The Death of Political TV Ads? Plus, a Mashup Map of Our Impending Doom

This Saturday, I happened to catch an episode of NPR’s On The Media, an excellent show that I’m going to have to start following as a podcast (it’s on at 4 pm on Saturdays here in DC, a time when I’m usually out on a bike or drinking heavily or both). In the first segment that caught my ear, writer Matt Bai talked about structural changes that the online revolution could bring to the way we do politics in the U.S.

On the current system:

Essentially, consultants keep driving up the costs of a race by insisting that it has to be fought over the air at high expense. The networks keep raising the money to astronomical rates for these ads, ’cause they know that the campaigns are raising it, and the ad guys are making out like bandits. And I don’t think they’re going to be quick to tell anybody that that business model no longer works, but I do think it’s going to become apparent.

On the potential of web video to change things:

I mean, there’s money to be made. Someone’s going to learn to make it. But I don’t see any way, just given the wide infinite expanse of content on the Internet, it’s hard to see how, sheerly through market dynamic, that could get nearly as expensive as broadcast, where you’re essentially talking about three networks at most in every market.

And then there’s this interesting question, well, if you’re raising a hundred million dollars, and you were planning to spend sixty of it on TV ads and suddenly TV ads are not a very effective way to get your message out any more, then what are you going to do with all this money?

And I suspect, I hope, that the money’s just simply going to become less important and that ultimately, campaigns make a determination that hey, they might better spend their time with the candidate out doing other things and actually thinking about the argument and the message that you want to send, than constantly raising all this money that buys you maybe some TV ads that nobody’s watching but nothing that’s gonna actually turn the campaign in your favor.

More at the On The Media site, including a transcript and the full audio clip.

Another OTM segment looked at a fascinating mash-up, the Global Incident Map, which displays reports of (real, alleged or suspected) terrorist activity around the world. Click on one of the alarming little animated markers on the map, and you’ll jump to a page with details about each episode, along with a nice Google Earth image of the area in question. Scary stuff, and an excellent way to present this kind of information.

To end on a non-political note, OTM also examined the life of Aimee Semple McPherson, a televangelist before television and a fascinating figure in the development of both media stardom and the rise of Christian fundamentalism in America, as well as at Slate’s recent slideshow on the history of racist product spokescharacters. Brain-expanding all around, I guarantee.


Written by
Colin Delany
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