Sunday, December 31, 2006

To Podcast or Not to Podcast: Part 1

Never in the history of Howard Stern have his fans had so much opportunity to enjoy, wallow in, and be obsessed with his show and universe.

We can listen to his show, repeats of his show, and discussion of his show on live radio 24 hours a day on 2 Sirius channels. We can read about and comment on his show 24 hours a day on the internet on forums such as the Stern Fan Network ( And we can watch videos of his show, and other wacky stuff, 24 hours a day on Howard TV from on-demand cable networks.

So what more do we want?

A lot. We want podcasting. We want to be able to download Howard's show every day, and any other Howard 100 or 101 show, and load it onto our gorgeous iPods.

But that will never happen. Or will it? As usual, it's all up to Howard.

Most indications are that Howard isn't interested in podcasting. Certainly, if he wanted to he could be doing it already. The technology is very simple. He could set up an RSS feed on his website in a heart beat. The iTunes store would welcome him instantly and charge 99 cents for each show. But instead Howard has said that the Stilleto is a better Christmas gift than the iPod because it comes with content attached as opposed to the iPod which comes empty. (Which is quite true and also applies to the cheaper S50.) So if the Stilleto is better, why would Howard support the iPod? Wouldn't that just hurt Stilleto sales and also Sirius subscription sales?

But podcasting is a technology, and a medium, that no one can just dismiss, even Mr. Howard Stern.

Sirius satellite broadcasting is also great technology, and a great medium, but it can't do everything. (Video for example.) And the Stilleto does some things better than the iPod, and other things worse.

What Sirius does great is broadcasting. What is does best is replace your car radio. Once you get one in your car, you'll never listen to regular radio again. The music is commercial free, the signal is digital and available anywhere in the country, and there is a ton of content instantly available including Howard Stern.

Also, get a Stilleto or a S50 and hook up a home system, and you also have a great replacement for radio listening. Sure, it's a little annoying you need to be connected by wire to an outside antenna, but once you get one hooked up you forget about it. And with the Stilleto you can also listen live over the internet without a wire.

But when it comes to truly portable listening, Sirius can't fully compete with the iPod. Apple's manufacturing and design are just going to be better for the immediate future. (The new iPod shuffle is the size of a match book.) And the fact that the iPod doesn't need an antenna, or the hardware for receiving broadcasting, is always going to mean it will be smaller, and lighter and it's batteries will last longer. Moreover, the iPod isn't simply a listening device. The larger models do video and are basically a small computer with dates, addresses and games. Before long it looks like the iPod will also be offered with phone features. It's unlikely Sirius will be able to catch up to it for years to come.

On top of that, Sirius hardware, at least now, isn't good at time shifting. Technically, you can program your Stilleto to record a program at a certain time and date, and even repeat that every week. But it's kind of a pain in the ass to do. Most people can't program their VCR's, so it's not likely that feature is going to be used much. Moreover, if you are moving your Stilleto back and forth from your car (which is it's best use) you have to remember to pull it out and put it back in it's receiver so it can record a show for you later. It's a pain and it's why I have never been able to record and listen to Reilly Martin's crazy show on Howard 101, despite the fact that I keep wanting to.

Podcasting is not broadcasting. It's entire strength is in time shifting, or more importantly, audio on demand. You get what you want when you want it very easily with no programming. You simply go to an internet site, copy the RSS feed, and iTune's takes it from there. Or if the podcast is on iTunes, you simply click and it is instantly sent to you, and you can instantly subscribe. Right now, Sirius simply can't compete with podcasting for that kind of convenience.

If Howard were to put his daily show up on iTunes, and charge 99 cents an episode, it would instantly be the hottest thing on the iTunes store. He would get millions of hits and since most of the money collected by Apple goes to the owner of the recording, it could mean millions in revenue a week.

