When Howard Stern talks, people listen. They may not always agree with what he says. In fact they often vehemently disagree, but it can be difficult to turn him off. The first time I actually heard him (after hearing so much about him), I found his routine to be obnoxious and shallow, yet I was inextricably drawn and unable to change the station. Fast forward to about a year ago (As a Canadian I didn’t really have access) I heard him again on Sirius (in our Ford rental equipped with satellite radio) interviewing Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola spoke with total candour about Apocalypse Now, his family and his sex life. And it was among the best interviews I had ever heard. Sterns questions were incisive and provocative. He listened when Coppola spoke (Jon Stewart take note) and asked questions that no other interviewer would dare ask. Most importantly, it was all about Coppola. And that is perhaps what separates Stern from most other talk show hosts – he has the rare ability, despite his celebrity, to eschew his ego.
Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Howard Stern as a role model, he does have some compelling qualities thathave propelled him to his current position as the highest paid radio person ever and one of the most well known Americans in the world:
Develop a Presence
Howard Stern exudes presence. His voice, his appearance and his intellect all command an audience. And although, not the most attractive man ever, millions of women would do pretty much anything for him (and a boob job) as evidenced with astonishing frequency on his show. He is currently married to a former model, demonstrating that if you have presence (and millions of dollars), hotness is less important.
The 30 year partnership of Howard Stern and Robin Quivers has been one of the most enduring in showbiz history. This is truly remarkable given his meteoric rise from where they first started together.
Since 1985 he has only worked for two radio stations – WXRK until 2005 and Sirius. Clearly both stations were interested in holding on to him, and paid him accordingly, but given his massive following and popularity, he certainly would have had lucrative offers from other parties.
Stern has been fairly single minded in his pursuit of a media career. His began working as a radio announcer at Boston University and also co-hosted a comedy show with the brilliant title The King Schmaltz Bagel Hour. And unlike most graduates with a communication degree he was actually able to leverage this to become the highest paid radio personality ever.
Expand Your Empire
Stern started off by earning $250 a week. After a variety of jobs, recognition and controversy, and despite a 5.7% market share, the highest ratings at the station in four years. On September 30, Stern and Quivers were fired for what management claimed were "conceptual differences." " from NBC Stern signed with WXRK for $500,000 for 5 years. It is estimated that Stern’s current compensation with Sirius is about $400 million for five years. After paying for production costs, this works out to about $60 million per year or approximately $120,000 an hour.
Stern’s career is not limited to Shock-Jocking. He has written two books – Miss America and of course Private Parts which went on to become a well received and high grossing film. He also had a TV show on the E-Network , which basically present a half hour clip from his radio show. He currently has an on demand cable channel appropriately called Howard TV. And then of course there was his bid for Governor of New York. Although he won the nomination, he ultimately withdrew it when he discovered that he had to file a financial disclosure form.
Be Brutally Honest
Stern thrives on shaking things up. At the same time, his opinions are reasonable and well thought out. He is honest to the point of offensivenes. His provocative (and often obscene) questions and reactions often tend to strip his guests (literally and metaphorically) of their inhibitions and pretensions. I was surprised to learn that one of his recurring guests was George Takei, who seems incredibly cool and forthcoming. And somewhat surprisingly, he is incredibly self deprecating. He will regularly poke fun of himself and ponder his own inadequacies.
I imagine Howard Stern, love or hate him, will be entertaining his listeners and converting new ones to his unique and provocative brand of radio for a long time to come. And although, very few us will ever find ourselves floating in his stratosphere, we can certainly learn from his success.
Should we strive to be more like Howard Stern? Do you love or hate him? Let me know by leaving a comment.