Goodbye, Shock Jocks. What’s Next?


(By Randy Lane) Howard Stern built his reputation discussing taboo subjects and spouting off-limit language on air. With the publication of his new book, Howard Stern Comes Again, and his many book tour interviews, much has been written about the end of the shock jock era.

That era peaked in 2005 when Howard moved from terrestrial to satellite radio. Suddenly his enemies were gone. The restrictions on language were removed and so was the conflict and drama with the FCC, religious groups, and corporations.

Bubba the Love Sponge kept the era going for a few years. Howard and Bubba now admit that they were outrageous just to get attention and another quarter-hour of listening. Their what will they say or do next factor was strong with listeners.

The meteoric rise of subscription television has made what was previously shocking commonplace. Heads are severed and incest is rampant on Game of Thrones, and eighty-one-year old Jane Fonda is saying “F#*! you” on Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.

Howard is not a shock jock today, and he’s more talented than ever. He arguably has become the best interviewer on the planet. By his own admission, he now communicates with more intention, intelligence, and empathy.

So, if radio’s shock jock era is over, what’s next?


Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, states, “To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect — and vulnerable.”

The Trust Relationship

The essence of any brand is creating a trust relationship with customers, clients, or listeners in radio. In Howard’s interview with Anderson Cooper, he credits his psychotherapist and his co-host, Robin Quivers, for giving him the courage to have a trust relationship. It’s his relationship with Robin that has connected emotionally with listeners over decades.

In our coaching practice, we stress the importance of having a safe room where trust is the foundation for allowing vulnerability and getting the most creativity out of each player.

Vulnerability is the foundation for being your authentic self. In the Anderson Cooper interview, you’ll see several moments of vulnerability from both Howard and Anderson.

If you’re struggling with what authenticity and vulnerability means for you, consider these qualities to get you started:

5 Qualities of Vulnerable Personalities

  1. Be an active listener. Listen with curiosity and empathy, notice body language, tone of voice, and pick up on what is not being said.
  2. If you’re thinking it, say it.
  3. Share your personal experiences, including your inner dialogue.
  4. Look for opportunities to be self-deprecating.
  5. Use the “You Technique” when telling a personal story. “Have you ever ….?” or “You know how your wife…?”

Randy Lane launched his media talent coaching and personal brand development company in 1996. He can be contacted by phone at 805-497-7177 or email at [email protected]


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