But wouldn't that just cannibalize sales of Sirius hardware and subscriptions? I don't think so. In fact, I think there is an argument to be made that it might help increase Sirius sales and market share. That's because the iPod also has limitations. It does not receive broadcasting, Sirius's strength. And it doesn't work so well in a car, it's kind of a pain in the ass to hook it up. Also, when you're driving you time shifting isn't so much of an issue. It's like the difference between watching broadcast TV and playing a DVD. When you watch TV you expect something, anything to be on, and then you can surf around to see what you like. This is also a strong strength of Sirius. It's great for surfing because it offers so many channels. While driving your mood changes and sometimes you want to listen to music, sometimes to news, or to Howard. (Mostly Howard.) This is one of the reasons that Howard quickly found out that repeats of his show were more popular than putting on other shows that he produced that weren't up to the quality of his main broadcast. When you're broadcasting repeating your best stuff over and over works better than having a large variety of material of various quality.

Moreover, from a simply economic standpoint, Sirius is a much better value than buying content off iTunes. At 99 cents a show, a fan would be paying about 30 dollars a month for just a small part of the Howard content they get from Sirius at $12.95 a month (and it's even cheaper for longer subscriptions). Making the show available might actually increase the value of Sirius in the eyes of Howard's fans. The beauty of this is that fans who don't have a lot of money would quickly realize it is cheaper to subscribe to Sirius. Fans who do have money would probably pay twice. They would have a subscription for use in their car and also download shows onto their computers for portable use.

So if it makes so much sense, why doesn't Howard do it? We'll talk about that in Part Two of this article. (Hey! I'm trying to post more often and I'm long winded! Give me a fucking break!)

Mary DeSade

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

You Tube, My Space and Howard Stern

On my "Hollywood is Dead" blog I just wrote about the significance of Time magazine making "You" (mostly You Tube and My Space) its "Man of the Year" because of the impact of regular people networking and creating their own content:

But something Time doesn't mention is that Howard Stern has been on the fore front of this movement for some time. Long before You Tube was the darling of the mainstream press, Howard had his film festival where he invited fans from around the world to create shorts about his show. The results, frankly were amazing. Some incredibly high quality content created by fans on their own and for almost no money.

And long before You Tube even existed, Howard was playing audio clips of song parodies and prank calls created by his fans. The same technology that makes it easier for people to make their own films and music, makes it easier for Howard's fans to participate directly with the show, and Howard has from the very beginning understood and taken advantage of this growing phenomena. Before people even new it was a phenomena.

Moreover, Howard's fans have always been big on networking with each other, not only creating their own web pages and blogs but jumping into My Space very early.

So while a lot of the mainstream media are scared by this new development, Howard has already embraced it and profited by it. Of course, one area where Howard's empire could use some work is his own website and online offerings. While Howard's site does a far job of keeping up with general info, and it's great for seeing pictures of girls and guest moments after they've been on the air, it has almost no video content and isn't updated as much as it could be.

There's no reason Howard couldn't turn it into his own version of My Space and You Tube combined. Would this threaten fan generated signs like SFN and Marks Friggin? No, I think it could enhance them. And there are a lot of ways Howard could benefit from a much more expansive The easiest and most profitable might be by offering subscriptions for My Space, Flicka, You Tube type offerings. Like My Space and You Tube it could be self policing with a little adult supervision.

My Space, frankly, sucks these days. It's covered with advertising and incredibly slow. You Tube is nice, but the technology behind it is improving rapidly and it wouldn't be hard to build something even better. It would be great if Howard fans had a place to share videos, audio, pictures and profiles in one easy interface. It could be offered for a couple bucks a month to Sirius subscribers, more for people who don't subscribe.

Or it could be offered as a bonus to subscribers, and might even encourage more people to join Sirius. If the hot viral video on the web is only available on and you want to see it, then you have to join Sirius.

Building up his website probably isn't a major priority for Howard right now, but I predict in future, as web content continues to grow in importance, we'll see a major upgrade.

Mary DeSade

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Mary Seriously

Gotten a lot of positive e-mails about the blog, but most keep asking why I don't post more often.

