Content I will pay for: farts

“The internet needs you,” I said to Howard Stern when I called into the show this morning as he was ranting about his contract negotiations with Sirius XM and the possibility that he could take his show and more to the net.

Do it, Howard.

“You made satellite radio,” I told him. “You will make the internet.” For Stern is the one media entity who can absolutely, positively get people to pay online — even me, the alleged opponent of all things paid. Today I pay $12 a month for Stern — more, actually, with my internet account and my wife’s and son’s cars. Stern is talking about charging $5 a month and for that we’d get his radio show plus his TV shows plus much more, even music — and no advertising (“why should I hire a sales force?” he asked).


Why the hell would I pay for Howard Stern and not pay for news? Because Howard is unique. News isn’t. There’s no end of potential competition for any news provider and its unique value expires in seconds. Not so Howard. Arianna Huffington was wrong when she says that people will pay for business news and porn. There’s no need to pay for porn because there’s no scarcity of people who will strip and shtupp in front of a webcam. But there’s only one Howard.

I wrote about Howard’s potential internet empire here. Fellow Howard fan Doc Searls wrote about the potential here. Way back in 2005, I wrote an open letter to Sirius’ Mel Karmazin urging him to embrace the internet and see satellite as just as transitional delivery mechanism for his valuable content (ignore the fucking spam links on the post). He didn’t listen. Apparently, he’s not listening to Howard, either.

Fine. Even though I’m a Sirius shareholder and even though his departure would lead to a plummet in the stock price (from 2¢ to 1¢), I want him to leave because he will turn the internet into a credible, sustainable, mass entertainment medium. The delivery’s tricky but that will be fixed quickly as we carry connected devices all the time, everywhere: our phones, computers, TVs, cars, tablets, and devices we can’t imagine will all be connected (if the phone companies don’t fuck it up). The critical last six inches for Stern are not his penis but the means by which his show gets from my phone to my car speakers. But it’ll be cheaper to install a bluetooth transmitter than a Sirius radio. If we millions of Stern fans went to the trouble of subscribing to and installing Sirius, we’ll do it with something even easier that gives us the entire internet all the time.

For Stern, the economics have to be extremely tempting. He should not work for a company. (Howard: Don’t get sucked into signing on with another employer!) He should be the company. He can charge us less than half what we pay now. He can build the infrastructure for next to nothing (as he said today, he can build a studio — big deal). All he needs is a billing mechanism (Paypal?) and a bandwidth provider (Akamai?). He won’t need to market; he already is viral. And he gets to keep the profits. Sweet.

For us, we get to listen to Stern whenever and wherever we want. (Howard: Please let us listen to repeats on our own schedule, on demand!) We pay less and don’t suffer through ads for itchy-ball cures.

For the internet, we get to prove to unique entertainers everywhere that they can cut out the middlemen — networks, studios, all that — and create valuable relationships directly with their fans, getting much richer in the process. And that, in turn, forces entertainers, studios, networks, and cable companies to sell us entertainment a la carte, so I can stop paying for the damned 95% of my channels I never watch.

What’s not to love?

Do it, Howard. Leave old technology. Build the next medium, our medium. To hell with all the old media companies that have screwed you and us all these years. This is real freedom.

  • Daniel

    Would love if that would happen – as I do not live in the US and have no way to listen to Howard Stern at the moment (if there is a way, let me know ^^).

  • TomR

    Howard doesn’t need advertisers/sponsors, but he can do a lot with promotional considerations – build a Howard app for him and get your company name mentioned before each broadcast, instead of paying for the app development.

    Bandwidth for a 30-second commercial. Studio by whoever. Cameras by Sony. Etc.

    Howard wouldn’t need to pay for anything except staff, and he still wouldn’t need a sales dept. because you know these folks would come to him.

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  • I would definitely pay for a media channel/network.

