The Internet revolutionized political fundraising, but when it comes to spending those dollars, media strategists are voting old school.
Candidates and supporters are caught up in a frenetic advertising blitz, on pace to drop a record $3 billion, according to analysts who monitor spending. Most of the money is going to an old-media workhorse: local TV stations.
Two years ago, then-candidate Barack Obama successfully tapped the Internet to raise money and mobilize millions of voters. Politicians around the country, including California gubernatorial hopefuls Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, have jumped on the social media bandwagon, including Facebook and Twitter. But as the campaign season heated up, analysts said, candidates scaled back on Internet ad buys in favor of the tried and true.
How tried and true? Even the 235-year-old U.S. Postal Service is a conduit for more paid advertising — by 13 to 1 — than its digital descendant.
For California TV stations, particularly those in Los Angeles, the midterm election has led to a gold-rush mentality. One campaign organizer said the cost of a 30-second TV spot has been soaring in the final days before Tuesday’s election. A spot that went for $2,000 two years ago is going for $5,000 today.
Analysts who track political spending predict that TV stations nationwide will rake in two-thirds of the campaign dollars this year — about $2 billion. Commercial radio, another old-media staple, is expected to collect $250 million. At least $650 million will be spent on direct mail campaigns, those glossy fliers now filling mailboxes.
Internet sites should fetch about $50 million, less than 2% of the total.