February 18, 2016 Last Updated 7:19 am

Where are US voters getting information on the candidates? TV remains leading source

But Pew report shows that nearly have of voters are getting their news and information from at least five different sources, presenting an opportunity for newspapers to still receive their share of ad spending, assuming they are bolder in their digital media efforts

Two studies were released in the past two weeks that look at where voters are learning about the US Presidential candidates, and which sources are most influential. Today the Television Bureau of Advertising said that, no surprise, TV maintains a “leading role in influencing voter behavior at all stages of the decision making process.” I supposes that if their study, conducted by the market research firm GfK, had something else we would not have heard about it from them.

Pew election Trump Cruz Sanders ClintonPew Research Center also released a report, and it doesn’t have a medium to promote. But its study also said that TV remains the number one source for voters – specifically, cable TV. This shouldn’t surprise. A previous Pew report showed that Fox News is far away the number one source of news for those who identify as mostly or consistently conservative (in fact, few other news sources other than talk radio are accessed by these voters). Those who identify as liberal and more, say we say, liberal in their news consumption, getting news from CNN, NPR, MSNBC and the NYT almost equally.

But Pew’s report also says that almost half of voters get their news and information on the election from five or more sources. This means that other sources such as social media, local news outlets and local TV and radio, remain important advertising targets for candidates. Print, however, trails far behind (and with Jon Stewart no longer doing The Daily Show, so does late night comedy TV).

“This latest research study proves what winning campaigns have known all along, that there is no better advertising platform to reach and motivate voters than television. In fact, it’s not even close,” said Steve Lanzano, president of the Television Bureau of Advertising.


But Pew comes up with a different conclusion:

“When asked if they got news and information about the election from 11 different source types, and then asked which they found most helpful, Americans were split: None of the source types asked about in the survey was deemed most helpful by more than a quarter of U.S. adults,” the authors of the Pew report said.

The two points are not necessarily contradictory, television remains the most important source. But the goal here is to influence voters, not just reach them.

A perfect example of this might be the Jeb Bush campaign. According to Open Secrets, the Bush campaign has spent around $150 million so far this cycle. But much of this money has been spent by what is termed “outside money” – these are the Super PACs which can spend money on a candidate but supposedly cannot coordinate with the candidate. These Super PACs mostly spend their money on television advertising, much of it negative.

Hillary Clinton has actually outraised Bush so far, and has receive a substantial amount from Super PACS. But the Clinton campaign is also the number fund raiser itself. Of the $163.5 million it has raised, $115.6 million was by the campaign itself, according to the NYT.

If anything has changed in the 30+ years I have been a media professional, it is not that TV has grown its share, it is the newspapers have lost theirs. Election season generally meant a big bump in print advertising, especially in September and October. With even the Presidential race being a local one, with candidates fighting it out state by state, and then in the fall only in select states, there is often no need to spend money on an instrument that lacks the ability to be finely targeted.

Last cycle, as I have mentioned before, newspapers were enthusiastic about launching mobile apps to cover the election. The NYT’s Election 2012 app was ready to go for the Iowa caucuses, which occurred a month early last cycle.

NYT-electionapp-sm2“Released a month ago, the New York Times’s mobile election app got its first real workout last night with the Iowa Caucuses,” I wrote in 2012. “The app, called NYTimes Election 2012, has been perfectly workable for the past month, but with the first election results to report last night, the app proved a very useful news app for anyone wanted to keep track of the vote totals.”

One reason for the Times enthusiasm for a mobile app may have been that their number one traffic magnet back then was Nate Silver, who left the paper shortly after the November election. Now, I am sure, the goal is to drive traffic to the mobile website or their existing apps. But the problem in 2012 was not with the apps, which were very good, but in the ability of the newspapers to monetize them. I would suggest that in four years the industry has done little to solve that problem. (Notice that the ad that is visible in the iPhone app above is a house ad.)

I think that the two point made here – that print and news apps are losing out to TV and social media, and that newspapers are losing interest in apps – are tied together somewhat. There remains tremendous opportunities for newspapers and other print publications to reach readers in digital products other than simply the web, and unless they do so they will continue to lose what little political advertising they are getting to other media outlets.

Comments are closed.