NEW YORK This may be the Internet age, but when it comes to political advertising, the traditional media are still candidates' preferred channels.
Online political advertising will total only $20 million in 2008, according to a forecast from Borrell Associates, scheduled for release today. Online political advertising lags online's 9 percent overall ad share, representing less than 0.5 percent of 1 percent of all political advertising, a tiny sliver by any measure.
More than 80 percent of all political dollars, nearly $4 billion, will be spent locally, with 60 percent or $2.9 billion going to broadcast TV. Newspapers are forecast to capture 17 percent of ad dollars, followed by radio at 10 percent and cable TV at 5 percent.
When candidates do spend dollars online, they are likely to focus on search advertising. According to Borell, half of the $20 million forecast will go to Google, Yahoo! and affiliated sites. Streaming video, now more accessible to voters, is expected to gain ground and capture about $4.7 million. The remaining dollars will be allocated to banners and e-mail ads.
"The jury is still out regarding the Internet's effectiveness for reaching and targeting the undecided. There is a fear that their message may end up going to an unintended recipient," according to the report.
Candidates are also afraid to cede control of their messages to the unknown. "One of the biggest things working against online advertising is its reputation and lack of control," said Shawn Riegsecker, CEO of Cento.net, a rep firm for local media Web sites. "Nobody wants to take a chance with the Internet. Planners and consultants have limited chances to hit a home run, and they know they can with television."
The younger demographics of the Internet may also be a factor. Adults 55 and older still make up the bulk of regular voters. That is also the demographic least likely to use the Internet.
Local stations are best positioned to siphon off online ad dollars by offering political advertisers multimedia packages, the Borrell report said.
Several TV groups have already created Web sites offering news, blogs, streaming video and more, including Hearst-Argyle Television, LIN Television, Scripps and Allbritton Communications.
"Not many of the campaigns have taken advantage of the Web site. We expected a lot more than we got," said Jeff Bartlett, president and general manager of WMUR, Hearst-Argyle's ABC affiliate in Manchester, N.H., which got some advertising from the Obama campaign.