Sorry, but I only post when I feel that I have something "serious" to say about Howard, and I do a lot of research to back up what I say, and that takes time. Please understand, this is not an everyday blog or even a weekly blog. I blog when I have a serious opinion about something specific and try to work hard to explain and defend my opinion.

It wouldn't be hard for me to toss up day to day gossips about Robin being willing to press the button to zap Sal's nuts. (Which was great. A true art performance.) But there is tons of that already on the web in regards to Howard. I know it might sound crazy, but I am seriously worried about the historical record of Howard's show rather than up to the minute news. Even after this blog goes away, and Howard sadly goes away, the internet is being carefully stored for future generations and historians. When a scholar searches it trying to understand who the hell Howard Stern was, I hope they will find this blog and understand he was more than a popular entertainer. He is one of the most important artists of our time.

Mary DeSade

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Disappointing Christmas

Howard and the press have been talking about the news that Sirius is warning that retails sales (while still growing) are growing slower than expected. Of course this gives Howard bashers some fresh meat to attack him and gives Howard fresh meat to bash the Howard bashers.

But this one has nothing to do with Howard. Howard has done his job and continues to do his job in bringing his old fans and new fans to Sirius. Five million have followed in less than a year from his switch and Sirius's continuing retail sales now top XM month by month. This is a complete reversal from before Howard moved to satellite.

But Howard can only do so much. Satellite radio is still a very new technology. And there a still bugs to be worked out before it can really take off. Which leads us to the real reason Sirius had to revise it's sales numbers:

The Stiletto.

This device was suppose to be the holy grail for Howard and Sirius fans and drive a ton of sales. Pre-orders were in orbit. But once the product actually came out, things went back to Earth. The reviews have almost all been extremely negative. What should have been the best Christmas gift this season, is dying from bad word of mouth. Sirius really blew a huge chance with some very foolish mistakes.

Now, let me start by saying I bought one, and I use it every day and love it. But there are some serious problems with it that could have easily been avoided or at least should have been mentioned before the buzz turned from positive to negative.

The biggest is the headset. It's just terrible. You simply can't use it. The earphones, as have widely been reviewed, simply hurt your ears just minutes after trying them out. It's a very weird design and I can't understand how it ever got put into production. Even if you are willing to endure the pain in order to get your outdoor fix of Howard, the reception, as widely reported, is terrible too. I live in the heart of Hollywood and the reception goes in an out every fifteen seconds. (Sirius doesn't have a repeater in Los Angeles?)

Also, like all Sirius hardware, the design isn't the best and it feels very chunky in comparison to an iPod. The battery life isn't great. For walking, I've gone back to my pre-recording on my S50 through my home dock and just time shifting. It's a real shame I can't listen live outside. I would not have hurt to dampen expectations on this front until the bugs were worked out.

But one thing that Sirius did do right is the internet connection. It's seamless and I can listen to Howard now inside my home off the internet. (Using my own headphones, which thankfully work.) I've heard complaints about the sound quality, perhaps that's true for music, but for Howard's show it's perfectly fine. Only downside of this, and I assume it for some stupid legal reason, you can't record off the internet. But at least I can now listen live anywhere inside my home or office. Once I get a car connection I think it will be worth the price. Anyhow, I'm not disappointed I bought a Stiletto, but I am disappointed from what I hoped it would be.

Which gets us back to lowering sales expectations. If the Stiletto had been what I hoped for, I would have bought several to give as gifts. But that's not going to happen now. The Stiletto improved in some ways on the S50 but in other ways it didn't. Sirius just simply doesn't have it's hardware up to speed, and it's beta testing products on Howard's devoted fans. There is no doubt in my mind that Sirius will finally make some better products. (And get enough repeaters in Los Angeles!) They'll have to fix the bugs in the stiletto (especially the head phones) but mean while they encouraging Howard fans to wait for them to get their act together.

If they could come up with one really slick new radio, most of Howard's fans would all upgrade immediately and give them as gifts and spread the good word. So don't blame this short glitch in the rise of satellite on Howard. Howard's the greatest salesman in the world. But even he can only do so much with a mediocre product.

