Key Points:

More than one print journalist who has interviewed Paul Holmes during the past 22 years has been surprised to hear him ask, after the tape recorder had been turned off, and as the goodbyes were being said, "Do they like me, do you think? Do people like me?"

An honest answer could never have been an unqualified "yes" because Holmes, it often seemed, enraged and outraged as much as he entertained, informed and delighted. But the figures, which famously plummeted after he started at Newstalk ZB before climbing remorselessly and placing him permanently at the top of breakfast ratings, made it plain that people couldn't resist him. Even if they didn't always like what he did, they never turned their backs on him.

Holmes' question spoke of the insecurity that so often attends on - indeed, is part of - greatness in any field. Self-doubt, or at least self-scrutiny, is an important ingredient in enduring success.

And Holmes' success will always endure. He set a benchmark that will be hard for those coming after him to match. The argument can be made that others - notably Colin "Uncle Scrim" Scrimgeour and Maud "Aunt Daisy" Basham in the 1930s and 1940s - occupied a equivalent place in the nation's cultural life. But they were broadcasters in the days before the airwaves on radio and television were as cluttered as they

are now. Holmes, at least until the self-immolation of his his ill-advised moves from TVNZ to Prime, bestrode an intensely competitive broadcasting world like a colossus.

He has not gone from radio. He will still run a Saturday morning show and sit in when weekday morning host Leighton Smith is on leave. He is also reportedly to have a one-minute slot on the breakfast show of his successor, Mike Hosking.

It remains to be seen how those lesser commitments will go. Sometimes, the best way to leave is completely and forever. But it's not hard to understand that the consummate broadcaster might never stop broadcasting. Or that his listeners might never stop listening.