Sunday, October 12, 2008

Regarding Howard: The "mainstream" media catches up with Taboid Baby on Stern's irrelevance and probable return to "free" radio

We've been writing for a couple of years about Howard Stern's irrelevance that began the moment he left free radio and sold out to a paid satellite system, and have predicted that he would eventually return in some form to "free FM." Now the "mainstream" media, in the form of The Los Angeles Times, is catching up. Greg Braxton writes in tomorrow's paper:

Howard Stern loses listeners--
and influence -- on satellite radio

Howard Stern, the self-proclaimed King of All Media, has lost his crown.

The shock jock's syndicated morning radio show once drew a national audience of 12 million, but since jumping to satellite radio three years ago, his listeners have dwindled to a fraction of that. Where once Stern routinely commanded a parade of Hollywood's hottest stars -- George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Julia Roberts -- today publicists are left to tout studio appearances by the likes of Chevy Chase, Joan Rivers or Hulk Hogan.

Stern, weary of fighting the Federal Communications Commission over hefty fines and charges of indecency on his terrestrial show, wanted creative independence on the unregulated airwaves of satellite. He got it -- and a lucrative five-year contract worth hundreds of million of dollars.

But for a 54-year-old man who once likened his youthful craving for media attention to a heroin addiction, the move may have come with unintended consequences. Along with the loss of a massive daily radio audience, Stern has also watched as his past triumphs of a hit movie, bestselling books and huge pay-per-view television specials recede into memory.

So far, the radio personality's leap from traditional media to a niche platform has come at a heavy price -- namely, cultural relevancy. Unlike an Arianna Huffington, who vastly increased her reach on her upstart website, Stern's place in the national conversation has been reduced to a murmur in the din of the exploding entertainment universe.

"It's like Howard went from playing Madison Avenue to playing an upscale off-Broadway concert hall for a lot of money," said Tom Taylor, executive news editor at Radio-Info.com, which tracks the radio industry. "He made a Faustian bargain. He got everything he wanted in terms of money and not being bothered by the FCC, but he lost the bulk of his audience."

...Radio analysts... estimated the actual size of Stern's daily satellite audience to be between 1 million and 2 million.

Stern's program today is much like it was.... and despite the enhanced autonomy, the language is only a bit more coarse and the sexual discussions slightly more explicit.

"The show has a lot of sameness, though he definitely has a lot more freedom now," Taylor said. "There's a sense talking to the people who know him that he is aware that he's isolated. But he knew this would happen."

With a reduced audience, Stern's show is no longer a prime stop on the major film promotion circuit. And the A-list guests who used to submit to Stern's biting personal questions in order to hype their projects have become scarce...

It's a far cry from previous years, when from the bully pulpit of his radio show, Stern anointed himself as "The King of All Media"...

Since Stern's departure from terrestrial radio, rumors have periodically circulated that the shock jock will return to his terrestrial radio roots. Stern has dismissed the talk, but his current contract expires in 2010. What then?

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