@sternshow: digital farts

Yesterday’s Stern show appearance came because on This Week in Google, we’d made fun of Howard Stern for using Lotus Notes still and Howard’s geek guru, Jeff Schick of IBM, rose up in protest and invited me in to see how the show uses it.

Start with Stern technology: Schick said they they digitize everything — every show, every bit of audio, every press clipping, even everything sent into the show. They scan all the fan mail. They scan dildoes. This adds up to 100 terabytes of data. That’s stored at Howard’s office in New York (outside Sirius) — which is in addition to the audio that’s stored, of course, at Sirius (and backed up in New Jersey), and in addition to the video archives. Howard’s own 100tb is backed up at Howard’s beach house. Howard’s office has a T1 and business-class cable and a direct link to Howard’s apartment, which also has business-class cable, like his beach house (which has CAT5 cable in every all and multiple wi-fi networks for Howard and guests). Serious shit.

On air, I asked Howard whether all this means that fans will someday have access to it. He said yes. I don’t want to read too much into that but I keep hoping that if Stern leaves satellite, he’ll start an internet empire.

I think the economics work: Stern has proven, thanks to his move to Sirius, that his fans, by the millions, will pay $12 a month to hear him. He can charge less online and make more because he’d own it entirely and his cost structure — technology, programming, marketing — would be far less than Sirius’.

The technology isn’t quite there but it will be soon. We fans need to be able to listen to Stern in our cars in the morning. We need to able to listen to the internet. That is possible today. On the way to the show yesterday, I listened to it on my iPhone. (Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone in case Sirius or Apple cuts it off. But it’s legit; I pay for internet access and use my internet password to get access on the phone.) We can listen to shows we buy on our iPods (but it’s better live). I have no doubt the technology will arrive and soon — but soon enough for the end of Stern’s contract in December? We’ll see.

By the way, I also got to see what they’re talking about on the Stern show when they say “Gary Preview Page 2, second column, bottom, in yellow….” It’s Prophet, the Sirius system for storing and playing all audio and at their consoles they go to a page and there are boxes in color; touch the box and it plays.

Now as for Lotus: In their office, Jeff Schick and a colleague generously spent a few hours giving me a tour of what they can do. I’ll concede: It’s impressive. What impressed me is that IBM integrated the functions of the collaborative, social internet — email, Twitter, wikis, LinkedIn, Facebook, Facebook Connect, directories, blogs, calendars, Skype, bookmarks, tagging — in a way that I wish they would all interroperate: click on a name and get everything about them (contact, place, tags, bookmarks); pull together people in calls or calendars just by dragging them; see how people are sharing your documents; see how people are connected….

Only thing is, IBM had to essentially recreate the internet and all these functions to do that, both so they could integrate it all and so that it could operate behind corporate firewalls. We internet snobs make fun of that, but I understand why they do that. But as we talk about how our internet should operate — how open standards for identity, for example, should work — the irony is that we could look at the interlocked IBM platforms to see the promise of it. It’s closed, for a reason, but it shows what an open structure would look like if it operated on truly open standards. I wonder whether there’s an opportunity for IBM to offer these functions at a retail level.

So thanks to Jeff Schick, I got to see Stern’s technology and IBM’s and get onto the show and so I’ll take back my snickers about Notes, most of them.

  • What you said regarding Stern starting and Internet Empire is what I thought the second I began listen to the TWIT network. If Howard could somehow implement a pay model it would work. An app or webapp for smartphones could be a way to keep the content behind a pay wall. I, personally would rather download a podcast…pay or otherwise. I’m not sure any podcatching applications have a billing system currently. Perhaps, if Howard were to do what I’m proposing, they would. I’d pay $10/mo for a legit Stern Podcast in a second.

  • Marc Love

    “But as we talk about how our internet should operate — how open standards for identity, for example, should work — the irony is that we could look at the interlocked IBM platforms to see the promise of it. It’s closed, for a reason, but it shows what an open structure would look like if it operated on truly open standards. I wonder whether there’s an opportunity for IBM to offer these functions at a retail level.”

    Better yet, IBM ought to contribute their technology and internal standards to open source. Or at least publish some papers explaining their infrastructure and how they’ve tackled problems like Google has.

    Like you said Jeff, their customer base for this is are customers who have to be closed behind firewalls. These are usually huge corporations who would much rather hire IBM to set it up and maintain it than invest the internal resources to hack around with an open sourced technology. IBM has nothing to lose by releasing it, and everything to gain in goodwill and reputation in the developer community. Developers, who at times, are asked for infrastructure and software recommendations.

    When I hear “IBM”, I don’t think, “wow, they make great stuff” or “they’re an innovative company” or “they’ve solved some serious problems”. If its as good as it sounds, they could do a lot to improve their public image by opening up a bit.

    • Simon Reid

      Disclaimer: I don’t work for IBM but am a big fan of the latest version’s of Notes (even I would admit that prior to Notes 8, 3 years ago, they had a horrible interface)

      IBM open sources a huge amount of their work, and are big contributors to many communities ( http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/opensource ) , everything from the core of Linux through to adding support for the disabled to Firefox.

      Lotus Notes is actually a good example of this, the latest version of the client is based on the open source Eclipse framework and the web engine makes extensive use of the Dojo toolkit and other open source projects.