    I would even pay 15 dollars per month….hes one of a kind, and to have the option of podcasting(where the pause option on my ipod means i never miss a minute…)

    Also the freedom HowardTV could have ala like intimacy of live streaming across the streaming providers like ustream and

    By fully committing to the medium that will be the hub of human activity and interactions for centuries to come, he will be the critical “Maven”(referencing the term from Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point) to really drive the appeal and importance of the internet into top gear.

    It will prove to be the best move he ever makes and will cement his place in history as the biggest and best broadcaster of all time.

  • MagicMike

    I agree completely. Stern is the only reason I still subscribe to Sirius, but the on-demand aspect and no commercials would be awesome. Although not as bad as when he was on regular radio, the commercial breaks are still long enough where if one starts right as I get in my car in the morning, I’m pretty much almost at work before the show comes back. And I still don’t understand why the “Best of the Week” needs commercials over the weekends. I can understand the crew needing breaks during the live broadcasts, but not on the recap shows.

  • Brian Gillespie

    Yes! Do it Howard, just like Jeff left traditional publishing behind.

    • Eric Gauvin

      Yes! Jeff can probably introduce you to Leo Laporte and John C. Dvorak… :-)

  • I just love that you love Howard Stern. My father LOVED Howard Stern when I was growing up. When I was finally old enough to start driving to school I found out why.


  • The big comedy podcasters all seem to complain about their costs and how they can’t cover things.

    They all seem to have a set of unique sponsors, some of which seem to be happy and continuing their sponsorship. sponsors both Greg Fitzsimmons and Marc Maron. Fleshlight sponsors Kevin Smith. Marc Maron also asks folks for donations, and doesn’t seem to stop asking, so it must be working.

    And then blowhardy Adam Curry swears to Adam Carolla that a donation basis is the best way to generate money, and that sponsorship isn’t going to work in the long run.

    I can’t wait for it all to play out. It’s a fascinating time.

  • I was an avid Stern fan when he was on local FM here in Miami, but I couldn’t justify the cost of Sirius (although I feel the urge every couple of months or so).

    If Howard goes solo and charges $5, I’m so in.

    Hell, I’ll even listen to a commercial or two.

  • Tobe

    The King of All Media might as well try to expand his kingdom. He could redefine digital entertainment. UGC offers the opportunity to blast through previous conventions for radio, satellite and cable. Also consider the frontier offered by handheld devices. Go for it Howard.

  • Stern. Stern. The name rings a bell. Wasn’t he once a cultural icon, talked of constantly back in the 80s and 90s? He disappeared from cultural relevance a while back.

    He’s the AOL of radio.

    • Stan Hogan

      Yeah, that guy.

      I guess I lost track of Stern when his show went off E and he signed that contract with Sirius. I have no idea of how that has gone but Sirius stock did some Sirius damage to a couple of my friends.

      He’s not for everyone but his base audience, a rabidly loyal East Coast bunch mostly, will likely make him financially successful online.

      But Jeff’s dismissal of the value of news continues to tire me. Once objective news sources have withered under the “free for all” of his economic model its true value may finally be known and mourned.

      But I guess you can still get your news from Stern, even if a lot of it is porn star-related.

      • I’m not devaluing news. I’m saying that the competitive marketplace will affect price. Blame economics, not me.

      • Yeah, he’ll make money alright – behind the kind of big, looming paywall Jeff usually hates.

        But his fan base is much smaller these days, and aging rapidly too….he’s just not a force. And satellite radio is hardly a financial success, either. I don’t see any relevance to new models for media and news really …

      • cm

        Jeff argues that news is a generic commodity service which means it is driven by price. If you can get the news free via X then you won’t pay for it from Y.

        Regardless of the product, the only way to keep out of this race to the bottom is to keep out of commoditising your product. Find ways to add value and diferentiate.

        Premium news channels will be able to charge for news if they can consistently generate value and a brand that people associate with higher value.

        If Howard is just another catankerous bloke that says fuck a lot, then he would have a lot of problems getting payment for that. Howard has decomoditised and built a brand.

