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Paul Paradise

Sky Radio Network: First Spam, now Astroturf?

Just when I thought my issues with Sky Radio Network had blown over, it appears they’ve gone and shot themselves in the foot again. For those of you not familiar with the case, Sky Radio Network sent me an unsolicited email back in May, and they were relatively unrepentant about it.

Now, almost two months later, I got a comment on my original posting, defending Sky Radio and reproduced here:

I actually am defending Sky Radio because this is not traditional media and found it to be an effective medium for my company to get my word out to a captive business audience. I understood it to be an advertorial and don’t feel I was deceived in anyway because I understood this to be another marketing tool to help build exposure for my firm. Sky Radio delivers a high quality editorially driven show and doesn’t have the sponsorship of companies’ ad dollars like a traditional tv, radio programming. You also have to keep in mind regular tv, radio, print outlets are also subject to their advertisers in terms of content being produced. The role of advertising was instrumental in the mass adoption of TV’s in the 1940’s and 50’s. It was ad dollars that financed the national network build-out. At least with this vehicle, I am able to spin the message I’d like to without the constraints of a traditional media outlet that wants to garner higher ratings for their own purposes. Sky Radio has its place for the business audience.

Okay, someone likes them enough to defend them. I wonder who that is?

Whoever it was, registered for an account to make the post, and provided an email address chipats[redacted]@[bigwebmailhost].com. (I’ve withheld part of the email address as a courtesy.) Could chipats be Patricia Chi, the Producer at Sky Radio Networks who was the author of the original spam?

Some more investigation revealed that the reverse DNS lookup of this mystery poster’s IP address (67.49.27.x) placed them at [redacted] – a residential customer of Time Warner/Road Runner in Southern California. That’s interesting – Sky Radio Network is based in Valley Village, CA. The location matches.

I still didn’t want to falsely accuse Patrica Chi, but then a friend sealed the deal with a link: The Center for Media and Democracy has an identical comment 18 minutes later, from user “notme1230”. I have a really hard time believing anyone outside of Sky Radio would be posting rebuttals against negative press online, much less to two entirely independent sites.

There’s a term for these actions: Astroturfing. It’s the same reason that John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, is currently being investigated for anonymously posting on Yahoo! finance message boards. Granted, Whole Foods is a publicly traded company attempting to purchase the competitor the CEO anonymously bashed, but it’s still a despicable business practice. I actually felt bad when I originally busted Sky Radio for spamming, because they were one of the few spammers that actually provided enough contact information that I could put a face with the name. Now I feel no remorse – misrepresenting your company by pretending to be a satisfied customer is stooping even lower than spamming, in my mind.