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Not Blurred, Erased

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New AOL radio ad deal erases the line between editorial and advertising:

    A $15 million advertising and promotional deal between Viacom’s Infinity Broadcasting Corp. and struggling online service America Online is raising hackles as some radio staffers perceive a breach of the separation between editorial and advertising content.

    The deal, brokered by Len Short, America Online’s executive vice president of brand marketing, consists of two parts, a $15 million ad buy and a barter-like content arrangement whereby stations receive the AOL for Broadband service in exchange for DJs and other talent promoting the broadband offerings. The deal, which began June 1, involves the bulk of the company’s 185 stations.

    It is the requirement that DJs make on-air reference to AOL content that has agitated some. A staffer who insisted on anonymity at KMOX-AM, a talk station in St. Louis, said all three Infinity stations there participate in the promotional deal.

    The staffer commented: “It is somewhat a blurring of the line, most definitely. … The biggest difference between this and almost anything else is that [in other situations] you would say ‘sponsored by’ or ‘brought to you by.’ That’s not showing up in this at all.”

    A spokeswoman for AOL said the arrangements did not extend to news departments, and that it targeted DJs “where schmooze is the order of the day.” The KMOX staffer, who confirmed the spokeswoman’s comment, said the deal with that station is slated to last for two years. [AdAge.com]

It’s advertorial.

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.
  • Many stations already have the DJs blather on about whatever product has paid extra for the service. So the girl on the morning show talks about her laser eye surgery from Dr Boothe, her partner talks about how much his boyfriend loves the Vermont Teddy Bears he gives him, and on and on. I’m not sure I see this as any different.

    It’s pretty easy to spot the ads, and it isn’t like I particularly care what morning show DJs think about, well, anything at all. I see why people are bothered, but I don’t see how morning DJs are in any way equivalent to people involved in a news show. As long as that line is kept clear, I don’t think I care.