Sirius and XM Merger

So the main stream press is starting to buzz about something I predicted back in October, that is, that Sirius and XM are going to merge:

Trust me, this is not a question of if. It's simply a question of when. The fact that Sirius's sales growth is starting to slow only makes it more likely that this will happen sooner than later. (Because it becomes clear Sirius can't completely crush XM.) So if you haven't sold your Sirius stock, hold on to it. Because once these companies merge, satelite radio will be in a position to really take off.

The advantages in manufacturing one set of hardware, the savings in combining operations and not having to compete for talent are enormous. But also I think some of the hestitation in the public with adopting this new technology comes from confusion (among non-Howard fans) as to which system to buy. With that issue gone, it is simply a question, like it was in the early days of cable, as to whether you wanted it or not. With a merged company, I think you will find that the majority of people who purchase a car will go with a satelite subscription.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Testicle Ratings are Down

My good pal at TSS-Radio (see the ad) wants me to mention that Sirius is free today for everyone who wants to take an on-line test drive.

But frankly, fuck the test ride and just get Sirius. You won't regret it. And you can't do better than by ordering a radio on line from TSS-Radio. They have the best price and service and you'll have the lastest model sent to you a lot faster than you can find one by driving around town.

But back to my blog (if you fucking don't mind TSS-Radio).

There's been a lot of news, and a lot of discussion on Howard's show, about the fact that ratings are not only down for the stations in the morning time slot that Howard left, but they are down over all. That is not only in the mornings, but in the afternoons and around the clock.

Howard and others credit this to the "halo" effect. That is, that once someone sets their radio dial on a particular station because they like that program (Howard Stern) out of laziness they tend to listen to other programs on that station even when they know Howard isn't on (like in the afternoon).

Certainly, the "halo" effect is a problem for traditional broadcasters. A big problem.

But frankly, they face an even bigger one. That is the "you can get what you want when you want it" effect. And I think this is a much bigger problem than the "halo" effect.

Traditional radio is completely over. It's a dinasour. It's dead. Seriously.

The whole idea of a "morning show" and an "afternoon show" is dead. These are completely artifical creations that were set up by the stupid fucking conglomerates who didn't understand technology and didn't care about servicing their "captive" audiences.

The "morning show" was the most important revenue generator for traditional radio because it had so much of a captive audience of people making their commute. So they knew they had to put their best and brightest (Howard) into that time slot. For afternoons, they went for their second best and brightest (non-Howard). For all the other times they went for whatever idiots they could hire and pay shit.

The real reason ratings are dropping so fast is that the 5 million people who have abandoned traditonal radio for Sirius, now can get a wide variety of Howard programing (on two channels) 24 hours a day.

So why bother to listen to the second best guy in the afternoon? Regardless of the "halo" effect. Why the fuck would you listen to something that isn't as good as what you can get somewhere else?

And that's why traditional radio is so doomed. They like to talk about the fact that 280 million people can potentially listen to traditional radio (vs. 5 million Sirius subscribers). But the fact most people don't even listen to radio. Say… 200 million people. Sirius is also availible to any of those 280 million people who might be interested, and thanks to the internet, they don't even have to buy a radio.

Press reports put Howards "regular audience" (whatever that means) at 12 million. He's already stolen the five million hard care listeners not only from "morning radio" but from radio in general. He's adding more subscribers each day. The writing is already on the wall.

If you're in your car, morning, noon, or night and you're bored, you can listen to Howard. And that means all those number two guys (who really sucked) have lost their audience overnight.

