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Howard Stern And The Future of Broadcast Media

The view expressed below are solely my own and do not neccesarily reflect those of my employer.


With the relative and growing ubiquity of content, the broadcast media world has tried, tested or considered nearly every trick in the book to maintain and grow their standing in an increasingly digital world.  While their core products continue to be challenged by a multitude of threats, earlier this week I believe we saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  And it came from an unusual if not unexpected place.

Last Sunday night Howard Stern used his relatively new twitter handle to do something remarkable: he live tweeted a color commentary alongside a live broadcast of his 1990s movie, Private Parts.  This light, human commentary drew enough attention to become a trending topic on Twitter.  This wasn't a mass media bonanza.  These tweets weren't featured in broadcast.  There was no major media driving to this experience.  This was an organic exercise.  Howard started tweeting and dual-screen viewers jumped all over it.

Which begs the questions: Why hasn't anyone successfully productized this experience?  Would a similar experience work again, or was this all about novelty?  And what led Howard, a Twitter newbie, to come up with a concept so many other seem to have missed? 

The Social-Broadcast Future

Rather than fighting the multi-screen viewer, smart broadcasters will look to this new viewing dynamic to provide a richer, more interactive broadcast media experience.  Live social commentary, live fan chat... these are relatively simple to execute and have a huge potential upside for broadcasters - driving live viewing, reinvigorating the live un-timeshifted experience, creating new touchpoints that provide user value AND advertiser engagement opportunities... sounds like a win-win.  

I would not be surprised to see this new multi-platform social-broadcast experience teased by broadcasters in next years upfront, if not tested sooner.  Most early efforts will get a lot of buzz and grow boring quite quickly.

And this is the real lesson broadcasters can learn from the King of All Media.  Howard knows his audience and he has the intuition and in-the-moment spontaneity to deliver the experiences he knows his fans will value.  He just went out and did it.  

Not all content demands, deserves, or goes better with color commentary.  Much of that un-comment-worthy content may fall flat in a comment-worthy broadcast era.  This new experience dynamic will demand a new approach to content development, a new broadcast media format that embraces the live social viewer.  Social-Broadcast will be to the 2010s what reality television was to the 2000s.  

Welcome to tomorrow.