Posted by Rob Eshman
One of the remarkable achievements of Howard Stern is how he built his career despite being shunned by many mainstream advertisers. Coke, McDonalds—all the family brands shunned him (though, as he has pointed out, they do more to poison America than he ever did). On terrestrial radio he attracted mostly B level advertisers—jewelers, credit companies, etc. (Sit n Sleep is A Level—because they advertise in The Jewish Journal too). On satellite, with its smaller audience, he’s had to go to level C: back hair shavers, a product that deoderizes your nether regions, and the latest, Ashley Madison, an online service that allows married men and women to meet up for discreet affairs.
Howard has done some great interviews with the founder of Ashley Madison, Noel Biederman, really digging into how it works, the morality of it, Biderman’s own family life. And it turns out the company, perhaps due to its Stern advertising, has been a phenomenal success. Our singles logger Ilana Angel read a Bloomberg Business Week story on it., and then went online under an alias to learn more about the men who populate the site. She writes:
I was intrigued and decided to take a look. I registered an account using false information. The only good thing to came out of my snooping around is that for 48 hours, I was 5’6”, 120 pounds, had long blonde hair, green eyes, lived in New York City, and was married. Good times.
I filled out the basic information needed to get started and began to look around. Oh. My. God. Within 10 minutes I was bombarded with messages. By messages of course I mean men offered to “make me feel like I have never felt in my life, with the light touch only they could give me”.
The most fascinating thing was that half of the men included full frontal naked photos of themselves. Important to note these were not just Polaroid’s people took for fun. There were some in positions that clearly required a yoga background, and someone else to take the photo.
Who took these pictures? If most of the men on this site are in relationships, then did they ask their partners or wives to take the photo? Are there women out there who feel so safe in their intimate relationships that they can take these types of pictures of their men?
Ilana isn’t shy. She has opinions. She finds the whole thing loathesome. Howard himself seems a bit skeeved by the whole thing. Despite his reputation among non-listeners, he preaches loyalty and monogamy in his relationships on the show. I don’t doubt, at the end of the day, where he stands on this, but I do admire that throughout his career, Howard has made the best of the advertising he has been able to get, and has been fiercely loyal to them—a good lesson on how to succeed in the media business.
Read Ilana’s piece here.
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February 7, 2011 | 1:10 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Piers Morgan came into Howard’s studio today, trying to breathe life into his one-sided feud with Stern. Stern indulged him for a while, because it was good radio. But, really, here’s the only question Stern needed to ask Morgan in order to put an end to his fantasies: Can Morgan imagine that anyone, ever, would pay Morgan $500 million for his show?
If Morgan answers yes, he gets a D for delusional. If he answers probably not, he gets an A for honesty.
But Howard offered Morgan free and excellent advice for how to build audience: don’t be neutral. Have a personality. Have an opinion. It doesn’t have to be left or right, it just has to be you. A lot of attention, and credit, goes to Jon Stewart for trying to stake out a point of view between the kneejerk extremes. During the run up to what he called his “The Million Moderate March,” Stewart said our job is to take back the national debate from the 20 percent on either ideological extreme and from the cable news shows that depend on those extremes to provide reality-show-level drama and pundit fodder.
But again, Howard Stern was ahead of the curve on this. Long before Jon Stewart became Will Rogers, Stern had carved out an on-air political ideology that was neither Left nor Right, Democrat or Republican. He was, in broad strokes, Libertarian in the sense that he spoke out for gay rights, privacy, gun rights and limited government, Republican in that he liked Republican candidates who were truly fiscally responsible and for a strong military, and Democrat in that he appreciated the need for equal rights, fair taxation, public spending on education. In other words, like Stewart, he’s always been for competence, pragmatism, an expanded sense of self-interest and a strong but smart defense. These values aren’t left or right, but Stern—like, later on, Stewart—could get really passionate and worked up about them. The fact that his politics is values-based rather than party-based made his political opinions unpredictable and therefore refreshing.
Memo to Morgan: copy Stern. Figure out what values you stand for and defend and argue those with your guests. It works for Stern and Stewart, and it’s actually better for America.
A last thought on the $500 million. Arianna Huffington just sold HuffPo to AOL for $300 million. That’s $200 million LESS than the Stern Show got from Sirius five years ago. Granted it’s not an apples to apples comparison, but it shows you the enormous value Howard and his team created.
