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.