mind boggling. Are there honestly that many people that listen to it still? Besides in their cars on the way to work or to run errands or bring the kids to school? How do businesses think investing their advertising money in radio is more productive in the long run than TV? To my TV should be the more lucrative media outlet, but apparently I thought wrong.
Another part of the story that intruged me was the fact that the main character in it, Ziegler, is actually nice to his callers.
“Compared with many talk-radio hosts, John Ziegler is unusually polite to on-air callers. Which is to say that he doesn’t yell at them, call them names, or hang up while they’re speaking, although he does get frustrated with some calls. But there are good and bad kinds of frustration, stimulation-wise. Hence the delicate art of call screening. The screener’s little switchboard and computer console are here in the Airmix room, right up next to the studio window.”
I have never heard a talk radio host (or hosts) be completely nice to their callers 100% of the time. Sure some of them are nicer than others, but often this niceness isn’t genuine and is laced with sarcasm and disgust. Just seems against the whole idea of talk radio as we know it I guess…. people call to outsmart the host most of the time and enjoy the back and forth, put-down banter that occurs from their comments.