All you SeriousStern fans, you can follow me (as long as you’re following @HowardStern) an @EshmanRob
January 24, 2011 | 12:55 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Steve Langford of the Howard 100 News Team interviewed me by phone this morning about my last blog post. I love being interviewed by Steve: it is exactly as if you’re talking to a New York Times reporter, or a field producer for 60 Minutes. The questions are well-informed, always with follow-up, and often tough—and then I realize— this is the Howard 100 News.
Anyway, in my usual fashion, just after Steve hung up, I realized what I should have said. I don’t blame Piers for not conducting a great interview with Howard—it was Piers first week, Howard is even so out of his league as a broadcaster, you don’t step on to to the field and throw a 90 yard pass on your second play. If anything, Piers has a producer who should have either warned him off, or should have given him a better approach. Here’s the approach I would have advised Piers to take: get Howard’s advice. Piers is starting out as an American broadcaster, Howard is in the twilight of his radio career. Piers wants to reign supreme one day, Howard has and, in my opinion, does. So the question is, how does Howard do it? What for him makes a great interview? How does he get major subjects to open up? How does he follow up a brilliant interview with a stripper who never graduated high school with a brilliant interview with a governor or senator? How did he develop his talents? How does he account for his success?
Piers should have played the student to Howard’s mentor. Howard has lessons, rules to his success. (I was going to call this blog Stern Rules, but it felt too fanzine-esquie). It would have truly enlightened the audience, allowed them a glimpse into how Howard constructed one of the most successful careers in American media—it would have been fascinating and useful.
Oh well, next time.
Meanwhile, here’s a previous post on the genius of the idea of Howard 100 News.
January 20, 2011 | 11:53 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
I tuned in to watch CN’s Larry King-replacement Piers Morgan interview Howard Stern earlier this week. By the end of it it was clear to me why Howard is at the top of his game and Piers is.. really popular in England. I’m going to boil down my observations this way: when Morgan replays the interview, here are the five things Howard-the-interviewer does that Piers should have. I’ll make it quick:
1. Listen. Howard runs a great interview because he listens carefully to what people say, and to what they mean. Even if, like Morgan, he may sometimes be thinking of the next question, or worrying about how the interview is going, he doesn’t show it. Morgan did. The reward for careful listening is Howard can tell when a guest has strayed into uncomfortable territory. That’s when he pounces.
2. Don’t strive for shock or outrageousness. Strive for honesty. Howard’s reputation as a “shock jock,” distracts people from his real goal: to get people, including himself, to be as honest as possible. Shock is a byproduct of honesty. Morgan kept tossing in questions about sex and penis size, thinking he would reveal the “shocking” Howard. Howard tried to make something out of the dead end observations. (By the way, Piers, if you’re going to offer up teasers, they should tease. “When we come back, we’ll talk to Howard about money,” is not what I call a cliffhanger.
3. Once you open a wound, dig in. There was one coup for Morgan in the interview, when Howard revealed the time his dad called him a genius. Morgan should have pressed deeper on that, pressed and pressed. Howard would have sensed the honesty, the rawness, and dug in with more questions, and circled back to it. That’s how Howard pulled out the nugget about Kelsey Grammer’s alleged dress-up fetish from his ex-wife. Piers just let Howard’s reveal slide, or so it appeared in the edit.
4. Go where no hack interviewer has gone before.. If Howard asks ten questions, you can be sure his subject has never been asked eight f them before, at least not in public. Some of Howard’s questions are meant to throw a person off guard, others are the result of someone—maybe Howard, or Gary, or Will—going down a list and circling what’s new and different.
5. Your audience will always care more about you than whoever your talking to. Balls, Piers. You’re on TV. This is your show. What do you think? What’s going through your head? Every interview Howard does reveals a lot… about Howard. Piers still thinks of himself as a journalist. And if this were a print or NPR interview, that’s fine. But CNN needs personality and a strong point of view, not a suspender-less Larry King.
For his part, Howard was as good as I’ve ever seen him on TV, but I got the sense he expected the interview to be tougher, fresher, more original than it was. The Jackie puppet would have been a tougher interlocutor. Howard was never once not in total control. At one point Piers had to point out that it was not Howard’s turn to interview him. Too bad. Piers could have learned something.
Video from CNN.com.
