A couple of years ago, Clear Channel announced that it would limit the number of commercials its stations aired in a bid to stay competitive with other modes of listening to music, like satellite radio and iPods (yes, they do compete). Clear Channel's experiment, however didn't have the brightest results as fewer commercials translated to lower profits, despite efforts to charge more on a per ad basis. Still, even as the company was reporting lower revenue, it promised to maintain its limited number of ads. Now it looks to be going further in this direction, as one of its stations in Dallas will go completely commercial free. Instead of running 30 second spots, the station will make money by having companies sponsor blocks of time, with the promise that their product will be talked about in some way. Again, the station will probably see a revenue hit, but what choice does it have? As long as competition continues to take its toll on Clear Channel's bottom line, it might as well take an aggressive, proactive stance. It's also likely that the company will be criticized for not drawing a bright line between content and advertising, since the DJs will be talking about the sponsor company. But the company will be clear that the company is a sponsor of the programming, which should ameliorate these concerns. Furthermore, there's always been a blurry line separating advertising and content, as the best advertising is that which makes for good content in its own right. As long as the company is being forthright, this should be a worthwhile experiment.
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