Howard Stern has a Moral Obligation to Leave Sirius Radio

Howard Stern's Potential to Burst the Traditional Media Dam by Taking his Show Online
Howard Stern's Potential to Burst the Traditional Media Dam by Taking his Show Online

Like NPR’s Terri Gross, and CUNY Professor Jeff Jarvis, I’m a huge Howard Stern fan.  I listen to nearly all four hours of virtually every show, and the Stern Show is the sole reason I subscribe to Sirius radio.  I cite Gross and Jarvis specifically because they’re highly-intellectual people who illustrate the broad appeal of the show (something that is completely unique in an era of highly-fragmented audiences).

As I see it, Howard Stern has a moral obligation to leave Sirius Radio and take his show completely out of the traditional mass media and stream everything online.

Here’s why:

  1. It goes without saying that Stern commands a huge following.  His decision to go with Sirius is pretty much single-handedly responsible for Sirius’ dominance of the satellite radio market over XM (though it was a Pyrrhic Victory that bankrupted both companies in the process and ended up causing them to consolidate and raise rates).
  2. Internet delivery is really coming into its own as a mass medium, leveling the oligopolies of the traditional media.  This is good for the free market and for consumers as it stands to provide them with greater variety at lower costs.  The lingering problem is that it’s been difficult to monetize Internet media and as a result many institutions are hesitant to make the leap to investing in it.
  3. Given his unique position, were Stern to take his show online he could cause a tipping point that fundamentally changes the economics of Internet media – making it a financially-viable proposition for everyone (in a more powerful way than iTunes legitimized paying for digital downloads of music).

I tend to think that the “Freemium” pricing model would work well for the Stern Show; they could air the audio of the show for free once a day and then charge different levels to get access to podcasts and vodcasts of the show.  They would undoubtedly also command premium advertising rates for anything they do – and unlike “Terrestrial Radio” (a term coined specifically to contrast satellite radio to traditional broadcast radio once Stern drove millions to subscribe to Sirius radio) they could offer advertisers a rich stream of analytics data to help their marketing efforts.  They could also offer a textured and engaging presence in social media (and allow the show to spread farther and faster than satellites or broadcast towers ever could).

Unfortunately I don’t think that Stern will leave; he tends to like working FOR someone as opposed to by himself and he’s somewhat tech-phobic and wary of the new media.  For years he would often wonder aloud what good having a website would do (while simultaneously complaining about how miserable he was being censored by the FCC and gutless station owners).  Here’s a hilarious clip of Jeff Jarvis, Leo Laporte and Gina Trapani laughing at Stern’s reliance on Lotus Notes during an episode of “This Week in Google“:

Here’s to hoping…

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