Even before nipple-gate and the fallout, the era of the shock jock showed signs of winding down. In 2002, Opie and Anthony held their annual "Sex for Sam" contest, a promotion for Sam Adams beer that encouraged fans to have sex in public to earn points. A Virginia couple allegedly had sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral and earned 25 points for their trouble, but also got arrested. As a result of the controversy, the show disappeared until Opie and Anthony reemerged on uncensored satellite radio in 2004. Two years ago, Anthony Cumia was fired by SiriusXM for a series of racist tweets he made, and now hosts his own podcast, while Opie remains on satellite radio. (Mike Calta recently announced that he will be co-hosting an afternoon show with Opie on SiriusXM in December.)
Opie and Anthony weren't the only ones losing their jobs. In 2004, Bubba the Love Sponge incurred a $755,000 fine for, among other things, airing sketches where famous cartoon characters discussed drugs and sex. In the midst of the nipple-gate fallout, he was quickly dumped by Clear Channel. Around the same time Slate's Bryan Curtis described Stern as "a shock jock in winter." Hounded by increasing FCC fines, the "King of All Media" made his final terrestrial radio broadcast in 2005 and began his own ongoing satellite radio stint on January 9th, 2006.
Now, when Stern makes headlines, it's more for his impressive skills as interviewer than for his on-air antics or crass humor. Following the Trump controversy, a recent POLITICO feature framed Stern as a "ghost in the machine of the 2016 presidential campaign." Even before the election, he served a few years as a host on NBC's family-friendly competition show America's Got Talent. Instead of a career shift or a cynical rebranding, it was a slow-burn maturation in a media environment that warmed up to his considerable charms.
What changed? The internet, mostly. Who could be shocked by Fartman when you can see unspeakable sites on 4chan by simply opening your web browser? "The thing that has made 'shock jocks' as a term completely irrelevant and passé as a concept has been the pornography industry," says Michael Harrison. "There are truly dirty and shocking things out there that make these guys look tame."