I found this this argument about conservatives who shill for brands on radio to be interesting.-----
When I'm driving along in the afternoon, I often turn on my radio and hear Sean Hannity shilling for Ruth's Chris Steak House. Frankly, he's pretty convincing. I've never been to a Ruth's Chris Steak House, but when I hear that spiel right before dinner time, my mouth starts to water.
But after dinner when I turn on my TV there is that same pitchman posing as a journalist. Sean Han nity is not a conservative. He just plays one on TV. The same goes for Bill O'Reilly. The man who claims to work in a "no-spin zone" in the evenings spends his afternoon not just spinning but pitching.
None of this would bother me if these characters didn't purport to be conservatives. We conservatives have principles. We don't say things because people pay us to say them. We say things because we believe in them. That doesn't seem to apply at Fox. There may be some code of behavior there, but only in the sense that there is some code of behavior at those brothels outside Reno. In both cases, no law is being broken but someone's honor is being traded for a price.
What makes it worse is that these guys often pose as journalism critics. Listening to Hannity or O'Reilly critique honest journalists is like listening to a hooker critique the Miss America contest. It may be entertainment, but it sure ain't journalism.
By interesting, I guess I mean thought provoking - but entirely unconvincing. I'm not sure I buy the whole "we conservatives have principles" argument. It seems to allude that liberals don't have priciples, something I don't buy. Just because you disagree with someone doesn't mean that they don't have principles. In fact, you probably disagree with them them because of some of their principles. I tend to think it is more accurate to say that both sides have principles, and both sides have shown a willingness to stray from them when politically expedient. I think you could make just as strong an argument that - given views on markets, business and wealth - it should be more expected that conservatives would be willing to shill for dollars.
But I do agree in the sense that their is something unseemly about any radio personality - left, right, sports, etc - seeming willingness to shill for whoever will pay them. The one that has always bothered me are the personalities that promote investing (read: speculating) in gold.
Just to establish something, there is about zero reason for 99.99999% of people to put money into gold. In the long run, it is nothing more than a store of wealth that barely keeps up with inflation. To give this some perspective over the very long run, $1 invested in gold in 1802 is now worth $1.24 adusted for inflation. That same dollar invested in stocks is worth over $100,000 adjusted for inflation. Putting money into gold is really speculating - a speculation that has paid off at certain times in history, including recently (though not very recently)- but still speculation. With just about any precious metal, I would imagine you are usually better served to purchase the stocks of companies in the industry than you are to buy the metal itself. The price is correlated with the underlying commodity (if that is what you want) long term returns should be better, you have current income from dividends, it is easier, and transaction costs are significantly lower (which is why all these people selling gold can have radio personalities shilling for them).
So just about any financial advisor worth their salt is going to tell the average person they should not invest directly in gold. But you still find a number of radio personalities preaching to listeners that gold can be part of a well rounded portfolio (defined as whatever % the salesman is going to be able to convince you to invest with them) and you should call Company X now to discuss how they can help you invest in gold (and capture exorbinate fees in the process).
This does not sit well with me. These guys are trading on their credibility, and using it to convince people to do something not in their best interests. I am especially amused with Dennis Prager, who has one ad talking about mortgages or life insurance where he says "You don't know how carefull I am about what I endorse" The message being that he is so carefull about what he chooses to endorse that you can trust whoever he speaks about. Yet, he then encourages listeners to call a company to learn about investing in gold.
To that extent that is not impressive, I agree with the author. I know that the argument many people will use to justify it is that people only promote products the really believe in, use anyways, or were aware of already. I can see the logic of that argument.
But I have my doubts as to how often that is the case. Last year I shopped for some radio ads for my business and the salespeople immediately suggest having an on-air personality do the commercial. They said it would lend credibility, etc. etc. And I'm sure it would. Of course, the personality in question had never used our service, and probably had never even heard of us. Which would seem to put to rest the idea that personalities only shill for companies they know, use etc. (though that is not to say there may be individuals for whom this is the case - just that it in no way seemed to be the norm).
I can understand why the stations and personalities like to push this though. You pay extra to have an on-air personality do the commercial. The extra money is split between the personality and the station. So the station is getting extra income for their talent (which means they can pay them less, everything else equal) and they are getting more money for that 30 or 60 second spot vs. just having a normal ad. It is a win/win on their part, which is why the salespeople push it so hard.
Just keep that in mind though the next time your decision making process for a product or service includes "well, X highly recommends it."