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AOL Radio: Can Less Equal More?



AOL Radio relaunched today with new features, easier navigation, and 50% less commercials.

Bloomberg reports that AOL is cutting back to 3 minutes of commercials per hour. If they were previously running 6 minutes per hour, it’s no wonder they had trouble keeping listeners tuned in.

AOL Radio’s General Manager Lisa Namerow says that too many ads was the most common complaint among listeners. Not surprising, as we’ve learned that consumers have very different feelings about ads in different formats.

For example, TV watchers tolerate, and sometimes even enjoy, the commercials that run during their favorite shows. But surveys have shown that people don’t like seeing ads when they watch those same shows online. Maybe it’s simply a case of not knowing how to complain when it’s a TV or radio ad. With online, it’s easy to hit that contact us button and grouse.

AOL is hoping that the reduction in ads will help raise the number of listeners. The site has had a 25% drop in users over the past year and that hasn’t helped AOL’s bottom line.

At least AOL has advertisers. As popular as Pandora is with users, they’ve had a hard time attracting marketers. Bloomberg suggests this may have something to do with an unconventional ad format that blends 15 second audio ads with display and video spots.

The AOL Radio player page is bordered with display ads at the top and to the right, but this is radio. People turn it on and then hide it behind another window. If you want to reach this audience, it’s got to happen through the headphones and not on the page.

If AOL’s less equals more theory works out, they’ve got a plan in place in that should counter the loss in monthly revenue. Two plans actually, a $3.99 “Radio Plus” plan and a $9.99 on-demand plan which will both be completely ad free.

With their shiny new interface and simple navigation, AOL Radio could end up being a contender.