Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, October 06, 2021

For all the bitching Howard Stern has done over the years about the FCC, I never would have guessed he really would do anything about it. The expert opinion agreed:

Rumors have been flying that the current climate would force Stern out at Infinity and into satellite radio’s open arms. Stern, whose contract with Infinity runs out at the end of 2005, has long hinted that he might just make such a move.

But [publisher of Talkers magazine Michael] Harrison, for one, thinks Stern’s job at Infinity is safe. He said the shock jock king, who analysts estimate brings in as much as $25 million in profits for Infinity each year, always manages to play anti-smut campaigns to his advantage. This time, said Harrison, he’s done it by blaming election-year politics and efforts by the Bush administration to appeal to conservative voters.

“It’s been good for him,” said Harrison. “His ratings are up.”

So much for that line of thinking. Stern dropped a bomb today by announcing he would bolt broadcast for a five-year contract with Sirius satellite radio, starting in 2006.

Big move? Yeah.

“Imagine if the New York Giants left the NFL for the American Football League in 1960. Or if the Green Bay Packers joined the XFL,” said Quinnipiac University professor Rich Hanley. “Stern’s decision to go to satellite radio is that and much more. He will basically drag the rest of radio — or at least the form of radio that matters most to profitability — with him.”

I think it’s important to take note of the main reason Stern decided to go to satellite: The lack of broadcast regulations. Without that, he wouldn’t have made this deal.

Even if this addition fulfills Sirius’ wildest dreams about boosting subscriber rolls by a couple of million, it’ll still be a much tinier listening audience, no matter what. Already a big fish in the biggest of ponds, Stern will go to being a whale in a fishbowl. Yet the drastic shrinkage of audience doesn’t matter as much as the removal of the regulatory headaches Stern’s had to deal with for twenty years. That’s significant, because again, it’s the only thing that enticed Stern about Sirius.

Given that, it’ll be interesting if the next two years brings any sort of drive from Washington to apply regulations to the satellite spectrum. If the FCC somehow gains jurisdiction over XM, Sirius and any other satellite providers (probably as an extension of jurisdiction into cable television), Stern will find himself in the same fix he was in on broadcast radio. In that case, he’ll come off looking like an idiot.

The other consideration here is Howard Stern’s E! show. Unlike other radio personalities, he’s got that added exposure on television. Assuming he stays on TV — and that’s not a sure thing, if there’s a falling-out with Infinity and E! parent Viacom, but chances are good for maintaining it — he won’t become completely marginalized by a move to satellite.

The last thing to factor in is that Stern is well into the closing act of his career. His drawing power is still strong, but he’ll be getting closer to an age where he’ll want to hang it up. He’s already established himself, so he’s got little to lose by making such a dramatic move. Even if it doesn’t pan out, he’ll be able to bow out gracefully.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/06/2021 08:17pm
Category: Celebrity, Radio
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Wal-Mart is already the world’s biggest retailer, by a long shot. How can it possibly get bigger? By building even more stores, even in spots only a few miles away from existing Wal-Marts.

It’s a strategy very reminiscent of Starbucks. The coffeeshop giant is known for going overboard on store openings, especially in urban areas. It’s not unusual to see two Starbucks on diagonaly street corners in some towns. Yet improbably, it works. People can’t seem to get enough caffeine, and single-store sales remain robust despite what should be over-saturation. I’m sure Wal-Mart took note of Starbucks’ success with this, and decided to apply it to its own expansion strategy.

Wal-Mart is already hugely successful, so it can gamble on something like this. A non-specialty discounter isn’t a coffeeshop, though. There’s a different dynamic: Starbucks stores are more of a social setting, so that helps them draw in and retain customers. Wal-Mart does this to an extent, but it’s not quite the same. I’m skeptical.

Upshot, I suppose the whole country will be overrun with Wal-Marts. It’s the anti-sprawlers’ nightmare come true.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/06/2021 07:43pm
Category: Business
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It’s understandable, in the heat of debate, to make a misstatement. And confusing a “dot-com” for a “dot-org” is usually a minor enough slip.

Still, I’m betting Dick Cheney will double- and triple-check himself the next time he utters a website name, considering the boner that his “factcheck.com” citation last night has become.

Cheney accidentally said “.com” instead of “.org” during the televised debate. Internet surfers who visited factcheck.com were redirected to the home page of billionaire anti-Bush activist George Soros, with the statement “Why we must not re-elect President Bush” at the top of the screen.

The Soros site also claims “President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests, and undermining American values.”

I’m glad that the employees at FactCheck.com had a good sense of humor in redirecting traffic to the most anti-Bush site they could find. They could just as easily have taken the crude route and steered all those hits to a porn site.

Funny thing is, while watching the debate last night, I had an impulse to visit the URL as soon as Cheney mentioned it. But I didn’t.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/06/2021 07:25pm
Category: Internet, Political
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