Posts about Howard_Stern

The Stern Broadcasting Corp.

In today’s Daily News, David Hinckley and Talkers’ Michael Harrison speculate that when Howard Stern’s Sirius XM contract is up, he could use the internet to start his own broadcasting company.

Indeed, he could. Technology makes it possible: We could listen to him – and watch him – on the internet, on our iPods, and even now on our web-enabled phones. There’s no longer a need for a distribution network.

The numbers could be impressive. Stern brought an estimated 6-8 million listeners to Sirius. I’ve talked with a measurement company that did a study on his impact on satellite and concluded that a majority of users were there and paying $12.95 a month because of him. So say that half those people – 3.5 million – would pay half that much – $6 – to get Stern anywhere and on-demand. That’s $252 million. Absurd? OK, so charge $1 a month; that’s $42 million (though at a lower price, the volume would surely increase). Add in a little ad revenue but not much, judging on the crap accounts Sirius has been getting. Marketing? Stern doesn’t need it because his audience is his agency. And Stern doesn’t need to share any of that with Sirius XM. His only cost is his staff and bandwidth. Ah, but you say, he made a reported $500 million for his five-year Sirius contract. But I believe some of that came in equity and as a shareholder, I can tell you that isn’t doing so well. The point is, who’s going to sniff at tens of millions of dollars a year? If it doesn’t work, the risk is minimal. So why not?

Hinckley’s point is that the internet enables Stern to have complete freedom, control, and ownership, which is ideal for a control freak like Stern.

Would I pay for Stern? I already do; he’s why I subscribed to Sirius. I’m just unhappy that I can’t get him on-demand on my iPod and iPhone.

Irony that I’m endorsing paying for content when I scoff at news organizations charging? No. I’ve long said that we do and will pay for unique performances – and Stern is unique. News is information, a commodity once known; that’s what makes it hard to charge for. Mere opinion is abundant. Performance has value, in music, in comedy, or even in news.

Who else would I pay? Jon Stewart could charge (though we’d get less time and he probably has higher cost). My list pretty much ends there. How about you?

The small c: Stern & Imus

I just did an interview about my cancer with Steve Langford from Howard 100 News, who really is an intrepid reporter. I told him I could certainly not describe the full details of going through this with other media outlets (not that a single one of them would care) because it’s just too, well, explicit. So, of course, Steve then demanded those dirty details, starting with the harpoon shots into me that I blogged about yesterday (hint: it’s a rear-guard action). I still spared Steve the atmospherics of my MRI with a foot-long magnetic coil also shoved up there. Some things are too much even for Stern fans. And I’ll tell you the Viagra story later.

When Steve mentioned my blog post today on the air, he said, Howard expressed his concern and I’m grateful for that. Yesterday, I wrote about living the public life and no one has perfected that better than Howard. He – more than blogs – has taught me about transparency.

One of the things I am valuing most in the phenomenal response I’ve been getting since yesterday – besides, of course, the wonderful good wishes from so many of you – is the candor I get from folks who’ve had this experience. One friend sent me email with frank advice about sex; it takes guts to talk about that with others and so I’m grateful he was willing to. A few others have let me know how they pee (thanks, guys).

I told Langford that I wanted to get advice from Stern producer Gary Dell’Abate because, on the show, he very publicly went through the ordeal of having a stent stuck up his penis because of kidney stones. Because he’s already shared every detail on the radio, I figured he’d be straight with me. Get this: Gary called me to assure me that it was irritating but didn’t hurt; getting it taken out was incredibly strange, though. He didn’t hesitate to share with me because he already lives so much in public.

Living in public is good.

But there are exceptions. Don Imus may be one of them.

I had joked that one of the worst parts of getting prostate cancer is that I share an ailment with Don Imus when I’m a Stern fan.

But, hey, now that we’re brothers in malignancy, I at least wondered what treatment Imus had selected from the menu – radiation, radioactive seeds, surgery, robotic surgery, or just watching – so I searched online before Langford called (then maybe I could have him speculate on Imus’ impotence and incontinence rather than mine).

