Readers: Howard Stern remains surprisingly relevant
The shock jock still has a devoted audience and is an influencer
December 27, 2016
By the editors of Media Life
This is one in a number of stories on radio in Media Life’s ongoing series “The new face of radio in America,” examining all the changes taking place in the medium. Click here for earlier stories.
When Howard Stern left terrestrial radio for satellite nearly a decade ago, many predicted his influence on popular culture would wane.
Stern’s audience certainly took a hit – his was the No. 1 syndicated show among adults 18-49 nationally when he left – and he doesn’t get the news coverage he did at his peak, when he seemed to generate nearly daily headlines related to his many Federal Communications Commission indecency flaps.
But while Stern may no longer be the king of all media, as he once declared himself, he still occupies a surprisingly important position in American media.
He continues to wield power and influence, many media buyers say.
That’s according to a recent survey of Media Life readers inviting them to weigh in on a range of media topics.
Asked to assess Stern’s relevance, the largest share of buyers, 45 percent, said he remains relevant though less so than he was at his peak.
Less than a fifth, 18 percent, said he’s no longer relevant. Ten percent dubbed him an afterthought, and 16 percent said he never should have left terrestrial.
The remainder picked “other,” with their comments largely supportive of Stern’s continued influence.
An upscale audience
Buyers acknowledge that his audience is smaller than it was in 2005, when he left Infinity Broadcasting months after the FCC levied a $495,000 fine against him.
But they say that audience is still valuable to advertisers.
It’s upscale and very devoted to Stern. Listeners trust his opinions, including on products.
“It’s a still valuable audience for advertisers seeking listeners who are able to afford goods and services,” writes one buyer.
“He’s very relevant to the audience that has aged with him,” notes another.
“He’s still viable and should continue as a pioneer in the industry,” writes a third.
The appeal of Stern
Stern, buyers say, can still steer a national conversation unlike any other radio host save Rush Limbaugh. They note the headlines Stern made this fall when an old Donald Trump appearance on his show became news because Trump spoke about his opposition to the Iraq War.
They also say that Stern conducts interesting, unique interviews. While they can get raunchy, they’re also more in-depth and honest than interviews airing on other outlets, which makes them valuable to advertisers.
Listeners will stay engaged with that sort of content, and it will get a significant afterlife online.
“He’s a provocative entertainer who still gets listeners,” one reader observes.
Still, Stern has never been without issues for media people, because of his sexually charged content. Some advertisers would rather not be associated with it, and that hasn’t changed over the years, either.
“The Stern ‘environment’ is not a good fit with a lot of advertisers,” another reader says.
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