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AOL, Infinity in Content-Swap Promo

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Posted April 1, 2003 By Erin Joyce     Feedback

Radio broadcasts will wend their way into AOL's network to help promote the ISP's enhanced broadband service. Also, is the ISP's latest content partner; layoffs confirmed in customer service.

Call it an embedded cross-promotional content deal between Infinity Broadcasting's old-style radio and IP-based radio within ISP America Online .

AOL and Infinity, the radio station holding company, said Tuesday they would team up in a unique cross-marketing campaign to share and broadcast each other's content across their respective networks.

The arrangement is part of AOL's promotion of its AOL for Broadband enhanced services it unveiled Monday.

Infinity, which owns 183 radio stations that reach about 73 million listeners nationwide each week, will use the AOL for Broadband service in its stations, the companies said. The staff will collect real-time news and entertainment updates via the broadband service -- a marketing device that will ostensibly include announcers mentioning the AOL for Broadband service during their on-air chatter.

The companies said the broadband service is installed at all of its radio stations, including New York's WFAN, Chicago's WXRT, and KROQ in Los Angeles.

Joe Redling, AOL's chief marketing officer, said the arrangement includes radio spots for the broadband product that will air across Infinity stations.

At the same time, AOL's own radio service will stream content from at least five of Infinity's radio stations content over its AOL Radio Network. That will include the company's popular Radio@AOL service, which provides about 200 different music, news, entertainment and sports genres.

AOL's partnership with Infinity is part of its major marketing effort to promote its broadband service. The estimated $35 million campaign, designed in part to reposition the service as more edgy, kicked off last week with the "Welcome to the World Wide Wow" spots during the Academy Awards broadcast.

In its bid to attract a new broadband crowd, the saucy spots position AOL as a hip ISP that is ahead of the curve with pop culture and entertainment and relevant to what consumers look for in their online experience.

For example, AOL and MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) announced a content deal that lets broadband subscribers access a variety of video and audio programming features on's "Total Ticket" service, including live audio coverage of every big league game.

The deal is one of several content arrangements AOL is providing exclusively to its subscribers, including video and content from the NFL, NBA, NASCAR, and the NHL.

The AOL for Broadband marketing campaign also includes a 50-market tour with a retro-fitted 18-wheeler truck that will be making stops at NASCAR events. Tried-and-true direct marketing won't be overlooked either: AOL promotional CDs offering trials of the enhanced service will arrive in mailboxes soon.

In related news, a spokesman for AOL confirmed that 420 jobs were cut in its customer service call centers.

The cuts were in service centers in Oklahoma, Arizona, Utah and Ohio, the company said, as part of ongoing cost-cutting efforts that AOL executives detailed to Wall Street analysts at a meeting in December.

One reason for the consolidation among its customer service call centers is that with each release of the AOL service, the product also becomes stable and requires fewer calls, said spokesman Jim Whitney.

In addition, he said the layoffs would not affect the latest customer-service efforts to support new broadband sign-ups.

Customer service staff have deployed phone and live chat sessions as part of their outreach and are available 24-hours a day, seven days a week, he said. "They are very focused on providing broadband members with a great experience and also answering any questions they may have."

The marketing of the latest broadband offerings, which include a range of content and services such as firewall software, comes as U.S. households increasingly sign on to broadband connections. AOL, which saw its mostly dial-up base of 35 million subscribers slide by about 175,000 during the fourth quarter, is pulling out all the stops in its effort to build its broadband base, which it pegs at about 2.7 million, while at the same time servicing its narrowband customers.

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