Several broadcast companies that reported earnings in the past few weeks have pointed out that TV station revenues were down due to the lack of political ad spending in 2009. Since 2010 is a banner year for major Congressional races, local media researcher Borrell Associates expects that TV broadcasters will have something to cheer about. The same can’t be said for online media, which will hardly see a fraction of the total $42 billion Borrell says will be spent on political campaigns.
Spending on online media will total $44 million this year — barely 1 percent of all political ads, Borrell says. After the 2011 off-year for major political contests, online political ads will not top the $100 million mark until 2012.
Campaign budgets are expected to dump an extra $400 million on media this year, in part thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision this month to strike down campaign finance restrictions. And while nearly three-fourths of the total $42 billion will be spent on local media, most of it centered on issues, not candidates, Borrell opines.
That focus could explain why online misses out. While hyperlocal sites have grown over the past year, the operations are still very small and campaigns tend to feel mass media will give them more bang for their bucks. Secondly, most of the major political sites, such as Talking Points Memo, HuffingtonPost, Politico, Drudge Report, Newsmax, and the newest, Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller, the focus is more on national audiences and coverage. Therefore, despite all the talk of ad targeting, local Congressional races are most likely to be fought on the local broadcast airwaves.
Of course, there will always be exceptions and some candidates will splurge on web ads. Still, how many mayoral campaigns can spend a record-breaking $85.2 million on a single race like NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg? Consider that even with all that largesse, Bloomberg devoted only $2.1 million to online ads.