Thursday, April 16, 2009

Is Howard Stern Still Relevant?

If Howard Stern goes on vacation and no one knows about it -- did it happen? Stern is on vacation this week from his Sirius-XM satellite show, but from the overwhelming lack of interest online (*sound of crickets*) the question arises: Does Howard Stern matter anymore? Let's take Twitter as more or less a cultural barometer for relevance in a changing digital media universe. Everyone from Shaq (652,208 Followers) to E!'s Giuliania Rancic (265,679 Followers) to Diddy (530,319 Followers) to Britney Spears (930,631 Followers)Tweets.

The Howard Stern show, at posting time, has 27,074 Followers. Granted, Stern and crew began Twittering last week on April 9th. Still, for a show that boasts 5-6 million listeners (down from 12 million in his heyday on terrestrial radio) that is a sad little number. In addition, Stern, the $500 million man -- $80 million of that a year in cash -- will almost certainly not be getting the same amount after his contract ends next year.

This goes beyond Twitter. The quality of guests -- an indicator of influence -- has also been less than A-List. Whereas at the height of their popularity on terrestrial radio Arnold Schwarzenegger and Demi Moore might call in to the Stern show, nowadays there are more comedians and porn stars and misfits coming on. This all leads to the question: Is Howard Stern still relevant? Clearly his cultural relevance has diminished ("The last time I heard anyone mentioning the Howard Stern Show it was on a blog .."). But does he still move the conversation -- beyond the conversation in writers rooms on the late night shows and on movie sets?


Amanda S said...

True, he needs to scale down the porn stars and misfits (Artie, at least, make a valiant effort to dump Erik the Midget as quickly as possible), but I think his crew is the best it's ever been, and specifically because of Artie. The rest have weathered over 20 years together and you can tell. They're family. There is a maturity to them now. Why they aren't getting A-list stars is anyone's guess, but I think he's even more relevant now than ever. Being only available by subscription at this particular economic juncture will certainly hurt his numbers a lot, but I hope when things get better that so will his subscribers. I dread the idea that he won't renew in two years but have accepted the probability of it.

Amanda S said...

P.S. I abhor Twitter. I cannot be the only Howard loyalist who doesn't tweet. *eye roll*

Ron said...

Hi Amanda: Thanks for the thoughtful post. Howard is firing on all cylanders, but for several reasons he is not gaining traction. Oftentimes I am the only person blogging about their scoops (Chloris Leachman was propositioned by Paul Newman). I do think there is a maturity to the crew. Artie is, in my opinion better and more interesting than Jackie the Jokeman ever was. And Robin has come into her own, a true feminine force in a sea of testosterone. Now the minuses: the economic situation is going to hurt subscriptions. Mel Karmazin put so much energy in putting Sirius in new cars, that the collapse of the auto industry undid years worth of hard work. And recently Howard Stern reversed himself on his previous edict to never return to terrestrial radio (Howard said he would not rule it out).

I love the show and, like you, am a fan. But I wonder if satellite can retain him.

And if he returns to terrestrial will the asinine restrictions of that genre restrict the free-wheeling libertarian nature of the show in its present incarnation.

Amanda S said...

I do not believe it would survive. Being forced to put the gloves back on after years of knowing what it feels like to have them off would surely be a failure of epic proportions. The show has evolved past censorship and I cannot envisage a way in which it could legitimately return to terrestrial radio.

Ron said...

I think you're right. Let's hope the a la carte method keeps the revenues coming in to Sirius-XM.

Anonymous said...

Howard got PAID!!!
So he has no idea he's
no longer relevant but
the bafoons around
him make him feel like
he's relevant,