      IBM do need to get the message out about their products and I think a consumer focused version would go a long way towards that. One thing they are very good at though is contributing to, and using, open source projects – you might be surprised how many parts of the open internet have been coded by an IBM employee.

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  • From what you learned about IBM’s intraweb-like structure, do you think that they could compete with, or perhaps overtake, Google (and all their peripherals) if they offered their system to the public?

    What Would Google Do indeed!

    • I don’t think they want to compete with Google in this way. Yes, they offer some products which compete with products that Google also offers (LotusLive cloud computing, for example, but the target-base is completely different). Google and IBM both do cloud computing (http://www.edbrill.com/ebrill/edbrill.nsf/dx/cio.com-google-to-live-or-die-in-la which is a not-success story, that really has nothing to do with Google’s product apparently, but LA’s implementation, from what I read). However, where does Google STILL get most of it’s income? Search related advertising. Where does IBM income derive from? Product sales, both software, such as Lotus Notes/Domino, and hardware (and hey, what salesperson wouldn’t like to sell a couple of new i-series boxes running multiple Domino Servers each?) IBM has a lot of “systems” or work they offer to the public, but I don’t see them having any desire to move into Google’s main sphere of operations.

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  • Dag Kvello

    Well, You can try out most of it out in Public, for free.


    or another public (free) alternative:


    • Odd, I just registered on Bleedyellow.com today. This is a brand I do not tire of promoting.

  • Ichiro

    Great writeup! I always laugh when I hear Gary say “Gary Preview Page 2, second column, bottom, in yellow….” I must say it is impressive that Stern’s production team does what it does. With all the audio clips, CRM, Archiving..etc. I wish you asked Stern why he does not allow his show on the official Sirius app.

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  • Yeah, Lotus and IBM today aren’t the Lotus and IBM we knew in the 90’s. Nowhere near it.

  • As a daily Stern listener and longtime Buzzmachine reader… (I feel like I’m one of those sports-talk callers who start with “I’m a 15 year season ticket holder…”)

    The tension over Howard’s next course of action is now absolutely palpable. Yesterday he was talking about how staffers might want to look for jobs, and he said, and this is the exact quote:

    “I could either be out of the business… OR, I could be onto something exciting and new, that would include all of us, which would be the ideal situation.”

    That was a real surprise to hear, and starts to give up the game.

    At the same time, he’s going to LA for the first time in ages — to meet with Jimmy Kimmel — and now it turns out that Adam Carolla will be there.

    Both Adam and Howard have mentioned a phone call between them about two weeks ago.

    The Adam Carolla Podcast has been #1 in iTunes comedy section for approximately the entire year he’s been doing it. Fellow “Carolla network” podcasters also do nicely.

    Do you think they’ll find something to talk about at Jimmy’s? What could Howard find so compelling that he would fly to the west coast for it? Certainly not just a dinner at Jimmy’s home.

    My prediction: the Sterncasting Network debuts in January 2011, including all the Adam network shows, Greg Fitzsimmons (who is now getting apx. 30k downloaders for his apres-Sirius show podcast), and frankly whomever else they want to bring in. Marc Maron, Bill Burr, hell just bring *everybody* and monetize it slowly over time.

    The kicker: Sirius pays to rebroadcast everything on an ala carte basis, but has no say in anything other than invoicing terms.

    • ixceix

      he said the whole purpose for the trip is something that has to do with beth.

  • Joe L

    I’d love an internet empire like you’re talking about. They should come up with something to broadcast unedited on the internet and a delayed edited version on terrestrial radio to get back on top with the masses.

  • I listened to you on Howard Stern talking about Prostate Cancer, What a bummer man I had no idea.

    I also listen to you on This week in Google and I regularly listen to Twit network podcasts (Twit, Net@night etc)

    Every time your on Stern you never give your podcast a plug perhaps because it’s to embarrassing.

  • I listened to the show on TWIG and got a kick out of it. Rock on!

  • Jeff – I think you should get yourself demos of more internal corporate networks. I think what you’ll find is that once everything is “closed,” then everything becomes amazingly “open.” In other words, once you’re behind the firewalls, the need to protect/restrict access to data drops dramatically, since everyone on the network has a basic level of trust. Then, collaboration can really start to kick in.

    The interesting philosophical question, IMHO, is how (or if?) that basic level of trust can ever exist in a truly public place (like the Internet).

  • Wow, Howard, that’s an impressive set-up. I’m still a bit taken aback that there exists somewhere 100TB of fart sounds and boobs.

  • tdfRR

    Interesting comments re: Lotus Notes

    Any company that didn’t get sucked into ‘web browser’ hype and went ‘all in’ 10 years ago reaped enormous gains while Netscape/’web will save the world fans’ struggled trying to figure out basic AU/AZ.

    Easy RAD automation/workflow…wow what a concept!

    I’m not a Lotus fanboy, am actually trying to move some Lotus based departments off the product for the benefit of the enterprise collaboration, but I do feel their pain. What you could do with a smart Lotus infrastructure 10+ years ago is only beginning to be matched with today’s web technology.

    I’m kinda of surprised a Google ‘guru’ has just figured this out. Kids…lol

    A more interesting thought…what type of influence has Lotus Notes inventor Ray Ozzie brought to new Microsoft products? He’s pretty much credited as the genius behind Notes, although I do give IBM props for not totally f’ing things up. I don’t know the answer, but if I were Google I wouldn’t be resting on my accomplishments in advertising revenue.

    Just sayin… :)

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