OPA Intelligence Reports

Posted in News on 11/19/2012 By Mark Glaser & Courtney Lowery Cowgill

TV ads, Nate Silver win Election Day

Sure, Barack Obama won the presidency, but there were other big winners on election night too. At the top of that list of winners is certainly ad spending. Combined, the Obama and Romney campaigns spent upwards of $1 billion – more than any other election in history. The election cycle overall – including congressional fights and other down-ticket races – brought a record $6 billion to the ad market. But most of that money still went to TV. According to estimates from Kantar Media, $1.1 billion of the money was spent on local TV in 12 states for the presidential race alone, plus another $200 million for local cable. So despite people spending more time online over the past four years, 2012 numbers show TV is still the political medium of choice. However, online political advertising did reach $160 million this year, compared with $20 million in 2008, according to the IAB. And targeting became precise—a trend that will only continue into the future. “The presidential campaigns have gone further than commercial advertisers ever have in using online and offline data to target people,” wrote Gordon Crovitz in the Wall Street Journal.

This was the first “digital election” by most standards. Already, a record number of eyeballs are tuned to online for political information. And it was a banner year for political traffic. As Charlie Warzel and Mike Shields put it for Adweek, “Across the board, cable news networks, legacy media outlets and digital publishers shattered records.” CNN had a four-year traffic record. FoxNews.com had its biggest night ever with 17.6 million unique visitors. And Politico reported 9.4 million uniques for its biggest day ever. The other big winner on election night was data journalism – mostly thanks to the New York Times’ stats wizard, Nate Silver. Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight blog ruffled some feathers running up to the election, was one of the only predictors to get it right. And that meant major traffic. In fact, some estimates even had 20 percent of the overall Times’ traffic going to Nate Silver. When the Times decided to buy out a statistician-written blog in 2010 it was seen as a pretty risky move but considering the traffic and buzz one numbers-nerd generated this election cycle, it certainly has paid off.