        Jeff says there’s only one Howard. Well there is also only one WSJ.

      • Andy Freeman

        > Once objective news sources have withered under the “free for all” of his economic model its true value may finally be known and mourned.

        Once again we see journalism defended by reference to an ideal that journalists don’t even try to reach.

        In another story Jarvis mentioned today, we learned that journalists didn’t bother to find out how the “facebook burglars” actually used facebook. Instead, they reported a fantasy. That’s not a isolated occurence – it’s SOP.

        Readers won’t miss journalism as it’s practiced today, and why should they? And no, pointing out what journalism could be doesn’t change things. In fact, talking about journalism’s unrealized promise actually tells readers that today’s journalism is even less valuable than the small value it actually has.

  • Don M.

    Amen Jeff!

  • Though he is viral on his own, he’d still need shepherding through Tribe-building on his own.

    As Seth Godin leaves his publisher, Howard can learn how and why to leave Sirius, and every other boss, for most of the same reasons.

  • yes, good point, you dont pay for news, you pay for its interpetation you want to hear.

  • My husband and I drive for hours each weekend to get to our cottage. The drive seemed long and tedious before we had Howard and the Gang to pass the time (now we almost look forward to it). We would for sure subscribe no matter where he is – but someone please tell this tech dummie that if he moved to the internet, I could still listen in the car!

  • well put jeff

  • smooly

    Hey Daniel up top:

    I’m a stern fanatic who’s lived outside the US for a long time, and it’s not a great solution, but there is LOTS of stern material, both classic/old and brand-new, up on YouTube. Check it out.

  • Tim

    Great points, but you ignore the general decline in quality on the Stern Show this year (and I’m not one of those lunatic SFN’ers). Same guests all the time, constant whining from Howard into an echo chamber staffed by Robin and Fred, no Artie, etc. etc. Plus the Kabuki theatre on the show re: negotiations with Sirius is an insult to every listener’s intelligence.

    Would I pay $5 for Howard on a different delivery device? If the show wasn’t so boring, yes. The current Stern show is not edgy, fresh or challenging. I hope it returns to its amazing heritage.

  • Jon

    Does anyone under 40 listen to Howard Stern?

    • Jon

      That was not a rhetorical question. Does anyone know his stats?

  • Do it Howard! Go INTERNET! Please listen to Jeff’s advice. In addition, please give us the TOTAL package for only $5 a month (?)

    “Stern is talking about charging $5 a month and for that we’d get his radio show plus his TV shows plus much more, even music — and no advertising!”

    Say f*ck U Sirius..! You owe it to them, he,he,he.

  • Though he is viral on his own, he’d still need shepherding through Tribe-building on his own.

  • I, too, would pay for farts. Remember when Howard was actively trying to purchase from Josh Harris? Can you imagine if that would have happened? It would have been a dramatically different story for that company and an early start in programming Howard Stern 101

  • D^2

    I pirated Howard’s Sirius show from his first appearance on Sirius til 2008. His complete shows would show up on various BitTorrent sites the same day they were broadcast, which was great for me because I could listen to the whole show at my *own* pace, without the stupid Ashley Madison commercials. (Has anyone here bought a single product advertised on Howard’s show?)

    I eventually subscribed to Sirius because I was spending more time in my car, and I wanted to give the other channels a shot. I’ve been underwhelmed by the quality of the programming, and the Starmate receiver has a stuck “1” key which beeps at me randomly. Now I’d rather just plug in my iPhone and listen to streaming WFMU. My subscription runs out in a few months, and good riddance.

  • The millions of people he would drag to the web kicking and screaming would be a boon to the online world. I don’t want to say he would legitimize the web, but he would bring many a doubter to the table….finally.

  • Damn right!
    If bloggers who have no traditional media equity are making a killing online, satisfying their audience, then for stars like Stern there’s literally no limit.