Mary DeSade

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Over 5 Million

Howard just announced that Sirius has now sold over five million radios and is on track to hit more than six million by the end of the year. It is now outselling XM almost two to one, a complete reverse from before Howard Stern announced his move. Sirius added 441,000 subscribers this quarter (up from 359,000 a year ago) and XM only added 285,000 (a shocking drop from 617,000 from a year ago). These numbers are even better news for Sirius when you consider that last years quarter took place when Howard was mounting a media blitz about his move to satellite and hard core fans were scrambling to buy radios to make sure they didn't miss a minute. Just months ago radio pundits were saying that all of all Howard's fans who would make the move had already done it. But sales haven't gone down, they've gone up. The other good news is, as I pointed out in a previous column, Sirius current hardware sucks. They're coming out with a new radio, the Stiletto, that is rumored to be amazing, has tons of new features, looks cool and is already heavily backordered. If Howard wanted to get a big jump in subscriptions he can do it almost instantly by going on the PR circuit. He's the greatest salesman in the world. But right now, he doesn't have to. Sirius will be selling every Stiletto that can manufacture for the foreseeable future.

While XM still has more subscribers, around 7 million, and is technically still growing, the size of it's growth is in a free-fall and shows no sign of stopping. Sirius should easily surpass it in total number of subscribers sometime next year. So it's not surprising that XM stocks are in the toilet.

But, some have said to me, if Sirius is doing so well, why isn't it stock up? Because the stock is Sirius Inc., not Howard Stern Inc. If it was Howard Stern Inc. it would be through the roof.

The news spinners for traditional radio say the reason the stocks are low is because the rise in subscriptions can't continue at the current pace. The Washington Post lumping the two together despite the huge differences.

Well, obviously XM's growth isn't rising, but Sirius growth is up significantly and there reason to believe it won't continue.

But there is one area that investors should be concerned about. Programming costs. Howard cost Sirius $500 million for a five year deal and while he is worth every penny, it does put a drain on profitability since he and Super-agent Don Buchwald got a nice size chunk of the company. Moreover, but Sirius and XM are in a battle over sports rights, and it has cost them a fortune dueling over who would pay the most for baseball or football. XM stupidly paid $50 million for rights to Oprah and that is a complete waste of money. Sirius success is almost completely due to Howard because he is the only distinction between two great, but very similar products. And there's nothing stopping Howard from retiring in five years, going back to traditional radio (which he will never do, but investors have no promise) or even switching to XM for a huge chunk of that company. (You know for a fact that if XM could do it over, they would have paid twice as much to get Howard.)

So time to sell your Sirius stock? Nope, hold on to it, in fact, buy a bunch more because I have an announcement to make. Sirius and XM are going to merge.

What, you say, you haven't heard that? Why hasn't Howard announced it? Do I have the inside scoop or is it just a rumor?

No, I don't have any information about negotiations, but I do know it will happen. Why? Because the business economics just makes too much sense.

While Sirius is rapidly gaining on XM, XM is still growing, at least a little, and expects to reach 8 million that year. Together, their audience would instantly be 14 Million. That's a huge leap. Moreover, they wouldn't be force to compete for content, would be able to offer all sports on one service. That would make the argument for subscribing even more compelling.

Also they would save a fortune on R & D and manufacturing costs, distribution and sales and become available in all car brands. There wouldn't be much government objection to a merger and their are no FCC rules to stop it. It just makes too much sense for them to merge.

So why haven't they already? Because XM thought it would win. When they both came out, XM looked like the winning horse. Why would it merge with a rival that was probably going to fail. But with Sirius rapidly catching up, XM has to be concerned. If Sirius continues to grow at the current rate, it will surpass XM by next year. If that continues, in a couple more years it's XM might go completely under. And already it's management is in turmoil while Sirius management is in the hands of one of the best men in the broadcasting business, Mel Karmazin.

So then why shouldn't Sirius just hold out and figure that XM will get Betamaxed? They could. And once it went under they would have the benefit of less competition. But XM's 7 million subscribers is still a lot of subscribers, and Sirius is under pressure from shareholders to offer them results as quickly as possible. And since shares of both companies are undervalued, in my opinion, it won't be hard to make a deal.

I predict the companies will merge with in a couple years. Definitely with in four years. Why? Because, of course, of Howard.

When Howard's contract comes up, if they haven't already merged, there is a huge danger that Howard could over to switch to XM for even more that the 500 million he has already gotten. There's even the danger that Howard would start his own satellite company or a new startup. He has already proven what he can do in bringing an audience into a new medium.

