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Late night radio

Just as late night partiers began to tumble out of downtown Vancouver pubs, I was getting up. It was my…

By Rod MacNeill , in Talk Radio , on March 13, 2010 Tags: , , , ,

Just as late night partiers began to tumble out of downtown Vancouver pubs, I was getting up. It was my first day as an intern for a local talk-radio station and so I drove across the Lower Mainland to arrive at the off-site broadcast location for a 4 AM start.

It’s a different world out there when everyone’s asleep—a random mix of solitary yellow taxis, police cruisers and newspaper delivery vans. Different also is what’s on your car radio. Curiosity spurred me to my sponsor’s station as I wondered how graveyard shift workers entertain themselves.

I pressed the AM button on my car radio and let it seek through the frequencies until it got to 980. The flat, mono tones opened up a parallel universe of UFO’s, psychic experiences, financial conspiracies, and the gravelly voices of insomniacs and shift workers. After dropping my stereotypes of loonies and losers, I began to pay attention to the interplay between host, expert and caller. I was hooked!

I had discovered Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, the program that boasts; “Overnight talk radio with daytime ratings.” The experts were knowledgeable and Noory was more respectful and empathetic to his callers than the call-in hosts who have caused me to change stations in the past.

On February 18th, Glenn Kimball, a researcher of ancient texts, discussed the statistical impossibility of the creation of DNA. Kimball said it led him to consider a mathematical basis for creation–but not necessarily a Godly creation. The analogies he used to simplify the math brought his theories down to the rest of us. On February 22nd, Joseph Meyer, a regular contributor on investment and security on ABC television’s Smart Money , said not to look for significant improvement in the present bear market until 2015. Each guest provided both solid and interesting analysis to their topic, with George asking pertinent questions and hosting the callers.

All very fascinating to me in the early hours during my 60-minute commute, but then I began to consider the market potential for late-night radio. Coast to Coast AM, with its 500 US affiliate stations plus those in Canada, Mexico and Guam, states it has a nightly audience of three million.

I wondered who could be listening to radio in the 1 AM to 5 AM slot. If you factor in the 34 million North Americans experiencing chronic insomnia, plus the 3.6 million working graveyard shifts, the size of the market begins to emerge. The potential market for late-night radio is close to 38 million listeners.

Yes, but isn’t radio obsolete, a media from a bygone age? Just how popular is radio? I’ll consider this question in my next blog.


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