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Jason Calacanis calls for AOL to suspend ads on blogs

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| Murrow: Today he'd seem pretentious

November 26, 2005

Jason Calacanis calls for AOL to suspend ads on blogs

Stephen Baker

Jason Calacanis, who sold his Weblogs Inc. to AOL last month, takes a look at the uproar we've been covering surrounding the banner ads on AOL's blog journals. It's an interesting post, a blogger trying as gently and politely as possible to tell his new company how to deal with angry bloggers.

His key point:

What we did wrong: The main issues: a) the advertisements were added without user permission (just like the AIM buddies last week!) b) the adverisements were added without warning, and c) when the issue boiled up we had the PR department give the following canned statement:

“The decision to implement banner advertising on AOL Journals is consistent with our business and advertising practices.”

Now that was bad--really bad. We sound like we're freakin' robots, and bloggers do not want to talk to robots. They want to speak with a human being, preferably one who is also a blogger!

He continues:

From what I can see, and I've only been here a month, we've got some work to do at AOL in terms of talking with our customer base. Frankly, most companies do so I'm not surprised at all. Adopting transparency is like getting pushed into an ice cold lake--it sucks at first, but after five minutes it's invigorating.

He adds some thoughts about changing corporate PR:

Public relations has changed in a big way over the past two years. Sure, you still need a PR department, but the most important thing is to have your executives and product managers blogging authentically with your customers. Doing so will make the AOL's PR department operate so much quicker and effectivly. As such, I'm trying to get a handle on who's blogging at AOL and encourage more folks to blog.

08:32 PM


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A HUGE round of applause for Mr. Calacanis. VERY well said & I couldn't possibly agree more!!!

Thank you, Stephen for continuing to keep us updated on the latest developments. We, former AOL bloggers, do appreciate it a log!!

sincerely, anna

Posted by: Anna at November 26, 2005 11:47 PM

So -

Are we to believe that someone with some kind of influence with someone else at AOL might actually have access to AOL Keyword: Clue ?!

Posted by: Armand at November 27, 2005 02:21 AM

Jason Calacanis is the FIRST PERSON at aol to show signs of a heart and soul and I was very grateful to read his post and see that somebody there realizes that what they have done is wrong.

We want to go back to writing at AOL, we want to return to the family and community that we ourselves helped to build. Some of us felt that this was too big a betrayal to just stand by and watch, and we have stood up for what we believe in.

I never would have wasted a year and a half of my time creating a journal at aol if those ad banners had been there... I would have gone to peaceful and calm Blogspot immediately.

Thanks for listening.

Judith Olivia HeartSong

Posted by: Judith HeartSong at November 27, 2005 09:36 AM

oops! I have to correct my last statement!

we appreciate it A LOT! (not "a log") laughing


have a happy sunday, Stephen!

Posted by: Anna at November 27, 2005 11:41 AM

Now we're talking Mr. Calacanis! Maybe AOL will listen to you. Continue please.

I have decided against moving all of my hard work to another site but did not want AOL to think that I was one who didn't mind the presence of those ads. I have added my own disclaimer to my title so that it shows up at the top of every blog page, as well as in the post alerts.

Thank you very much Stephen for covering our story. How ever it turns out, you were the first to really listen to our complaints and your bringing it out to the public eye has helped us immensely. Sincerely, Dornbrau

Posted by: Dorn at November 27, 2005 12:59 PM

Wow, someone at AOL says something in our favor. Whoda thunk it. Will it mean anything? I don't know. But at least somewhere someone is acting like a human.

Posted by: Omar at November 27, 2005 01:45 PM

Is it just me or is Jason's website not responding? I've tried several different links and browsers with the same error message.

Posted by: Dorn at November 27, 2005 01:54 PM

I think this situation is something that needs to be pounded into the minds of the AOL Bosses. They have no idea how they alienated so many paying customers with the poor business decision they have made.

I appreciate you making this public, and continuing the fight on our behalf.


Posted by: Jimmy at November 27, 2005 03:30 PM

Two words: Thank you.

Posted by: alice at November 27, 2005 04:01 PM

Thanks for this update. It's much appreciated. While I won't go back to blogging on AOL, since I much prefer Blogger and LiveJournal and the ads were just the incentive I needed to shut down my one remaining AOL journal, I do hope that Calacanis can have a positive influence on AOL. In the days leading up to the merger and since then, the real heart of AOL was lost and it would be nice to see it regain that.

Posted by: Shelly at November 27, 2005 04:31 PM

This is the first glimmer of hope I have had with AOL. I just hope that people will listen. If not, I see this company self destructing...slowly but I see it happening. They no longer dominate the internet the way they once did. Time to get real.

Posted by: Nelle McLaughlin at November 27, 2005 05:12 PM

As much as I applaud and appreciate Jason's words of wisdom, they rest on the presumption that customer service actually still means something in this country.

America Online has proven time after time that that presumption is, well, presumptive.

Sad, really.

Posted by: Jennifer at November 27, 2005 05:15 PM

Much applause for Mr. Calacanis!

I can only hope it helps.

