Spend a little time soaking up the Glenn Beck phenomenon and it's easy to buy the conservative pundit's image as the ultimate everyguy whose curiosity and moral values lead him to ask the questions others won't.
Don't believe the hype. The wide footprint of Beck's work — from bestselling books to a top-rated radio show and one of cable TV's most-watched news programs — reveals a savvy media mind who has forged a unique collection of projects into a multimillion-dollar machine.
Beck, who first developed his brand in Tampa nine years ago on WFLA-AM (970), reconnects with Florida fans this weekend in a blizzard of appearances to promote his book, Arguing with Idiots. He'll start in Fort Myers this morning, hit Tampa at lunchtime and end with a rally/signing at The Villages, the massive adult retirement community located about 100 miles north of here.
The host has told his fans to expect a major announcement about his Fox News Channel show at The Villages, where he'll unveil something he's calling The Plan: "Coming this January, my whole approach changes on this program ... It's time to move forward," Beck said in a clip from his Fox show widely circulated on YouTube.
Organizers expect about 800 people to show for Beck's Tampa stop, as the host barrels between locations in a huge bus emblazoned with his book's logo. The tight schedule mimics the precision of a political campaign.
It is just one of the many professional paradoxes Beck seems to savor. He's a former pony-tailed liberal-turned conservative values crusader; an everyman who claims not to be a journalist or political leader who inspired a political activist group (the 9/12 Project) and produces special reports formatted like TV documentaries; a genial figure with a stand-up comic's sense of timing given to apocalyptic pronouncements and alarmism.
How successful has he been? Check these numbers for a portrait of his success, which Forbes magazine said earned him $23 million from June 2008 to June of this year:
Beck's syndicated radio show airs from 9 a.m. to noon on WFLA-AM (970)
Nearly 400 stations carry the show
9 million listeners weekly
$10 million annually earned (estimated) from latest contract.
5 million unique visitors per month.
1.5 million podcast listeners weekly
1 million subscribers to free daily e-mail.
The Glenn Beck Show airs at 5 p.m. on Fox News Channel
2.7 million daily viewers (average).
5 consecutive books on the New York Times best-seller list: The Christmas Sweater: A Picture Book; An Inconvenient Book; Arguing with Idiots; Glenn Beck's Common Sense; The Christmas Sweater.
1 million copies sold of Common Sense since its debut.
250,000 people have attended his stage shows since 2004
$2.4 million in estimated revenue.
Sources: Forbes, Talkers magazine, the Nielsen Co., TIME, Business Insider magazine, Simon & Shuster. Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.