    Oh the following years are gonna be good times! :-)

    Just finished your book. AWESOME! I was looking to buy it in English but I had to wait two weeks for it to come and, anxious as I was, I bought it in Romanian (my mother tongue). It’s sweet to have all that info in a printed book – sometimes when I read a good paragraph for the second or third time I comprehend it so much better.

    Thanks for all, Jeff!

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  • Jeff –

    This is exactly our goal.

    The artist (Howard) creates Audience. The marketers demand reach…ergo they use an artist’s audience. The artist is rewarded for having that reach. Now maximize the value of each and every member of the audience. Ahhh “price discovery”. What the artist is actually worth.

  • Interesting stuff, Jeff.

    First of all I agree. People pay for something original/unique as opposed to a commodity.

    The question is (just from an overall paid content perspective): Is Howard unique in the fact people will *most likely* pay for it?

    How big do you have to be for folks to pay? For example, I bet if Gary Vaynerchuk charged for Wine Library TV people would pay. However, what about a niche creator like myself…is there is a market for it?

    Time will tell…

    • David,

      People pay for commodities every day, so don’t think that just because something has become commoditized it isn’t worth anything.

      What you need is a way to determine the supply and demand equilibrium, price discovery. You may begin at zero and move toward to what I consider to be the “Fair Market Value”.

      I’m not so interested in how many people think you are “worthy”, I’m also interested in how “worthy” your few (or many) followers are.

      Best regards,


      • David Siteman Garland

        good points Jeff (I was actually referring to Jeff Jarvis when I wrote “Jeff” but hey two Jeffs might be better than one) :)

      • Sorry David,

        I was fairly certain you were responding to Jeff Jarvis, but I was eager to jump on your commodity statement.

        All too often the term “commodity”, used in reference to the Internet (in either the data or content contexts) infers free or lacking value, which I very much disagree with.

      • cm

        Commodity does not mean valueless. It does however imply a price-based race to the bottom.

        If you can’t tell product A and B apart then why pay $5 for A when B is $1?

        In the www and broadcast such as radio there are so many things that are available for free that if you are producing commodity entertainment/news then you have a hard time charging more than $0.

        The only way to increase your price is to add value that differentiates your product from a commodity.

        If you try to sell $5 generic hamburgers next door to McDonalds you will fail. Sell organic hamburgers on sourdough buns and you stand a chance.

        Unfortunately just adding value is not enough. It has to be value that people expect to pay for.

        Stern’s target audience (40+ year olds) probably still expect to pay for a differentiated service. The same would likely not work for a younger demographic. eg. It would be very difficult to convince kids to pay for a Jason Bieber feed (assuming for the sake of an argument that it was worth it).

        We see something similar in the software industry. Many people that will willingly pay for Windows software will not pay for the equivalent running on Linux because they associate Linux with “free stuff”.

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  • Hi Jeff,

    I absolutely agree with you, Howard Stern is a household name, who – like Conan O’Brian – could turn to internet media and still get the ratings and earnings they would require.

    BTW I’m sorry I can’t ignore the spam links, you could easily get this fixed. I could even fix it for you in a couple of hours. It’s just a shame that they are there when they don’t need to be…

    Kind regards,

  • James

    Jeff, what a great concept! The internet should be like the supermarket. I pick the things I want to buy and buy them. I don’t have to take anything I don’t need or want in order to get the content I do want. And a talent with the unique appeal of a Howard Stern could set the wheels in motion to create just that kind of model. Can’t wait! Here in Canada we’re captive to converging media distribution companies that are buying up all the content channels. Soon there’ll only be three mega-corps controlling all the content, unless someone can somehow break the mold.

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  • I was fairly certain you were responding to Jeff Jarvis, but I was eager to jump on your commodity statement.

  • The millions of people he would drag to the web kicking and screaming would be a boon to the online world. I don’t want to say he would legitimize the web, but he would bring many a doubter to the table….finally.