January 13, 2006

Sirius trouble

Sirius satellite radio attracted more than 2 million subscribers with its acquisition of Howard Stern, but now that the hardcore fans have all signed up, it's going to have trouble reaching folks like me, who want to be able to listen to Howard from time to time, but don't want to pony up $100 for the gear, plus $13 a month, especially as I'm still not convinced that the rest of the lineup is going to trump my CD collection for those rare times when I can actually sit and listen to music.

The problem is not that I'm willing to go without Howard rather than spend money, it's that I don't have to. Fire up your favorite file sharing program, enter "Howard Stern" and "Sirius" and you'll find that every episode is available for free download to your computer and iPod (including the secret pre-launch test show). In a way it's better than listening live for 45 minutes in the car; over the week, I've been slowly getting through the whole four hours of the first show, one chunk at a time. (It's great, if you're wondering. Howard has a better attitude but is otherwise unchanged. There are virtually no commercials. And Artie is twice as funny now that he can work blue.)

Clearly Sirius is going to have to find a way to offer just Howard's broadcasts for sale (via Audible?) or else people are just going to get them for free and not sign up for the service anyway. I would happily pay a buck or two for a legal download, and so would most folks, if iTunes success is any way to judge. There's already an arrangement to rebroadcast excerpts on pay-per-view, but that's different, since I prefer the radio experience to the TV one (which, if it's anything like the E! show, will focus more on the T&A than on the other, more interesting aspects of the show).

And now I'm looking forward to the Bob Dylan show on XM, though I do hope the files of that on Gnutella have higher sound quality.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


This inspired me to finally write my "Why Do Some Smart People Like Howard Stern?" blog rant, but I deleted it because I think my blood sugar was too low (it was a 'Lindsay Rooney' post). I still don't get it, though. How is he different from any morning zoo dj? I'm mystified by his popularity with intelligent New Yorkers. Back home in Tallahassee, he was an absolute joke.

I don't know how smart I am, but Ira Glass and Jeff Jarvis have each explained why they're fans in a pretty compelling fashion.

Hmmm...I loved the testosterone show on TAL, and I'm not put off by the naked girls, that's for sure. Maybe I never gave howard a fair chance. A lot of my best friends like the show but I always chalked it up to nostalgia for their childhoods. I just always found his jokes to be obvious (and I have the sense of humor of a 14 year old boy most of the time.)

I think the key observation is Jeff's: that Howard is best in large doses. The appeal to me is not so much the jokes, which can be (though are not always) obvious and juvenile, but the characters (i.e., Howard and his staff). They are more fully embodied than characters in almost any TV or film comedy (and it's not just because they're real people) and as you get to know them, the stuff that they say becomes interesting not just for the inherent humor or information, but because it tells you more about the person saying it. Morning Zoo DJs simply don't give of themselves like that. They're too busy joking. You don't even have to listen to the words to tell the difference. Just listen to the voices. Morning Zoos are "wacky." They're always shouting and whooping. Howard and his staff talk the way real people do. They don't have to try so hard.

I'm an O&A fan, for pretty much the same reason. The more you listen, the more you learn about them. Plus Jim Norton is hilarious.

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