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Why Stern Matters

By - February 26, 2004

I’ve been thinking lately that blogs could learn a lot from talk radio. I’d not gotten to the point of really looking into this idea, which I am sure has been discussed in the blogosphere to no end. But the whole Stern thing seems to throw it in some relief. Dan and Jeff have made the point, and I agree, if Howard Stern leaves Viacom, he should go to satellite/net radio, and that’d be the killer app those media need to take off.

(BTW it’s interesting to note how attenuated regulatory reach has become, in that it’s really only premised on the “public airwaves.” I’m not anti-regulation, but it seems to me we should trust people to make their own decisions about what information they want to consume. Banning Stern and others from the “public” airwaves does very little, in the end, save create “private” channels outside of regulatory (and therefore common cultural) reach. In other words, by forcing our citizens to make choices outside of our attenuated cultural commons, by refusing to be inclusive in what we allow into the public space, we are weakening our social fabric, driving conversation underground, and lessening the trust and responsibility which binds us as a society. Is that a good thing?)

Notwithstanding the larger regulatory questions, Stern leaving radio and heading for the Net could be a great thing – for the Net, in any case (it’s also quite unlikely, but…). If he did, it would create all sorts of interesting issues from the standpoint of programming and UI. The program is predicated on real-time community – the call ins, the references to breaking news, etc. When it heads to the internet, it will, I would hope, be wrapped in all sorts of new media forms – time shifted, cut and pasted, linked, etc. The show will change, for sure, and many, many new shows will thrive in the traces Stern would create. If Stern does do this, I hope he and his folks think it through. They shouldn’t adopt a Clear Channel/Viacom/Comcast-like approach to the Web, but instead try to do something that feels native. Stern has a chance to be an innovator in a new medium. He already has plenty of money. Why not try this?

Though I don’t listen to Stern much, I’ll warrant I’d listen to a lot more if it were on the web, and searchable. Some of his bits are amazing, many are lame, and some are really offensive. But it’d be great to pick and choose, like we do with blog items, news reports, and most other media on the web. Stern being Stern, he’d also figure out how to make money on the show, which is not a bad thing for web media models to boot.

In any case, it’ll be fun to watch what happens next. My guess is that nothing happens, he gets a slap on the wrist, everyone promises to play nice, and nothing changes till the next election cycle. But you never know.

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2 thoughts on “Why Stern Matters

  1. Peter says:

    This is an excellent idea. Stern should develop an online presence anyways. If sites like gawker can create an online following for gossip hounds, with no pre-existing brand awareness, imagine what Stern could do! Using a combination of community and blogging features that are available at virtually no cost, Stern could create quite a presence. And he could obviously monetize it using his old media sponsorship and spokesperon advertising methods. I bet he could easily launched a premium subscription service as well.

    And then freedom of speech wouldn’t be controlled by a monopoly and its powerful cronies.

  2. Julie Athos says:

    What ever happened to free speech?? If you don’t like what’s on the radio change the station. I am sick of all of these ignorant people responding to the Howard Stern issue. They think we need to take the “trash” off the air to protect the kids. That’s why kids have parents to monitor what they are listening to or watching.