December 15, 2010 | 6:31 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Howard has given me a gift by renewing for five years. So I’m going to return the favor. In today’s Jewish Journal we have an exclusive interview with Erin Stern, Ms. Olympia. Maybe she’s a long lost relative. Or maybe not. She is certainly Howard-esque: bright, disciplined, ambitious. Here’s how she went from dejected highjumper to the top of her sport:
A Junior All-American at the University of Florida, Stern had been competing in events like the pentathlon and heptathlon since high school. Her high-jump numbers were good enough that she set her sights on the Beijing Olympics. All that stood between her and the team trials were a few short centimeters. She kicked her training into overdrive, and her numbers improved, but she was falling just shy of what she needed.
“I’m a little short for a high-jumper,” says the statuesque 5-foot-8 Stern, chuckling. “I gave it my all, but I couldn’t make the last three centimeters.”
Dejected, Stern was forced to give up on Olympic high jumping.
“I was extremely bummed,” she said.
By rights, Stern’s athletic journey should have ended there, three centimeters short of glory. She had a promising career in real estate to fall back on, and her college years were over. It was time for a transition. But she’d been a track star for so long that it felt weird to have no focus, no goal to reach for. That’s when a friend suggested she try competing in Figure competitions.
Stern grew up in a family of athletes. “My father played football at C.W. Post and Adelphi University, and my mother would run three miles a day,” she says.
She started riding horses in competitions at a young age and later developed a passion for running, just like her mother, which led her to her track career.
Stern was raised in a Jewish household. She attended religious school and had her bat mitzvah during Passover.
“I’ll never forget having to read the long haftarah,” she said. “ I had to do the service all in Hebrew. My sister was lucky — by the time her bat mitzvah rolled around, we’d joined the Reform temple, and she got to do a lot of the prayers in English.”
Erin Stern’s Fitness Tips
Starting your own journey toward becoming a fitter Jew isn’t as hard as training for a contest like the Olympia. 2010 Figure Olympia champ Erin Stern offers a few simple changes you can make to get yourself on the road to a healthier life today.
“The No. 1 rule is don’t make excuses. People always make excuses for why it’s too hard to work out or take time to be healthier. I suggest making appointments for fitness, just like you would for a business meeting or a lunch with a friend. Make an appointment to walk or lift some weights. That way, there’s no excuse not to have the time.”
“Another thing I like to follow is the 90/10 rule — eat well 90 percent of the time so you can enjoy yourself the other 10 percent. Don’t deny yourself that nice cheat meal on Saturday night; eat right the rest of the week and you can have it with no guilt.”
“Eat five meals a day. You should have breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus two snacks in between. Snacking is really important in terms of controlling your insulin spikes. If you have two healthy snacks in between meals — almonds, an apple, string cheese, Greek yogurt or veggies — you won’t get to the point where you’re so hungry you overeat.”
“Work out with a friend; it makes you accountable. You’re less likely to skip that after-work trip to the gym if you know your friend is there waiting for you and counting on you.”
“Pick a class that fits you — there are so many on the market these days, from yoga to spinning to pole dancing to Krav Maga. There’s a class out there for every fitness level and every taste, so find one that speaks to you.”
“If you’re training for a contest, or just want to keep track of your weight loss, take progress pictures. You see your body every day, so it’s hard to notice changes. If you take a picture in the same outfit, in the same spot, once every week, you’ll be able to notice the changes you’re making much easier.”
Stern’s last piece of advice for people looking to live healthier: “Start now. Don’t wait for the new year. Set your goals, print them out, hang them on your wall, and make a plan to get fitter and healthier today.”
Her parents stressed both Judaism and athletics as important pursuits.
“Everything is connected,” Stern said. “It’s important for us to take care of ourselves physically, spiritually and mentally.”
Anyone who gets past the fart jokes and Sybian rides understands that physical, mental and spiritual discipline is the secret to Howard’s (and Robin’s) success. It’s not brain surgery… it’s harder.
In any case, Howard (and Robin and Fred), thanks, and enjoy:
Here’s the whole story.
December 9, 2010 | 11:09 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
Howard Stern announced today that he has re-signed with Sirius for five years. That ends a down-to-the-wire contract negotiation which concluded with just days to go before Howard’s last contract was over. I was one of the voices speculating that Sirius would be making a huge mistake letting Howard go. In this media environment, where consumers have multiple choices for getting news and entertainment, exclusive content is more important than ever. And there is no one like Howard. His departure, as I wrote here, would not only have been bad for Sirius, but bad for society.
This is good. At 57 years old, Howard is still putting out some of the most innovative, boundary-breaking entertainment on air. But he is also making the transition from outlaw to icon, someone venerated and respected in his field. He will be able to attract great guests—he remains one of the best interviewers in all media—, push new boundaries, influence a new generation of creative minds, and keep me from going batshit in LA traffic.