Not only with Sirius and XM merge, but they'll also have to give Howard a huge chunk of the new company too keep him happy and not rock the boat. If you think Howard hit the jack pot with his old deal, wait till you hear about the new one. As I've said before, it won't surprise me if he ends up owning most of the company.

And then it really would be Howard Stern Inc. And that's a stock worth betting on.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How Can You Go Wrong Paying 50 Million to a Closet Lesbian?

Howard has known for many years that lesbianism sells.

So if you're trying to get people to use a new technology, go for some girl on girl action. It worked for the VCR, for DVD's, for the internet. And even worked for broadcast radio until the FCC shut Howard down.

But now that we have satellite radio, free of FCC restrictions, why not give a show to a couple lesbian chicks giving us the inside story on their forbidden love. Sounds like great radio to me.

The only problem is that the dikes XM hired was Oprah (mommy) and her submissive girlfriend, sex slave, Gayle.

Will they get 4 million subscribers to XM by using fart jokes and shit jokes like Howard? They seem to be trying, "Oprah moved onto her most recent favorite topic, excrement. O assured Gayle that the reason she doesn't have children wasn't that she can't deal with poo, or "pooty,"

Oh yeah, this crap is worth paying Oprah 50 million for. No wonder XM is in the fucking toilet. Oprah, why don't you tell us about how Gale licks your pussy and what it feels like? Or how much fun it is when you strap on and she calls you "daddy."

That will sell radios. Until then, you're good at selling shampoo. Come on, Oprah, get out of the fucking closet and we'll try to respect you again. Rosie O'Donnell already outed you on "The View." Fess up and then maybe you can earn XM some of the money you're getting.

Monday, September 25, 2006

$500 Million Reasons to Stay at Sirius and That's Just the Beginning

One of the goofy things about this "rumor" that Howard might return to traditional radio (planted by the traditional radio companies) is that Howard has a contract for five years to work for Sirius. So even if he wasn't happy (he is) with his fan base, there isn't anything he could do without permission from Sirius. And Sirius has no reason to cooperate with traditonal broadcasters just as it has overtaken XM and is rapidly gaining subscribers.

The lies about Howard being disappointed about his new audience are particularly silly for another reason.

Howard made a $500 million deal with Sirius with the promise of delivering 1 million subscribers.

Howard has delivered 3-4 million subscribers in just one year.

What's going to happen when Howard's contract comes up in five years? Even if we assume that Sirius doesn't continue to grow, that Howard's audience doesn't expand to ten or twenty million.

What if all Howard can do is four million subscribers, four times what his contract for $500 million required?

How much money can Howard ask from Sirius five years from now? Four times his last contract, 2 Billion dollars?

It wouldn't surprise me if Howard ends up owning Sirius.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

4 Million Pieces of Crap

Why is broadcast radio terrified? They are attacking Howard in the press by saying the four million listeners who switched to Sirius in the last year is just a drop in the bucket of their 280 million listeners. But that's exactly why they're so scared. There's another 280 million potential new buyers who might also switch. Sirius has tremendous growth potential.

Sirius has sold four million radios so far. And there isn't any particular reason to think that eventually they might sell tens of millions every year. Apple has sold 50 million iPods since 2001.

One thing that has been holding back Sirius sales that there are shortages of their most popular players. They're selling them just about as fast as they can make them. But there is another thing that has been holding them back. Their radios are crap.

Don't get me wrong, satelite radio is great. It's digitial, you can get a signal anywhere in the United States. It has commerical free music and, most importantly, two channels of Howard Stern.

Unfortunately, the actual radios, the hardware being sold is pretty lousy. The radios are generally ugly, poorly designed and manufactured. I got a Starmate Replay and the LCD broke when I pushed my fingers too hard on it. I then bought the top of the line S50 and the buttons feel cheap and don't respond properly. Moreover, the S50 is suppose to be portable, but you can't listen to Sirius live, you have to have pre-recorded the content. Recording is for some reason limited to 2 hour blocks. Overall, Sirius radios feel like cheaply made electronics from a Chinese knockoff company. These are not slick iPods.

