Written by @NickRiznerMMA
I, in no way, intend for this to be a slam piece on Howard Stern. I have a great respect and appreciation for the mark he has left on broadcasting, and it is, for that reason, that I’m writing this at all.
If he hadn’t consistently pushed the envelop and blurred the line between what you can and cannot say into a microphone, the landscape of broadcasting – and media as a whole – would look much different than it does today. As the host of a podcast, I thank him for this. As an avid consumer of podcasts, I thank him for this. His legacy matters, and to dismiss his importance would be as grave a mistake as his dismissal of the importance of what’s coming next.
And yet, I spent my morning listening to clips of Stern bashing The Foreplay Podcast (Barstool Sports) for encouraging people to yell “J.J.O.” at golf tournaments.
In the clip, Riggs (one of the hosts of Foreplay) alludes to the fact that the idea came from the trend of shouting “Baba Booey” in similar situations; a classic Howard Stern trope. And while the comedic expression “J.J.O.” (standing for Just Jerk Off) actually comes from KFC Radio, it’s basically just Barstool terminology being used by the Barstool golf podcast. But that’s beside the point.
Stern’s morning rant circled around the lack of originality exhibited by Riggs in stealing the “Baba Booey” shtick. For the record, Baba Booey is a nonsensical mispronunciation by Gary Dell’Abate, from nearly 30 years ago, that has since turned into an inside joke among Stern fans. Again, that’s beside the point.
It seems evident that a lot of the trash talk being spewed towards the Foreplay boys stems from Stern’s overall disdain for podcasting, as a medium. I’ll readily admit that I don’t listen to his show as much as I used to, so it’s entirely possible that he’s softened his stance on the matter, but for a long time, it was clear that he felt podcasting was a lesser form of terrestrial radio. As far as I know, this is still the case.
“Dude, no one knows you. We work at a facility that has thirty million paid subscribers, where’s your fucking podcast? I just fucking hate unoriginal people. Stop it. Come up with something new. Nobody will ever know you unless I fucking mention you. Just remember that. That’s your life’s calling. You’re on a fucking podcast that no one gives a shit.” – Howard Stern
Ignoring the fact that Barstool Sports also has a show on Sirius satellite radio, complete with “thirty million paid subscribers” and regular appearance by – you guessed it – Riggs, the notion that podcast hosts are a bunch of broke losers is completely out of touch with reality. If this is a troll job, props to Howard Stern for tricking me. But he’s been saying it for so long and with such passion, that I’ve got to believe it’s how he actually feels.
Howard’s battle with Ari Shaffir, from a couple years ago, was probably the most public display of this feud with podcasting. Listening back, his comments on Riggs from this morning sound strikingly similar to his comments on Shaffir all those years ago:
“You want to make a podcast, sit in your room and make a podcast. If you want to make money, and become a broadcaster, and actually get a following, you’ve got to put yourself to the test.”
“If you want to be a radio broadcaster and make a living at this and get a following, you’ve got to go on terrestrial radio – not even satellite – you’ve got to go on terrestrial radio and wait for the ratings book to come out and you’ll find out if you’re any good. And this guy was peeing and crying and pissing and moaning because he’s 41 and never had a fucking career. If I had to make a career today and I made a podcast, nobody would know who I was. That ain’t being old, that’s just the truth.” – Howard Stern
This is simply not true.
The raw analytics on top shows like the Joe Rogan Experience and Ari Shaffir’s Skeptic Tank – hosted by that guy who “never had a fucking career” – directly contradict this statement. These shows have true, independent monetary value, without the need to charge their listeners for subscribing.
But the larger frustration, as far as I’m concerned, stems from the hypocrisy of it all. Howard Stern cut his teeth by spitting in the face of the old guard and ushering in the new. He revolutionized radio and became a king of broadcasting for doing so. Now, as podcasters have begun to do the same, Stern has become the stubborn old man who fails to understand the irony of his stance.
You see this a lot with the ever-spinning wheels of progress. I can easily draw comparisons to old boxing fans thinking that MMA is a fad, but I’ll let Rogan do that for me. This sort of thinking has always existed on some level, but the internet age has only increased the rapidity of change.
Industries like print media and cable television are getting overrun by websites, blogs and streaming services, just as terrestrial radio is being consumed by podcasts. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when this platform dies. And if you’ve been on the top of said industry for the better part of three decades, it may be difficult to grapple with such a concept.
There is, however, one part of Howard’s point that I do agree with. Anyone can make a podcast. The price of entry is extremely low. As a result, there are a lot of inferior products out there, especially in the world of MMA. But does the existence of bad musicians make music less enjoyable? Obviously not.
In the spirit of self awareness, I understand the irony of my own stance. The MMA Mad Podcast is not paying my bills. I am currently an example of what Howard is referring to. But that doesn’t mean that the top shows aren’t raking in money. And that doesn’t mean that I won’t one day be among them.
This is climbing the ladder. This is improving a skill set and building a Rolodex. Howard Stern’s opinion doesn’t affect me on a personal level, but I do believe that it’s counterproductive to the growth of podcasting, and that’s a problem, though I don’t think anything will stop its progress.
That is… until the next trend comes along.
Note: In case you’re wondering why I’m writing about Howard Stern vs. Podcasting on an MMA website, the explanation is simple. After getting my first taste of the medium by listening to the Joe Rogan Experience, I’ve always interwoven podcasting with the world of MMA. Then, as I began my transition from a casual fan to an avid die hard, the MMA Hour became the podcast that provided me with the deep cut interviews I desired. Plus, I have a podcast of my own and an attack on one is an attack on all.