I was shocked to find that Imus is apparently talking about treating his cancer with peppers. Peppers. By this logic, people in Mexico, China, Thailand, and Hungary should never get cancer because they eat so many peppers. Yeah, science spends billions looking for the cure for cancer and I trust Imus to find it?

Indeed, a 2006 study found that an ingredient in certain peppers has been found to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. But it has not been tested in humans. Lycopene, an ingredient in tomatoes, also helps reduce PSA. But I’m not going on the ketchup cure.

If Imus is seriously – and so publicly – spreading the notion that eating peppers will cure him, I fear it could jeopardize people who think that they can avoid diagnosis and treatment for a deadly – but curable – disease. Because he is on the radio, what he says gets used and spread (I hesitate to link to the guy promulgating this pepper thing but here it is).

I’m going to tell jokes about my cancer, as best I can, and share my experience when I think it might be of interest. I don’t intend to drown you in sorrow and seriousness. But take this advice seriously: Don’t take medical advice from a talk show host – or a blogger – just because they have a platform to spread it. The virtue of publicness has its limits.

Now the FCC cares about journalism

First John Kerry and then the FTC fretted about journalism and what government should do and now FCC Commissioner Michael Copps is swinging his worry beads. (I hadn’t heard of it before) says Copps is circulating an internal Notification of Inquiry (a step toward rule-making) about journalism and TV hinting at requirements for stations to provide journalism in the public interest and at possible government support.

Journalism and TV: an oxymoron? Well, not always. But often. Local TV news has sucked for years – that horse is out of the barn, over the horizon, and in the glue factory already. Fluff and fires, that’s most of local news on TV. So what is Copps lamenting?

The local broadcast business is going the way of newspapers, only a bit behind and more slowly and without all the attention of self-obsessed print reporters. So what’s to protect?

Local TV news still has, amazingly, the trust of its audience. And it still makes money. So there is a business there. Too bad there’s just so little journalism there.

So I say that Copps shouldn’t be protecting the incumbents or goading them to make more of the same. If he wants to do anything, he should be encouraging new players to compete with local TV and grab some of their attention and dollars.

Scratch that. I don’t want the FCC to do anything that has anything to do with journalism, news, and speech. It’s a bad idea.

The one thing the FCC could do that would encourage more creation of content online, more audience to use it, and thus a better business model would be to get ubiquitous broadband throughout the country. That is the FCC’s job. So, Commissioner, get on with it, please.

WWGD? On Stern

Just heard that Howard Stern talked about What Would Google Do? this morning. I was on the subway. If you heard it please let me know what he said.


I’m all for Larry Lessig’s view of the FCC – so much that I’d like to see him nominated as the chairman who dismantles it. Vint Cerf agrees.

Let me count the ways

On Twitter, newspaperman Howard Weaver asked — incredulity unspoken — whether I could say why I liked Howard Stern in 140 character or less. My answer:

Stern: More than the sum of his farts. Hilarious Honest. Fair. Generous. Not plastic like media. Sparks audience creativity.

: Followup tweet at Weaver is tempted to come to the dark side:

My epiphany on Stern when I reviewed him for TVG: He is best taken in large, not small doses. He’ll befriend you.

The sun sets on free speech

When I am in England and other countries speaking with journalists, I often take the opportunity to put in a plug for the First Amendment, begging them to that they should fight for one of their own — and for a Section 230, while they’re at it — because with global publishing we are all put at risk by bad libel laws and lesser protections of free speech thanks to libel tourism that exploits these laws to chill speech anywhere on earth (publish a book in the US and if one copy is sold in Britain, you can be prosecuted until its awful laws). What America should be exporting — more than Coke or troops — is an understanding of living with the ethic of free speech we have inherited and the realization that the internet is the First Amendment brought to life.

In the Guardian today, George Monbiot goes on a proper attack against British libel laws, calling them what they are: “a global menace to free speech.” He writes:

If someone launches a sustained and malicious campaign of false charges against another person, and that person is given no opportunity to demonstrate that he is being wronged, he should be allowed to seek redress.

See, parenthetically, this discussion about the notion that libel laws themselves are outmoded when the internet gives everyone the means of response.

