Talk Net

For talk-radio station KGBS, the Internet has proven an unlikely ally

by Hank Mishkoff (hank@webfeats.com)

Note: This article originally appeared in The Met on June 29, 1995.

Tony Reynolds has been interviewing Sam Fucious, a sales engineer for US Robotics, for about an hour. Reynolds is patiently asking knowledgeable and highly technical questions about modems, the products in which US Robotics specializes. Fucious, who acts like he's never been interviewed before, is responding with one- or two-word answers, which isn't especially helpful to Reynolds. But Reynolds is tenacious, and over the course of the hour he has somehow managed to coax Fucious into revealing some interesting information about his products.

While he's been grilling Fucious about modems, Reynolds has also been "chatting" with perhaps a dozen people on an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channel, a facility that allows a group of people on the Internet to type messages that appear on the computer screens of everyone else in the group. As if that's not enough to keep him busy, he's also been revising one of his Web pages (http://www.night.net/tonight.html), creating a continually evolving list of links to other interesting pages on the World Wide Web. And in the midst of all this activity, I've actually been interviewing Reynolds for The Met, throwing questions at him each time he takes a quick breather from his other tasks.

It's surprising that anyone could juggle all these activities and make it look so easy. It's remarkable that Reynolds repeats this performance five days a week. But what borders on the astonishing is that he does all this as part of a radio show.

Welcome to Internet@Night, home of "Interactive Multimedia Geek Radio" featuring Tony Reynolds, the Radio Gopher, live from the studios of KGBS, right here in Dallas at 1190 on your AM dial, every weeknight from nine to midnight.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but I can't help but wonder why anyone would want to listen to a radio show about the Internet. Isn't the Net supposed to be this fantastically interactive medium that brings everybody together in some kind of electronic online community? If the Internet is such a new and cool (oops, that should be "Kewl with a K," as Those In The Know on the Net will tell you) way to communicate, why would anyone want to resort to a medium as antiquated as radio to talk about it?

"It's really pretty simple," Reynolds says. "People like to sit at their computers and listen to the show at the same time. The show is completely interactive. We talk about interesting Web sites; people access the sites on the Web while we talk about them. If people have questions about the Net, they call me and I answer them, or maybe somebody hears the question on the radio and types in an answer on the IRC channel and I read it on the air. The Net is all-inclusive; it makes really good use of some of these 'antiquated' technologies, like radio, that we're just throwing away."

When Reynolds first went on the air in February, KGBS stuck him in the midnight to three A.M. time slot. "It was an experiment," KGBS General Manager Mike Russell admits. "The show didn't attract many listeners -- or any advertisers -- for a few weeks. But then people started listening, and now we even have some regular sponsors." Russell won't give me any hard numbers about the size of the audience, but he does tell me that KGBS is "quite happy" with the performance of Internet@Night.

One measure of the station's satisfaction is the fact that the show has steadily worked its way into earlier and more attractive time slots. Reynolds appears to have become something of a local cult hero, and both he and Russell hint that national syndication may be in the show's not-too-distant future. "We're working on it," Reynolds says, when I ask him if there's a national deal in the works. "Let's just say that discussions are underway that may lead to Internet@Night becoming the first nationally-syndicated radio show devoted entirely to the Internet."

This is the same KGBS, by the way, that is probably best known for bringing G. Gordon Liddy, the reigning King of Talk Radio, into homes all over the Metroplex. I can't help but think that it's a good thing that Liddy has lots of practice in looking over his shoulder. Tony Reynolds just might be gaining on him.

Cyberbiz July 20, 1995: Cyber-Spenders.

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