Thanks Mel, thanks Howard….
September 16, 2010 | 3:31 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
No, he’s not gay.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The true outing of Howard Stern takes place in dribs and drabs, in offhand comments from various guests and staffers, so rarely and so quickly that only die-hard listeners would begin to understand the truth: Howard Stern is a mensch.
Yes, it’s true. I said it. A mensch: Yiddish meaning a good soul, a nice guy. And 30 years ago, when he was starting out, that sentence would have done more damage to his burgeoning career as an in-your-face, no-holds-barred radio DJ than a nude spread on the cover of OUT magazine. But now I don’t think his demographic is going to stick their fingers down their throats discovering that their radio god has feet of… well, the feet of a really good guy.
What is equally true though, is that outside his fans, the general public perceptions is still that Howard Stern is a cruel, creepy, sexist, racist boor. Just last week on the show Howard played a clip of his former girlfriend Angie Everhart mentioning his name on the Wendy Williams Show. The audience boo’ed, or oo’d, or made some collective animal-like noise that a herd of buffalo likely makes when they sense a coyote is getting too close. Howard said people still think he’s worse than Mel Gibson. To prove it he sent his writer Sal out on the street to ask people who’s worse, Mel Gibson or Howard Stern? Here’s how the site Mark’s Friggin reported it:
Gary told Howard he had Sal’s interviews about who’s worse, Howard or Mel Gibson. Howard said he didn’t expect that until tomorrow. Gary said Sal interviewed a wide variety of people out there. Howard played the clips and most of the people were saying ‘‘Howard Stern.’’ There were many who said they love Mel Gibson. There were people saying Howard is an idiot and they hate him more than Mel. There were some who said they don’t like Mel Gibson.
Sal edited together all of the people just saying ‘‘Howard Stern’’ over and over again. Howard laughed when he heard so many people saying his name. The people were saying that Howard Stern has a potty mouth.
Howard said he counted 21 Howard Stern’s and 11 Mel Gibson’s. He said that’s unbelievable. Howard said that they’re in a small world with their fans there and they don’t know what it’s really like out there. Howard said New York is really the best place to ask the question because he’s kind of beloved there.
Sal told Howard that they should have video taped this because the reactions he got were amazing. He said their eyes would pop out of their heads when he’d bring up Howard’s name. Howard said he respects the results he got. Sal said he would pick Howard too.
Bottom line: Howard Stern still creeps MIddle America out.
But fans get a glimpse into a different side: Celebrity guests will often say Howard is so different in real life. His parents say so. And his wife Beth says so—and she doesn’t seem to be the type that’s attracted to people who are worse than Mel Gibson.
Another clue came in my e-mail this week, and I’m going to share it (with the e-mailer’s permission). I’m gonna out Howard Stern.
Last week on the show Howard took a few moments to mock a CBS producer named Steve North, who had sent Howard an e-greeting card for the Jewish New Years. He said it was annoying the guy sent it to him, he didn’t want to open it, and who the hell is Steve North, and why does he have Howard’s e-mail, and why would a guy named Steve North act so Jewish when he clearly changed his name. From MarksFriggin.com:
Howard said he hates these E-cards that people send out. He said he got one from this guy, Steve North, and he keeps getting reminders in his email if he doesn’t open it. Howard said he gets one every year from Steve and it’s always the same thing. He said it’s not that much fun. Howard wondered if Steve gets notes telling him that he hasn’t opened the card. He said he opened it and watched it for like one second before turning it off. Howard said it’s a whole long Opus and he doesn’t care about it.
Howard said that someone had to have given Steve his email address but he’s not sure how that happened. Howard wondered why Steve North is sending him a Jewish holiday card. Gary said he’s not sure that he even did it. Howard also wondered why Steve has a last name of ‘‘North’’ if he’s Jewish. Howard said he must have changed his name.
That led to Fred playing some Gilbert Gottfried doing his Rabbi Gottfried impression and singing songs. Howard said he wants to make an E-card out of that. Howard said he hates when Jews change their names to things like ‘‘North.’’ Robin said maybe his parents changed it. Howard said maybe they did.
All it all, Howard took the thoughtful act of an old acquaintance reaching out to say Happy Jew Year, and turned it into a long and very fun attack on Steve North’s character.
