The Power Of The Personal Brand

Jeff Jarvis keeps up his campaign to persuade his favorite shock jock to go it alone:

Why the hell would I pay for Howard Stern and not pay for news? Because Howard is unique. News isn’t. There’s no end of potential competition for any news provider and its unique value expires in seconds. Not so Howard. Arianna Huffington was wrong when she says that people will pay for business news and porn. There’s no need to pay for porn because there’s no scarcity of people who will strip and shtupp in front of a webcam. But there’s only one Howard. ...

For Stern, the economics have to be extremely tempting. He should not work for a company. (Howard: Don’t get sucked into signing on with another employer!) He should be the company. He can charge us less than half what we pay now. He can build the infrastructure for next to nothing (as he said today, he can build a studio big deal). All he needs is a billing mechanism (Paypal?) and a bandwidth provider (Akamai?). He won’t need to market; he already is viral. And he gets to keep the profits. Sweet.

Doc Searls is on the same page and suggests that Stern leapfrog the home computer and car:

What I hope is that he’ll do it independently, and not just through one of the carriers (say, Verizon, AT&T or Comcast). We should be able to download a Howard app for our Android, Symbian, or iOS (Apple iPhone or iPad) device and listen any way we like, anywhere we like. And pay a monthly fee for it.

Intriguing. It's salient, isn't it, that even aggregator sites like Huff and Drudge are anchored by a personality embedded in their very titles. In the end, what's unique online is what's unique in life: the human individual. And as the barriers to mass media entry fall away entirely, you become not just your own brand but, if you want, your own company. And Jeff is right about porn as well. Every day, a new star is born on XTube.

I've struggled with this, of course, myself. Why not just be an independent site, like TPM? The very difficult and entirely new attempt to integrate the Dish into, first Time and now the Atlantic has been a work-in-progress and sometimes confoundingly tricky. But in the end, for me at least, it really is about having the best of both worlds and finding a way there. I want to be a writer not a businessman; and I want to be part of a conversation not a monologue. And I'm a believer in tradition and the necessity of tending to institutions that stretch through time and space and give meaning to our lives and cultures. For me the Atlantic is not just a dot-com start up, although it is in some ways that. It is a connection to those early dreamers and writers and abolitionists and transcendentalists who created this space for thought and writing 150 years ago. To be a part of their inheritance, and to try and keep alive their American idea, is irreplaceable.

Yes, I'm a Tory. Because it is by integrating our generations that we build our fragile civilization. That matters more than turning human beings into brands. We're not. We have souls; brands have markets.