As Stephen Colbert prepares to take over the Late Show reins from David Letterman on September 8th, the average age of the late show hosts will drop by almost 14 years since Letterman and Leno dominated the scene.
This change is a significant sign of culture icon Howard Stern’s impact over Generation X and the power this middle-child generation is finally holding within the media landscape. While technically a Baby Boomer, Stern’s liberal style influenced the next generation to take themselves a bit less seriously and think more progressively. Since Stern hit mainstream media in 1981 his influence can can be found in every aspect of our culture today. But is he still the King of All Media?
Love him or hate him, just looking at a list of recent guests to his Sirius show will confirm the impact and reach he has. His show is now a must-do for anyone in the entertainment industry looking to find a large audience. While his voice is no longer built into every car radio, his reign as King of all Media as strong today as ever:
His guest list is a roster of A-list celebrities that any late night host would be jealous of. Just last week, his guests included Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Stephen Colbert. Imagine if he had done more than two days’ worth of shows. Other guests in 2015 have included the remaining late night hosts (the Jimmys), music legends James Taylor & Madonna, actors Robert Downey Jr & Bradley Cooper and news icon Barbara Walters. That is a guest list of a man who has shifted the media landscape and helped shape the internet culture of today. He even influenced Bill Hader to reprise the sketch ‘Puppet Class Guy’ when he hosted SNL late last year.
Stern established non-terrestrial radio as a true alternative people would be willing to pay for. When Stern left terrestrial radio, his impact was poo-pooed by executives and his empty seat was quickly filled by David Lee Roth. This move just shows how ignorant radio execs were to the true power and skill that Stern had. This short-lived mistake lasted just 4 months. At the time Stern joined Sirius in 2006, they had just 600k subscribers and now that number exceeds 25MM, making Sirius the world’s largest radio broadcaster. The idea of paying for radio was a foreign concept at the time and now it is almost as commonplace as paying for cable TV.
He continues to be able to execute the media cross-over at will. Stern is relevant to people of all ages, often for different reasons. For the past four summers he has been a judge on America’s Got Talent, bringing his keen eye for identifying talent and bringing it into our homes. To my 9-year old daughter, that is all she knows of him. She may hear the occasional snippets of his radio show while in the car, but he is the judge on AGT to her. As someone who admits he hates golf, Stern has influenced the game almost as much as Tiger Woods. Next time you watch and hear ‘baba booey’ yelled after someone hits, you can thank the power of his show (Baba Booey is the nickname of his long-time producer). And who are those golfers? The same Generation that grew up listening to and watching Stern do his thing. The phrase has even made it into the latest EA Sports video game, officially owning the gamers. Just yesterday presidential candidate Donald Trump, the leading GOP candidate dialed in and discussed the tough topics with the King of all Media.
While people love to debate the influence Stern still has in our society, there is no doubt that his reach is still far and wide and the title King of All Media still applies. And while the day may come when he steps aside, all generations can agree and hope that PewDiePie does not take over.
By Chris Tuleya
Chris Tuleya is Executive Vice President, Innovation, at Underscore, a firm that creates and manages integrated marketing programs for health and wellness brands.