February 2014 Archives


Innocent Insomniacs

The origin of Coast to Coast AM's popularity is its ability to gently transition its audience from the worries of the real world to the concerns of alternative realities.

It is late at night and the troubles of the day are weighing heavily on your mind. Rather than a glass of milk, wine, or a non-habit forming sleeping pill, try a change of pace and mental scenery. Tune your AM radio to Coast to Coast AM, the most popular AM radio show on the planet.

While most of AM radio has dwindled with time, Coast to Coast AM, founded by Art Bell and now regularly hosted by George Noory, thrives. It is a show which does not set out to be conventional. The guests are the authors of books on unidentified flying objects, paranormal phenomena, or conspiracy theories. Yet the show draws an audience in the millions and is beloved by advertisers. If you are interested in increasing the readership of a book on crop circles or cattle mutilation, Coast to Coast AM is the place to be. And if you are interested in selling to a relaxed, somewhat sleepy, audience of millions, as many advertisers are, this is the show on which to advertise.

The origins of the show's popularity lie in its ability to whisk an audience away from the mundane worries of the day and replace them with the unconventional worries of an alternative reality. In the world of Coast to Coast AM, on any given night, it is quite possible that enormous structures exist on the surface of Mars, that the next ice-age might begin tomorrow morning, or that Atlantis has been rediscovered. The unconventional alternative world is clearly exactly what an audience of millions craves.

The type of advertisers that the audience of Coast to Coast AM experience varies by location. If you are in a metropolitan area you might find yourself hearing adverts for vacation opportunities in Las Vegas, in more rural areas, you might pick up a few more of the adverts for high-end AM radios. The audience is typically unconventional and independent. Survival equipment and information on aliens go down well and have been sold on Coast to Coast AM for years.

The guests and call in questioners on Coast to Coast AM are quirky. Sometimes the host has to work quite hard to present a guest's far out views in the best possible light. Often, the called in questions ramble, and again the presenter needs to use skill and finesse to direct the call and question towards a mildly relevant conclusion.

Coast to Coast AM pays attention to current events and concerns, at least at the outset of every show. This provides a bridge for the listener between the real and alternative worlds. Sometimes the bridges are wonderfully surreal. On one occasion, Art Bell elected to interview a man who was auctioning part of a flying saucer propulsion unit.( If I remember correctly the asking price for the extraterrestrial chunk of metal was in the millions.)Art asked how the seller had come by this piece of extraordinary engineering. The answer, the seller said, was that it was found by a watchman at a junk yard, after it had dropped from a spaceship which hovered overhead. On this occasion, as Art pointed out, the aliens had decided to make a deposit toward this planet's natural reserves.

The show also features a range of serious authors. For example, the authors of Mean Genes, a book on the biological origin of our weaknesses and attractions, happily appeared on the show a few years ago. Both Harvard educated authors happily fielded the questions from the Coast to Coast presenter and listeners and presumably enjoyed the resulting boost in sales that an audience of millions can provide. If you have a nice product, like Mean Genes, why not give information on it to as large an audience as possible?

During the lifetime of the show the internet has grown and now the show is strongly supported by its web site and its online community. This trend will undoubtedly continue. It is possible that in the future AM radio will be of less importance as internet and other distribution media supplant the traditional distribution channel. However, Coast to Coast, and the need that it serves, will live on. The late night audience needs its mundane concerns to be smothered by diverse troubles in alternative worlds.

If you have never experienced Coast to Coast AM, scan your AM dial after 10 pm at night. You'll find a call-in show, with one line open for the Antichrist and a guest talking about string theory and alternative universes with a variety of listeners. After a few moments you will be transported from all present day concerns and in a few hours you will be recharged to face the day.

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