Posted by: Connie at November 27, 2005 11:51 PM

Thank you for making this public. How would the AOL "powers that be" like to have a big advertising banner across their own emails everytime they opened up a personal message? I think not. It's kind of like having a truck of manure dumped on your lawn. (true the mortgage company owns your lawn, but you tend it and take pride in it)You were never warned and then you're told, "What lawn? What manure?" Our journal community deserves better. AND do the companies that advertise really want THIS kind of feedback? ANNE

Posted by: Anne at November 28, 2005 12:51 AM

Thank you, thank you and thank you for addressing this VERY important problem with AOL. What the hell ever happened to Customer Service? Is everything always about money????

If AOL needs to generate more revenue how about going about it in a respectful manner. Talk to your PAYING CUSTOMERS FIRST. Give them the option of having the advertisements to begin with and then, and only then, at least give them the choice of advertisers AND a discount on their monthly fee for AOL. That's what all other advertisers do.

If AOL can't listen to their paying customers then I hope they at least listen to someone that works for/with them. If someone WITHIN AOL can see how wrong this is, imagine what we all feel on the outside.

Don't mean to rant and rave but this issue just rubs me the wrong way. If I didn't have so many great friends in J-Land I'd be outta here. I'm still thinking about it and may just leave anyway.

Just my thoughts....maybe, just maybe, someone will listen.

Posted by: Patti at November 28, 2005 04:33 AM

Finally someone at aol is listening... and I mean really listening. Please keep listening. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We want to keep writing, we want to stay together and keep reading. Our wants are simple, we really aren't asking for much!

Thank you again!

Posted by: Promise at November 28, 2005 12:36 PM


Thank you for covering this story!

Posted by: Anthony at November 28, 2005 06:41 PM

I'm paying for it and now I have to pay for ads too?

I'm very close to closing my account and moving on. There are other providers that don't charge as much as AOL.

Posted by: dhmill at November 29, 2005 11:03 AM

I recently commented on the ads that are now on my journals I don't like it either.

Posted by: elwinrandall at November 29, 2005 11:31 PM

Anyone who cares so much about a silly, one inch banner that HELPS to offer business to others, that HELPS to provide an income for a family, that HELPS to add to the American Economy, is a self-absorbed, soap opera driven indivdual. That add does NOT impact what we do on our journals. Its not just about AOL, its about other businesses too. Get off the lame passion, and think on!

Posted by: Raven at November 30, 2005 11:33 PM

Thank God I didn't choose a new blogger service that was being bought by AOL. My old blog was on AOL, so that would have been a double whammy for me.

Posted by: RepublicanJen at December 2, 2005 05:26 PM

Hi Stephen,

I am a former AOL Journalist and have with the support of a few others written a small report, we are calling, "The Exodus Report." It is a survey of 995 AOL Journals (Journalists) who had at one time over the last 28 months registered at a "J-land" community directory produced by a fellow journalist named, Pam.

At first glance the report may not seem significant, however the numbers are very telling of "behind scenes" of "AOL's" Journals past, present, and most likely future. I’ve read some of what has been going on with the AOL Journal message board, and there seems to be confusion with numbers as journalists try to figure out their significance after AOL’s claim to a “600,000” number. It is, I imagine, hard swallowing, because there is simply not a shred of evidence to support that claim. It is somewhat threatening and demeaning, which I believe is AOL’s intent on our emotions.

Although, we can know not everyone has registered over at Pam’s directory, we can trust that the 995 people (journals) that had one time registered ARE real. It is a good representative survey. I believe that it is a first of its kind, in that, there has been no report, thus far, on AOL Journal numbers, or our impact representing the time and heart AOL journalists have devoted at their journals, or in visiting their peers as a byproduct of community spirit, or for that matter customers for AOL's advertisers.

I hope that more people take the time to read the report and that it gets passed around. In summary of the report, approximately 1/3 of the AOL community is staying with or without anger over the ad banners and treatment from AOL. 1/3 of the population hasn’t bothered to comment in their journals for over a month, and many of these have given clear intent on not coming back. 8% of the Journalists have been out on vacation during the uproarious 2 weeks, but had posted to their journals within the last month. 15% of the journals have quit the AOL journal experience directly. That reduces the number of journalists either having gone private or in having moved to 8% and 6% respectively.

While the 6% movers may not seem a large number, it needs to be pointed out that is a number in addition to other obviously dissatisfied customers. This is something we are asking you to help communicate to AOL. Not only have they grossly misrepresented themselves to the media and us, they simply aren’t recognizing their damage to the spirit of their paid constituency. Good will is hard to come by, and in this factor they have and are failing miserably.

Our best,


Posted by: Ayn (Ann) at December 3, 2005 03:19 PM

My friends and I have all deleted our journals, our groups, our Hometown Web Pages, and will soon be deleting AOL - as soon as our new ISP is installed and running.

Sad. AOL had a growing, loving, supportive community, and they let it go because of advertising.

We've all heard horror stories about how difficult it is to CANCEL AOL. We are taking care of that. We're canceling our credit card. It'll be hard to change anything to a non-valid credit card.

It's been wonderful when it was a community. Now, whoever is last, shut the door and turn out the light.

Posted by: Mrs. Pete at December 17, 2005 03:14 PM

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