This isn't too surprising. Before Howard announced he was moving to Sirius, the company was in deep trouble. It was losing money like crazy and had less that 600,000 listeners. It makes sense they didn't have the kind of money that Apple has to throw into the research and design of iPods let alone Apple's experience in manufacturing.

But thanks to Howard that's all about to change. 4 million new subscribers represents $40 million in cash a month flowing into Sirius, more than enough to upgrade their products.

And new products are coming, in particular the Stiletto, which looks much slicker and solves a lot of the problems with the S50 including the recording limit. It offers true portability.

Another key development is that the Stiletto will be the first radio that will be able to pick up Sirius in WiFi zones. This will expand the coverage of listening to inside buildings where the need of an antenna prevented fans from getting Sirius. This will mean that people all over the world will finally be able to hear Howard.

And that's the problem for traditional broadcast radio. Their core technology is completely outdated however pretty, cheap and availible their hardware is. That's why they're scrambling for HD radio, but the whole notion of radio being broadcast by individual stations across the country is outdated regardless of any changes they might try. It simply makes more sense to get radio from satelite, and the technology for getting it is simply going to keep improving.

Right now, over 4 million people were willing to buy crappy radios with lots of problems just to listen to Howard. But as the radios improve, people might actually start buying them because they are slick products. How long will it take before a large percentage of those 280 million traditional radio listeners switch over to satelite. It took Apple 5 years to get to 50 million iPod users. I think Sirius might get there a lot faster.

And that's another reason for Sirius to smile. They are not only in the cable television subscriber business (which is a very good business to be in) where they get monthy payments for the content they broadcast, but they are also in the hardware business like Apple. They come out with a cool new product like the Stiletto, and Howard's millions of fans would buy the new toy, AND keep subscribing. Heck, maybe they'll even give the old one to a friend who will then subscribe.

And Sirius has an advantage over Apple because of it's subscription model. When they come out with a new product, rather than discount the old hardware, they can simply give it away for free. As they already are doing with a lot of outdated crappy radios. But it's worth it in the long run for the subscription fees. And guess what, when those new listeners get hooked, they'll buy cooler new radios.

This also works for the retailers Sirius counts on for sales. They understand that this is a business where they can sell a new radio to an old customer anytime Sirius comes out with a cooler, sleeker, more fuctional product. It's a pretty neat trick to suddenly find yourself int the iPod and cable subscription business, to of the most profitable business to be in today.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Why is Howard Holding Back?

Howard's show was truly wonderful today and all the more because of a bunch of silly articles in the press. Particularly the absurd New York Post article by John Mainelli claiming Howard was unhappy with losing his huge traditional radio audience for the "relative obscurity of satellite." It was complete bullshit, but wonderful red meat for Howard to dig into.

Mainelli's article was particularly amusing because the press was just a few months ago claiming Howard's show wouldn't be interesting after he left traditional radio because he wouldn't have an "enemy" (the FCC) to rail against. Didn't take him long to find one, did it? He's railing against the New York Post and all the press that don't take him seriously.

Well, Howard, I take your seriously.

Howard destroyed all the arguments against his huge success in moving to satellite and pointed out accurately that traditional radio is scared shitless over his success and engaged in a massive campaign to try to discredit him.

But what Howard didn't admit to is that he knows the press is attacking him right now is because…

Of Howard.

News about Howard sells papers, it sells magazines, it sells internet sites. Any information about Howard is valuable. But Howard isn't providing it. Howard isn't making news. Howard has deliberately stopped making news. And something needs to fill that vacuum that he's created. Traditional broadcasters are filling it by sending out their goons to invent facts to say Howard's move isn't successful and that he might be returning to traditional radio.

But, you might ask, isn't Howard talking a lot? Isn't he broadcasting for hours every day talking his head off and attacking his enemies? Yes, but he's only doing his show. With a click of Howard's finger he could be all over every talk show, every newspaper, every magazine cover saying how successful his move to Sirius has been and trumpeting the death of broadcast radio.

