Sirius Satellite's Free Online Trial Boosts Web Traffic

Subscription Service Sees 91% Week-on-Week Boost Behind Howard Stern

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- When Howard Stern left CBS Radio in December 2005 for Sirius Satellite Radio, he cried that he was free -- free to do the broadcast he wanted to do without being reigned in by the constrains of the Federal Communications Commission and traditional broadcast radio.
Howard Stern, briefly free at last, again
Howard Stern, briefly free at last, again

Last week he was free again -- albeit this time free of charge. A two-day trial that let listeners sample Sirius's full programming lineup online notched Sirius and its star shock jock a boost in both online buzz and web traffic.

201% spike
According to Hitwise data, traffic to the Sirius.com website on Oct. 25 was up 91% compared to the week before (Oct. 18) and up 201% vs. same day a year ago. The score for Sirius in Yahoo's Buzz Index, which uses a scoring system to measure searches on Yahoo, jumped 78% on this past Oct. 25 over the Monday before and searches for Howard Stern surged 51% over the same weekly period.

Sirius offered the free two-day trial on Oct. 25-26 to let users sample its programming. The company's business model is to sell equipment and charge monthly subscriptions for its service, but to gain access to the free material participants were sent to Sirius.com/howard or howardstern.com.

Those numbers are important as Sirius continues to try to milk Mr. Stern's celebrity to gain subscribers, an effort that began before Mr. Stern left "free" radio for satellite. In early September, Hitwise took a look at shares of search terms and concluded that his celebrity hasn't benefited Sirius, although searching for his name is still the biggest driver of traffic to Sirius.com, outside of searches that include the word "Sirius" itself.

1.75 million uniques in September
Sirius.com drew in 1.75 million unique audience members in September, while HowardStern.com attracted 832,000. Both figures are behind that of rival XM Satellite Radio, which boasted 2 million unique visitors for the same month. Though neither Sirius nor XM has held a consistent lead over the other in recent months.

It's not yet clear if the promotion increased Sirius's subscriber rolls; as of midyear, the service claimed 4.7 million subscribers.

A spokesman for Sirius said, "The response to the free trial of Sirius Internet Radio was beyond company expectations. We received responses from people in virtually every major country around the world who were accessing Howard Stern and our more than 75 channels of programming online."
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