Yesterday was Howard Stern's first day on Sirius, and it looks like the huge bet that Mel Karmizan made on the shock jock might have actually paid off. With more than 2 million new subscribers at $12 a month, Stern has created a Sirius windfall.
Could any other personality have accomplished that? Oprah might have had a similar effect, but it would be unlikely that she would ever leave TV for radio, although I do think a lot of her audience only listens to her show anyway, while cleaning, cooking, watching kids, etc. Whatever the case, the amount of content that people find so indespensible that they are willing to pay for it after having received it for free is pretty small.
As powerful as these content franchises are, they are as equally fragile. Martha Stewart's company nearly went under, and remember how popular Michael Jackson once was? OJ Simpson anyone?
Personality differentiates content, making it more valuable, but also more risky. What would happen if Stern got caught in some kind of sex abuse trouble? Sirius stock would sink like a stone, and Karmazin would go from genius to fool.
Still, I think we're going to find a lot more celebrity convergence as we go forward. When the music publishers have trouble selling you CDs, they'll try to start selling you Gwen Stefani's iTunes Playlist of the Week. How about Qwentin Tarantino's bittorrent of a movie you've never heard of of the week? Emeril recipes and ingredients on Fresh Direct?
You want to work in a growth business? Be a Celebrity 2.0 agent and specialize in using celeb pull to get people on new technologies. At the same time you would be assuring celebs that their place in the ubiquitous wifi cloud in the sky is just as secure as their star on the walk of fame. So, Scarlett Johansson, if you want to start blogging, let me know. I'm your guy.