But the libel laws of England and Wales are tilted so heavily against the defendant and involve such monumental costs that they amount, in effect, to censorship by private interests: a sedition law for the exclusive use of millionaires. While in the United States the plaintiff must prove that the claims against him are false, in English law the defendants’ claims are presumed false until proven otherwise: he has to demonstrate his innocence. . . .

Perhaps you don’t live in England or Wales, so you think this has nothing to do with you. You’re wrong. English libel law now applies to everyone on Earth. Make any accusation, anywhere in the world, and if the subject can demonstrate that a single person in England or Wales has read it, you could be sued here for every penny, cent, rouble, rupee or renminbi you possess. The internet and the global nature of publishing ensure that these medieval laws have become the most powerful extra-territorial legislation ever drafted.

Yesterday two men with whom I seldom agree, the US senators Arlen Specter and Joe Lieberman, launched a new bill, called the Free Speech Protection Act, to defend US citizens against English libel law. Our laws, they argue, threaten the “free-flowing marketplace of ideas” which “enables the ideals of democracy to defeat the totalitarian vision of al-Qaida and other terrorist organisations”. English libel law is an international menace, a national disgrace, a pre-democratic anachronism. It defends crooks, terrorists and tyrants from investigation. It threatens the free speech of people all over the world and causes untold damage to the reputation of this country. And neither the British government nor the British parliament gives a damn. . . .

On top of this, we are about to be subjected to a month of saccharine slathering over the grand progress of China, a nation that tramples the free speech of its citizens. We have endured the childish but murderous reaction to cartoons in Denmark (hear yesterday’s discussion on Morning Joe contrasting this with reaction to The New Yorker’s Obama cover; they brag, properly, that nobody’s going to be arrested at the magazine for a cartoon). We witness repression of speech in the Middle East, in Africa, in Asia, in South America.

Shouldn’t the UK, of all nations, stand up for free speech as an example to the world? If the US and UK are going to fight for anything together, let it be that. Perhaps my friends at the Guardian should take Monbiot’s call as inspiration to hold a campaign for a First Amendment in the UK.

When Google’s the library, who’s the librarian?

PaidContent says it’s a false alarm that Viacom will get personally identifiable information on our video viewing from YouTube and Google as part of its self-destructive lawsuit. Nonetheless, the episode has sparked the question I pose in the headline: When Google becomes our library, who acts as the librarian to protect our privacy as a matter of principle?

And what is the principle? Any site with content — Google, Amazon, a newspaper, a blog, an ISP — is now the moral equivalent of a library or bookstore, two institutions that try hard not to hand over information on what content we seek and consume arguing that that would violate our First Amendment rights. The controversy in the telco immunity legislation is that those searches were made without warrants. In this case, there is a warrant. When I ran sites, we got subpoenas all the time and handed over IP addresses when ordered; that was company policy. I always found it troubling and as a result ordered that we would change our data retention policy and get rid of IP addresses as soon as possible. Should Google and other sites erase IPs and rely only on cookies without personally identifiable information?

I say all this more as a question than as a statement. Viacom could have just as easily gotten our addresses and account names. Even as blind as Viacom is to the new reality — the suit itself is the proof of that — they realized, as PaidContent points out, that getting our personal viewing information would have turned them into a corporate peeping-tom pariah. So what is the principle and the law in your view? What should they be? And what are the practical tactics we should expect content sites to take? Should I be erasing my logs? Is that pointless because Google Analytics has them too? What gives?

: LATER: Bob Wyman adds in the comments:

PaidContent was spun… They are wrong. Viacom claims that they will receive no “personally identifiable information” because they managed to get the judge to accept that “login id is a pseudonym … which … ‘cannot identify specific individuals’” (See pages 13-14 of the ruling). The judge granted Viacom’s demand to receive “all data from the Logging database” — including login id.

I don’t know about you, but I sure think my Google “login id” does a pretty good job of identifying me…

:UPDATE: the Journal has a good July 4 story outlining how Google is trying to get Viacom to agree to scrubbing personally identifiable information out of the data because of the uproar over it.

We need a principle as we have one governing the ethics and if possible the behavior of bookstores and libraries. Google is the library.