The Wall Street Journal had a piece last week (via PoliticalWire) on the growing use of newspaper ads in political races. Besides the usual trend-piece anecdotal evidence, author Kevin Helliker has actual numbers to back up the claim: between 2002 and 2006, overall campaign spending in the U.S. doubled, but the amount spent on newspaper ads tripled. Admittedly, the $104 million spent advertising in print and on newspaper websites in 2006 was still only 5% of the amount spent on TV ads in that cycle, but some politicians and consultants swear by newspapers and their sites as a channel to reach the politically active — including those under 40, who tend to get their news online. As South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds put it, “People who read newspapers vote in elections.”
Interestingly, “the rate of growth appears to be highest in races for local posts, such as mayor and state legislator, because newspapers boast greater penetration and influence in small- to medium-size markets.” This ties in with an article in this month’s Wired about Gannett’s focus on hyperlocal coverage and citizen journalism in papers in its chain (see also Post coverage from December). More local focus in regional newspapers equals an even more targeted audience for local political advertising plus more opportunities to get earned media — free coverage for events or initiatives. How about widespread advertising by a national campaign with messages tweaked for different papers in different parts of the country — geo-targeting by media outlet. Add in some online ordering to make up for flaws that the Journal finds in many papers’ ad sales process, and we might have something interesting for ’08 and beyond.