Thanks to Howard Stern for mentioning our recent article, Sirius Highs, on his radio show each of the last two days. Anything we can do to infiltrate pop culture and get the Fool's message out is welcomed. Whether you're a growth stock investor, a value guy, or anywhere in between, you can do it, and we can help. Oh, wait, that's Home Depot's(NYSE: HD) motto. We'll stick to educate, amuse, enrich.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

eBay's Grilled Cheese Diet

By

Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)



You can't blame eBay(Nasdaq: EBAY). It has to deal with folks trying to sell everything from body parts to fake props of historical notoriety to Milli Vanilli CDs. So when it saw Diana Duyser trying to sell a grilled cheese sandwich that she claimed bore the likeness of the Virgin Mary, it cancelled that auction to nip the hoax in the bud.

Yet Duyser was serious. She had kept the sandwich, after taking one errant nibble, as a religious relic for 10 years and she had every intention of handing it over to the highest bidder. So this week eBay changed its mind and let Duyser relist her sandwich.

Here is why eBay -- and just as importantly the eBay community -- is so great. More than 800,000 people have checked out Duyser's auction, and enterprising sellers on the popular auction site are taking advantage of that traffic.

More than 200 auctions on the site include Grilled Cheese Virgin Mary in their title. While the first batch of piggyback listings may have been either malicious (such as a Virgin Mary steak or a sandwich with a smiley face) or just ploys to draw attention (by tacking on the word NOT in the title, then the actual item), you have to admire the next wave. Enter the search terms and you see folks selling T-shirts bearing the likeness of the sandwich and someone even put up an original watercolor painting of the now famous item.

I imagine that even the quieter auction halls of Yahoo!(Nasdaq: YHOO) and Amazon(Nasdaq: AMZN) have a token related item or two. What? You didn't know that those sites offer consumer auctions? Well, that's just a testament to eBay's ubiquity then, isn't it?

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a satisfied eBay user and can't remember the last time he had a really good grilled cheese sandwich. Wait. No. He still can't remember. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story, and he is a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance.

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Stern and Letterman Get Sirius

By

Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)

Before I run off and scribe my How I Got on the Howard Stern Show Without Taking Off My Clothes book -- and I'm kidding, by the way -- I should flesh out the surreal experience I had yesterday when I was driving around, only to hear Stern say some really kind words about my Sirius Highs article.

He claimed that parent company Viacom(NYSE: VIA) has him handcuffed when it comes to talking about his upcoming move to Sirius Satellite Radio(Nasdaq: SIRI) come 2006. He did eventually post a link to it on his HowardStern.com site, but that came after proposing that he just read it during his appearance tonight on The Late Show with David Letterman.

No, I don't think he will do it. Stern rules the roughly four dozen syndicated markets he airs in, so just getting The Motley Fool name out there in a favorable light to his more than 10 million loyal radio listeners this week is plenty.

But after giving away 500 Sirius boom boxes and thousands of certificates for free Sirius radio receivers at Union Square this afternoon, it's clear that tonight's appearance on Letterman will be worth tuning in to.

Yes, Viacom also owns CBS, so one has to wonder whether he will have the freedom to pitch his new broadcasting home and sling mud at the FCC. While it may have been a more receptive approach to turn to Disney's(NYSE: DIS) ABC or General Electric's(NYSE: GE) NBC for their late-night shows, maybe it's poetically fitting that he is looking to make waves in the Viacom-owned tub.

Can Viacom really take another 14 months of featuring a show that is championing the move away from free commercial radio? They can shackle him during his show, but there are 20 more hours in the day to really get the word out.

It's obvious, anyway. XM Satellite Radio(Nasdaq: XMSR) and Sirius represent the future of radio. Viacom not entering the negotiating table to find some way to hand Stern over earlier than January 2006 is just going to hurt it next year. So perhaps that is why they will let Stern state his claim. The satellite radio revolution is strong -- with a million migrating this quarter alone -- but Stern should be the one to carve the revolution in stone.

Exclusive content is what will make satellite radio this generation's Rule Breaker. Viacom is going to have to deal with that sooner or later. So whether Letterman is told to cut Stern off or to let him ramble tonight will be a dynamic chapter in the satellite radio revolution. As a matter of fact, it may even be the first chapter.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz thinks that XM and Sirius will defy the cynics and the skeptics over the coming years, and he only hopes that they learn to treat their income statements and balance sheets a little better. He owns shares in Disney but none of the other companies mentioned in this story. He is a member of the Rule Breakers team, seeking out tomorrow's great growth stocks today.

Quote of Note

"Insist on yourself; never imitate.... Every great man is unique." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

TiVo Pauses Fast-Forwarding

By

Rich Duprey

One of the beauties of DVR systems like those offered by TiVo(Nasdaq: TIVO), Echostar(Nasdaq: DISH), and cable provider Comcast(Nasdaq: CMCSA), is getting the television program you want when you want it. Insipid, annoying commercials can be bypassed with a click of the fast-forward button. Same with watching a movie on DVD or one that you've recorded on video. Hello, feature; goodbye condescending commercials. Heck, just flipping through channels during commercials provides a feeling of superiority over advertisers.

