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Has Jon Stewart eclipsed Howard Stern as the King of All Media? Stewart isn't saying, but I'm beginning to think that's the case.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center says that television is still the primary news source for most U.S. citizens. At the same time, Pew says that younger Americans tend to rely on Internet news sites like the one you're reading now. It's a confluence that favors Stewart like no other.
A 2007 Pew survey ranked him -- a fake news anchor -- the fourth most admired newsman in America, tied with Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, and Anderson Cooper. But of the five, only Stewart is as big on the Web as he is on the tube. Comedy Central parent Viacom (NYSE: VIA ) made sure of it when it inked a deal to sell episodes of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report through iTunes.
What's more, you don't see NBC suing Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) for copyright infringement. Brian Williams just doesn't play on Gootube -- at least, not as well as Stewart and fellow fake anchor Stephen Colbert do.
What of the Stern comparison, you ask? I'll grant it's odd in a way; Stern is a radio host. But his antics and a blockbuster deal with Sirius XM (Nasdaq: SIRI ) changed the medium forever. Stewart, Pew concluded in a recent study, is "getting people to think critically about the public square." He's helped to reorient the way we consume news.
But Stern isn't the loser here. To the contrary; he's as popular as ever. Newspapers, on the other hand, are losing out to Stewart, Stern, and iTunes in record numbers. Gannett (NYSE: GCI ) plans to eliminate 1,000 jobs. McClatchy (NYSE: MNI ) is imposing a wage freeze. And Journal Communications (NYSE: JRN ) saw its July circulation revenue decline 0.6%.
Some newspapers, such as News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS ) The Wall Street Journal, are trying to cauterize their inky circulation wounds with digital bandages. Pew's data suggests the move may be working, to a degree.
But it's still TV that tantalizes us. Move over, Murdoch. Step aside, Stern. Stewart is the new King of All Media. How's that for a moment of Zen?
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