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Monday, July 30 12:00 AM ET

CNN.com Looking for Innovative
Ways to Put News in Ads

By Brian Briggs

Atlanta, GA - CNN.com has slowly been moving to an all-ad format over the past few years, but the former news giant hasn't abandoned their legacy of news reporting completely.

CNNThe company has named Tommy Rickey head of the new "advernewsment" division, to find innovative ways to place news in advertisements on the site. 

Rickey said, "While the website might be entirely ads and promotions for our television shows, we still have the ghostly soul of a news organization, and that will remain as long as I'm here."

Rickey was formerly executive producer at Entertainment Tonight where he honed his skills on their all-ad format.  He highlighted some innovative techniques that CNN.com would be taking.

"A recent flash ad we ran for Coca-Cola featured Condoleeza Rice handing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki an icy cold Coke.  It was informative and refreshing," said Rickey.  Other innovative ads he showed included a "Punch the Sarkozy" banner ad and a advernewsment story about GM's new plug-in hybrid car which had a sentence about global climate change.

"It'll be win-win for the advertiser and CNN.  They can earn some revenue by placing news stories in their ads, and we'll get some legitimacy as a news organization," said Rickey.

Consumers had mixed reactions, some enjoyed the new format saying it felt like "the Super Bowl on a web page," while others didn't like the mixing of news and commercial messages.

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"I'm not sure I like the idea," said one Sandra Higgs of Oklahoma City.  "If I'm watching an ad for Taco Bell, I want to learn about how the Chuwanga is spicy and meaty, and not about the immigration bill being held up in the Senate."

Rickey said that CNN.com had experimented with some contextual news services which displayed news stories related to the ads on the page, but he didn't want to get "too newsy."

If successful, CNN could bring the all-ad format to their cable news shows.  Competitors MSNBC and FoxNews said they are experimenting with an all-ad format as well.

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