Steve knows Howard because Steve was the first guy to offer Gary Dell’abate a job in radio. But the two have crossed paths many times, and though I have no idea if Howard admires Steve, Steve was an early promoter of Howard’s genius. In a long, March 18, 1992 interview with Howard in The Two River Times, Steve writes, “The bottom line is that this 6’5” shaggy-haired, happily married father of two young daughters has perfected the art of satire.” C’mon, very few people beyond maybe Howard’s agent, Robin and Fred realized back then the extent of Stern’s gifts. Steve had it right early on. (In an interview later he wrote, “You never know when [Howard]‘s going to berate you on the air for something.” Right about that too.)
But back to Howard the Mensch. Here’s what Steve e-mailed me following Howard’s rant about him:
So now I hear Howard was talking about the Rosh Hashana e-card I sent to him (and you and hundreds of others). And wondering when I changed my last name! (Blame that one on my dad).
A friend of mine sent me more details about it just now… too funny. And I laughed over the fact that he apparently was wondering how I have his e-mail address, as he well knows he gave it to me a few years ago when our mutual friend Mark Drucker was terminally ill, and we corresponded regularly… and, periodically since then (including a few months ago when he wrote to me before an appearance on the Early Show).
The truth is, personally, the guy’s a major mensch. I mentioned our mutual friend Mark (known as “Mark the Shark” when he was DeBella’s newsman in Philly); Howard was great during Mark’s illness, writing him a 3-page handwritten letter about their friendship, which hung on the wall in Mark’s hospital room, and asking me after Mark’s death to get him in touch with Mark’s mom and sister. I doubt he’d want any of this mentioned in detail… and I have other stories about what a good guy he is… but, you get the idea.
Case closed. I’ve made the case elsewhere that what people mistake for Howard’s misogyny or homophobia is satire aimed at the big, bloody red heart of American hypocrisy. Sometimes he gets close to the line, sometimes he crosses it (Honestly? Today his impromptu skit about Warren Beatty and Annette Benning daughter’s sex change to my taste crossed the line. I met the daughter many years ago when she was a girl performing in a play with my son, in a context where they were just another set of proud parents, and when I heard the story I just couldn’t laugh along—it has to be a really tough time for any parent and child going through that, even if you’re sick famous.) Anyway, Stern Rule # 27: You don’t get great by playing it safe….
I’m not saying Howard is all sweetness. I’m sure those who are closest to him, or who have been in the past, can cite their own examples of that. But there are enough examples of the type Steve e-mailed me to definitively prove that Howard Stern the man is far from the nasty, negative brand image of Howard Stern he and popular culture have created.
What I wonder is this: Can Howard Stern the Image exist without Howard the Mensch? Does it take a fundamentally kind person to create the atmosphere where people can feel free enough and creative enough to work at their peak? Wouldn’t a true a-hole have flamed out years earlier? Doesn’t it take a person who genuinely cares about people, is curious about their lives, and who at some level can empathize with their plight to be as great an interviewer as Howard is? Does nastiness work for Howard as an image because it’s a shell of armor he can put on top go into the world, and take off in private? In other words, could only a true mensch pretend to be such a true prick?
*Oh, by the way, Steve North sent me the same e-card he sent Howard. And I didn’t open mine either.
September 7, 2010 | 9:45 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Howard has been hinting that things aren’t working out between him and Sirius. In four months, his contract is up, and there’s a good chance, judging by his comments, he won’t renew. But he doesn’t seem particularly upset: He seems to have an option under wraps that will allow him to do his uncensored show through a different delivery system.
People keep talking about about why or whether Howard would leave Sirius, but what’s happening of course is that Sirius is leaving Howard. As ar as his fans are concerned, Sirius is guilty until proven innocent. One day it might come out that as part of his new contract, Howard stipulated that he would work only from home, nude, in pantomime, but Howard doesn’t strike me as a prima donna or a kook. He knows what he’s worth, and he knows what he has to do to be worth it.
I’m trying to figure out, if Howard wants to stay at Sirius, why in the world Sirius would let him walk. Sirius is in the radio business, and he’s still the most innovative and original voice in radio. I’m trying to look at this from management’s perspective, because, as a fan, I can’t quite believe it.