But he isn't. Why not? Why isn't he pounding the PR pavement as Howard knows how to do better than anyone?

Because his move to Sirius was so hugely successful he doesn't need to. He promoted himself a lot when he first made the move, but he's selling just about every radio Sirius can make (there's still shortages). He more than fulfilled his contract which called for him to bring at least a million listeners over to Sirius. He's brought more than 4 million and counting. He's gotten his hundreds of millions in bonus money.

So while it may piss Howard off when people make up all this stuff, it really doesn't matter to him right now. Not enough to get him to waste his PR skills really trying to fight it. Moreover, Howard knows that it's a good thing not to over expose himself on talk shows and with press conferences so that it becomes more significant when he does go on tour.

So the very fact that the broadcasters lobbying machine can even get out its false message that Howard is missing the limelight (the watercooler talk) is only possible because Howard doesn't give a crap about the limelight. Howard is a brilliant businessman. He doesn't promote himself for attention, he promotes himself when he has something he wants to sell, a movie, a book, a record album or his radio show. But his show is so successful right now there is no reason to hype it.

Howard is deliberately holding back but don't think that he's gone for good. I suspect Howard is waiting for the next generation line of Sirius equipment. And then he'll put on his PR boxing gloves, go out and really kick some ass.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Siriusly Folks

So why start blog about Howard Stern? It isn't as if there isn't plenty of discussion already on the internet about Howard. There are dozens of fan websites, discussion boards and blogs already talking about every detail of his show. His radio show airs several times a day and is repeated frequently. You can check out video of his radio show on cable on demand or read blow by blow descriptions with pictures on his own website. Howard even as a large new team just to provide news about… Howard.

But despite all this, Howard gets no respect. He justifiably rails that the mainstream news media and broadcasting establishment are out to get him, and they are. There is plenty of gossip on the internet about Howard, but little in the way of serious discussion about his enormous impact on modern entertainment.

An example of this popped up just yesterday in a New York Times article "Changing Its Tune" by Richard Siklos.

The article talks about the fact that radio listening has declined 14% in the last ten years and discusses the impact that new media, like satelite radio, is having on the industry. It mentions Howard twice, in passing, lumping him in with podcasting.

What is amazing about this is there is no direct evidence that podcasting is impacting radio audiences. For starters, my own opinion is that is that podcasting appeals to a very different audience than listens to traditional radio and it's impact has been small so far. Secondly, since radio stations can and are providing podcasts of their programming, podcasting won't have a negative effect on traditonal broadcasters and can in fact increase their potential audience. Certainly NPR stations are already benefitting because their shows are natural to podcast.

But Howard is different, his recent impact on the broadcast industry is huge and can be directly tracked. Just a few months ago the mainstream media was reporting when Howard left for satellite, over night eight to ten million people stopped listening to radio stations that had been broadcasting him.

When you talk about a 14% decline in listeners, how can you not give Howard's move credit for a huge part of that? Moreover, over the past ten years many stations were forced to dump Howard due to FCC pressure, and audiences fell off in all of those markets.

Siklos mentions that Sirius and XM have a combined audience of more than 11 million, later pointing out that it pales in comparison to the 230 million that are listening to traditional stations. But what he fails to mention is that at least 4 million of that audience was added in the last year almost solely due to Howard. That before Howard Sirius had an audience of less that half a million and now is on track to top out over five million. And there is no sign that there is any limit on how big that audience could get.

For 4 million people to suddenly pay monthly for something they got for free is astounding. How can any discussion of what is going on in radio today not talk about that incredible shift? Siklos manages to interview someone who bought a XM radio for their boat, but isn't going to talk about 4 million people paying hundreds of dollars adopting a new media system to listen to one person?

So that's what this blog is going to be about. In my own small way I'm going to try to correct the record on what's really going on with the Howard Stern empire with some serious discussion about his true impact.

Sorry, no fart jokes.