Tonight I was driving home from a family party with Patrick. We were listening to KGO Radio. AM-810. It’s the best rated talk station in the San Francisco area (and is among the best rated station in the world). Its signal can be heard from Alaska to Mexico. The show we were listening to was Bill Wattenburg.
Two ads on KGO caught my ear. The first was an ad for Pat Vitucci and AIG, here’s a list of some of KGO’s advertisers. It was read live by Bill Wattenburg. He endorsed Pat’s seminar.
The second was by Leo Laporte, who came on and endorsed GoToMyPC in his own voice.
I’ve heard Leo endorse other products on KGO recently too in advertisements, including a security dongle (Kevin Mitnick also did such an endorsement).
KGO Radio is owned by Disney Corporation.
These two examples of advertisements are FAR further along the endorsement line than what was done by Federated Media. The ads that caused the TechMeme outcry were NOT endorsements at all, but were just bloggers talking about an advertising slogan and even then weren’t told what to say.
But the ads on KGO radio go FAR further. Most of the ads that hosts on KGO read are from a script. It’s pretty clear that the company is paying those ad readers to say specific things.
Now, I know Leo is pretty high integrity guy. I doubt he’d do an ad for a product he really hated, but would he really endorse GoToMyPC if he weren’t being paid? Might he endorse a different technique? Or teach people how to do such a thing without a commercial product? I’ve listened to Leo a lot (I used to help run his chat room back when he was a host himself on KGO radio back in the mid 1990s) and I could see him teaching people how to do it themselves without buying a third-party product to let you remotely access your files.
One thing, though, all these ads are totally disclosed. It’s very clear they are paid advertisements and are separate from the editorial copy. It’s very clear that Leo is getting paid to take these editorial stances.
But, still, why isn’t everyone yelling and screaming about these kinds of ads on professional media (this is one of the world’s top radio stations, owned by a huge multi-national corporation)?
Here’s why? Beating up on Disney won’t get you any links. Won’t get you on TechMeme. Won’t insert you into a conversation. Won’t build your traffic.
In fact, Leo is so popular and credible that beating up on him might cause a major blowback the way that beating up on Macs usually gets you hundreds of angry commenters (ask John Dvorak about that one).
Now you know why Valleywag is still pushing this story front and center (even Larry Page, cofounder of Google, arriving at FooCamp in a helicopter couldn’t push this story off of the front page over there).
Translation: there’s lots of professional endorsing that’s been going on for years (this isn’t new). As long as it’s disclosed I don’t see the problem with it.
On the other hand, Jeff Jarvis has a major problem with these kinds of advertisements. I respect Jeff’s stance but don’t think Jeff’s stance will be followed by everyone.
For me, I will disclose when I’m doing stuff for money. I’m not going to be as pure as Jeff Jarvis is, sorry, but when I’m not I’ll let you know so you can make up your own mind about what I’m saying.
UPDATE: Leo Laporte explained why he does radio endorsements in my comments and that he won’t endorse a product that he doesn’t already use (and has turned down requests for endorsements from other companies because of that). I believe him when he says this, too, because I’ve seen him turn down advertising and sponsorship opportunities.