TiVo, a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection, is quickly realizing that the fast-forward feature is a problem for its service, which is increasingly supported by advertisers. TiVo is trying to balance the competing interests of companies that want to put their product in front of its estimated 2.8 million subscribers against those of viewers who couldn't care less about them. To this end, TiVo is introducing a static pop-up ad -- a "billboard" -- that will freeze on the screen as the user skips past the ad. Called a "fast-forward tag," advertisers can pay for a logo or other image to display while viewers otherwise ignore their ads. (They can't buy a tag during a competitor's spot.)

While it does offer advertisers a way to keep their company in front of a viewer, it shouldn't take them long to wonder whether it's cost-effective to advertise through TiVo in the first place if viewers are skipping the ads, or why they should have to pay twice for the chance to advertise their wares.

TiVo has gained in popularity, particularly as the price has dropped from $400 two years ago to $99 this holiday season. The number of households with TiVo is expected to increase from 5% to 41% in five years.

Though it has been marketed as a way to watch television commercial-free, TiVo has apparently been working behind the scenes from the beginning to incorporate advertising into the service. Already viewers are able to click on a "thumbs up" logo that is displayed during an ad if they want to receive more information about the product. It plans to offer true interactive viewing -- what it's calling "couch commerce" -- through contests, giveaways, and links to other ads. By opting in -- that is, using the remote to select the promotion -- the viewer's contact information is downloaded to that advertiser to permit even greater targeted marketing opportunities.

While technology exists to allow viewers to avoid commercials altogether (privately held ReplayTV had this capability until it bowed to the demands of the entertainment industry and removed it) TiVo has always restricted viewers to fast-forwarding through them. The new technology is built into the system itself and has some wondering whether it might not lead to the company eliminating the subscription fee altogether in order to bring in more viewers, or else risk alienating those who subscribe to be able to avoid commercials.

"TV Your Way" may be fast-forwarding to become "Advertising Their Way."

Fool contributor Rich Duprey only watches commercials featuring the Coors Light twins. He does not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article.

Pixar and Marvel Share a Secret

By

Lawrence Meyers

With the recent blockbuster opening of The Incredibles, Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation Pixar(Nasdaq: PIXR) once again demonstrated the movie-making expertise that drives the company's success.

Unlike movie studios Time Warner(NYSE: TWX), Walt Disney(NYSE: DIS), and Sony(NYSE: SNE), Pixar has a few people who have been with the company for some time. It is these talented individuals -- Steve Jobs, Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird, John Lasseter, Pete Docter, and Lee Unkrich -- who help create the outstanding stories from which Pixar movies are born.

If you read my recent article on fellow Stock Advisor recommendation Marvel Enterprises(NYSE: MVL), then you'll know a movie usually needs a great story to be successful. Look at Pixar's movies -- Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life, Monster's Inc., and Finding Nemo -- and you'll notice a few things in common. They are all movies that follow a simple, straight-line narrative, with great characters, clever dialogue, and emotional resonance. The movies don't meander, and they don't stall for time. The story is constantly moving forward and that keeps audiences, especially kids, attentive. Marvel's films also tell great stories, but in an entirely different genre.

Even though their business models are a little different, the bottom line for Pixar and Marvel is the same. Their success depends largely on making great movies.

Pixar, in fact, relies heavily on box-office gross and ancillary market revenues to drive its profits (and those profits will likely increase since Pixar severed its future relationship with Disney). Marvel's wider character licensing makes its income stream more diversified.

If an investor keeps an eye on who comes and goes from these respective companies' brain trusts, the scripts that get sneak-peeked at places like Aintitcool.com, and movie trailers, he or she might be able to get a feel for the quality of upcoming releases. One stinker is not likely to sink either company, and may even create a buying opportunity. But if you find yourself bored at a movie, chances are other folks will be, too. That's the first tip that it might be time to cut back your exposure.

Currently, however, everything points to continued success for both Pixar and Marvel. That's the kind of story investors love to hear.

Fool contributor Lawrence Meyers has been compared to an animated superhero and owns shares of Marvel Enterprises.

More on Fool.com Today

How can you cultivate solid value investments? Philip Durell offers some tips in Hunting for Value: Part 1.... In Couples and the Christmas Cash Crunch, Robert and Elizabeth Brokamp urge you to get the fighting out of the way before the relatives arrive.... Don't bury AOL. It's not dead yet, Rick Munarriz says in Saving America Online.... In The Vig Is Up for First Cash, Lawrence Meyers wonders whether the pawnbroker's ruthless rates make it a Hidden Gem.... Buy high or low? The tale of sales offers some insight, Seth Jayson says in Bling Bling? Or Bargain Bin?

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For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.