Call it Imus Inc.
Behind the bluster, bad hat and barbed and bigoted remarks, lies a multi-million dollar empire — of which radio advertising is just a small part. And that's a big reason as to why Don Imus is safe right now, and why a large portion of the mainstream media want him to return to the airwaves stronger than ever.
Of course, it all begins with the radio program — it's as iconic of an early-morning chat-fest as you can find, but that's just the beginning. In the last decade, Imus has cleverly transformed his programing into a book-hawking bazaar, second to none.
In mainstream media, authors such as Tim Russert, and inside-in-the-beltway pros like James Carville and Senators Chris Dodd, John Kerry and John McCain, know that there is no better platform to hawk a book or a message than "Imus in the Morning." "The Imus impact is worth hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars to the book publishing industry," one seasoned book agent told me.
It's no wonder that the nation's major book publishing houses, including Simon & Schuster and Random House, are thus far standing behind the I-Man. It's a pure business decision: there simply is no better place for non-fiction titles to get the buzz they need to move off the shelves.
So for Imus Inc., this virtuous cycle oils a media money machine: A, and more often B-list personalities drop in for on-air time, to sell their books, and frequently sing the praises of Imus' extra-curricular ventures, from the Imus Ranch to the Imus cookbook and Imus Ranch foods. Yes, there's also now a line of environmentally-friendly household cleaning products sold under the name "Imus Greening the Cleaning".
When it works, Imus Inc. is a marketing behemoth and a win-win for all who come in its orbit. CBS radio gets tens of millions in ad revenue, MSNBC gets three hours a day of cheap programming, NBC News personalities and others in the media elite get to tout their books, favored politicians get a soapbox, the Imus charity gets a load of airtime, Deidre Imus gets to promote her "green" agenda and the publishing industry has a convenient platform.
Yes, a win-win for all — until the music stops.
So far it hasn't. Sure, it paused this week, as some big-name advertisers pulled out, but it is the Imus rolodex of influential guests that is the lifeblood of his broadcast.
Rudy Giuliani, Bob Scheiffer, James Carville, John McCain — so far they're standing by Imus. No wonder; they have books to sell and elections to win.
So, if you're wondering whether Imus and Imus Inc. will survive, keep your eye on these powerful white men. If they continue to appear on "Imus in the Morning", he's a survivor.
Terry Keenan is anchor of Cashin’ In and is a FOX News Channel business correspondent. Tune in to Cashin' In on Saturdays at 11:30am and find out what you need to know to make your money grow and keep what you already have!