Let me be clear, the day Howard Stern leaves Sirius, I leave Sirius. If I want to hear standup, I can TiVO Comedy Central. If I want to hear uninterrupted music, they’ve invented something called an MP3 player that you only pay for once, not every month. If I want to hear Nancy Sinatra talking about her dad, I can go down to the Museum of Television and Radio and watch some old Mike Douglas segments. I don’t know why the company would let Howard go, but I’ve narrowed it down to five reasons:
1. He’ll cost more than he’ll bring in.
2. They think they can retain the subscribers he brought in without him. Put Howard in the window, attract a lot of PR and subscribers, then move him out and move in some cheaper model. This is my Howard as a Loss Leader Theory.
3. Howard’s contract demands are unreasonable, would set a bad precedent, would give him too much control over the company, would hurt the bottom line or investor confidence.
4. Somebody important at Sirius just doesn’t like him.
5. The company has figured out a new revenue model that doesn’t depend on brilliant, original content. Maybe there’s more money in the actual hardware business. Maybe they want to just be a conduit, renting out satellite and radio technology, not a content provider.
Those are the rational reasons. But we live in a world where serious companies make the dumbest , most self-destructive decisions imaginable, dragging down whole business sectors, whole countries, in a wake of short-sightedeness and arrogance. GM, AIG, Goldman Sachs, Merrill, Bear Stearns, Nationwide. So maybe that’s what’s going on.
Whatever it is, I’ll just click off my subscription and follow Howard. Because he isn’t a Loss Leader, he’s a leader. Plain and simple. Radio will follow where he goes.
Yes, he’s 50 something. But no one younger is doing anything more cutting edge or interesting. Maybe he’s a little cranky sometimes, and maybe close to burnout—but he’s not there yet. He has a good 5 years in him, especially energized by his almost frightening need to prove himself, to win. Sirius, watch out, you’ve awoken a sleeping, giant, needy, brilliant, Jewish overachiever.
How many others beside me will leave? That would be a great book to make in Vegas. Howard claims he signed a million listeners. Let’s say he’s wrong by half. And let’s say of the 500,000 he signed, only half cancel their subscriptions. That’s 250,000 subscribers at 13 bucks a month times 12 months. $39,000,000 sucked out of a company that’s still hooked up to a respirator, and whose share price could be posted over a lemonade stand.
But I’m no financial analyst. Others, much smarter than me, have written that Sirius, with its billion-plus revenue, will experience Howard’s departure as a blip, maybe a bad year, but it is sufficiently diverse that it will recover. Writing on his blog Seeking Alpha, Relmor Demetrius says that Sirus has already proven it can get millions of subscribers for reasons other than Howard:
The facts are quite clear on this. Sirius XM added more than 1 million customers this year alone. That would offset losing Howard Stern right there. Their growth would probably cover any cancellations and they wouldn’t miss a beat. The company that hired Stern 5 years ago is vastly different in 2010.
Maybe, but Demetrius neglects one huge factor: competition. What if Howard or someone else develops a radio delivery system that’s better and cheaper? What if Sirius is susceptible to bad press, or the defection of another top talent? I think even Mel Karmazin would admit that Howard was the cornerstone of Sirius’ success. When you pull out the cornerstone, a lot of unpredictable things start to happen. Radio, like newspapers and TV and film, always come back to content, and content always comes back to talent. Neglect talent, and you pay a price. Ask Clear Channel.
Granted, Sirius is not going to disappear all at once, and maybe it’s only $30 million, or $20 million or, as Demetrius says, even $100 million that Howard’s departure will cost the company (after accounting for savings). But you’re talking about a company that makes its dough 13 bucks at a time. In any subscription business (here;’s something I know a little about) the key thing is retention—retaining subscribers. That’s steady income, money you can build next year’s budget around. Without it, you better be able to tell the friggin future.
Anyway, once Howard leaves, I don’t give a crap about Sirius. I hope it thrives—I was one of the shmucks who bought the stock. But in my radio life, I can go back to listening to NPR and all my iBooks and finally stop bringing cocktail party conversations to a dead halt by interjecting, “You’ll never believe what Howard Stern did today…”
More likely, I’ll pay whatever Howard asks in order to hear him through his next medium. The most plausible is a podcast, like the one Adam Carolla does. I listen to that when Teresa Strasser hosts it, because Teresa is just so damn good and quick, and funny and bright. I don’t know if a pay model can work for podcasts, but if Howard can get a million people to pay 120 bucks a year, and he spends half on overhead, he can still do pretty well—and own the company he creates. That, and a Howard Stern web site and event division that is as much lifestyle as Stern Show, and he will go into his dotage creating a brand that can live on long after The Howard Stern Show, and Sirius Satellite Radio, are gone. .