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Faux Interviews, Fox News: Sarah Palin's Branding Problem

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Should anyone care that Sarah Palin did not conduct the celebrity interviews for her new show on the Fox News Channel? Repackaging archival material is hardly unusual for television networks -- check out the weekend line-up on MSNBC some time. Audiences weren't bothered by the fact that Palin did not write her autobiography. Why should they mind that she's hosting her own TV show in name only?

The problem with Real American Stories is the transparently slipshod nature of the enterprise. The entire point of an interview show of this sort is to let viewers watch celebrity guests interact with a celebrity host. Sarah Palin with LL Cool J? Sounds like fun. With Tobey Keith, even? Why not? But apparently such minglings are not to be, leaving the TV audience with little reason to tune in. It's as if Barbara Walters did one of her Oscar-night interview specials without actually meeting any of the featured stars.

The flap over Real American Stories further proves that Sarah Palin is no longer a politician but rather a product to be merchandised -- in this case, merchandised in a cut-rate way. Implicit in any personality-based marketing strategy is the need to maintain strict quality control over the product line. It appears that Sarah Palin is now willing to slap her name on just about anything, with all the discrimination of Krusty the Klown.

In defining and selling herself as a celebrity, Palin has shown both cleverness and originality. The more her brand becomes associated with inferior merchandise, however, the less staying power it is likely to have.