Internet Becomes Boon to Presidential Candidates
JOHN YDSTIE, host:
The Internet is central to this presidential campaign, as never before. The presidential candidates collectively spent $1.7 million on Internet sites and fundraising in the first quarter. That's just a fraction of the total spending on political advertising.
But the advantage of Web ads is that they are targeted, and their effects are measurable. That's good for the candidates, and it's also good for the online advertising industry.
We're joined by Henry Copeland, who founded the advertising service, Blogads. Welcome to the program, Mr. Copeland.
Mr. HENRY COPELAND (Founder, Blogads.com): Thank you, John.
YDSTIE: Now you place ads on political blogs and gossip and sports blogs. And I understand you're getting a lot of interest from presidential candidates who want to advertise on these sites.
Mr. COPELAND: That's correct. We're talking with those folks almost daily to give you a sense of the scale of their interest. They spend five times more with us in the first quarter of 07, versus all of 04. And, of course, 07 is, in theory, the off year. So it's pretty phenomenal interest.
YDSTIE: And why would candidates advertise on blogs? I would think the readership is tiny compared to, you know, big mainstream sites on the Web, like AOL.
Mr. COPELAND: Part of the reason blogs are attractive is that there are so many properties out there. There's so many different venues. There's such a volume of information flowing at people. Blogs offer a really wonderful opportunity to grab this concentrated audience, all of whom are kind of self-aware.
They're aware of themselves as a community. They're aware of themselves as influentials. And if you can communicate with that dense audience, hopefully that's the fulcrum that will allow you to then get your message out.
YDSTIE: And I guess you know who you're talking to, because many of these blogs have a particular political point of view. And so you can narrow the demographic very, very tightly.
Mr. COPELAND: Really, the reason you've got advertising going on in blogs right now, essentially they view it as a blog primary. You know, there are few sites, TalkLeft would be a prominent Democrat site. That's Clinton fans, Edwards is favored by others. There are few sites that liked Obama. And so you're trying to win the blog primary.
Now, again, remember this is almost six months - or more than six months ahead of the real primaries. And so that's why that money is getting spent.
YDSTIE: What do you know about their effect from the metrics that you have?
Mr. COPELAND: On their side, they can track it right down to the penny. I mean, they can say, okay, we ran an ad on TalkLeft. Two weeks later, somebody who'd seen that ad ended up contributing a $100 and, gee, a month later that person then contributed a $100 again. So the whole thing is becoming incredibly scientific versus where it was four years ago.
YDSTIE: Mm-hmm. But on the other hand, they can't do that with more broad kind of advertising in television and newspapers. So they really don't know how effective that is, and they can't compare it to Internet's effectiveness.
Mr. COPELAND: Most advertising, people have no idea how it does. And so, mentally, it's a big shift for advertisers to get out of the old world in which you just kind of threw something at the wall and you weren't sure whether it stuck or not to now it's very, very measurable. And once that person clicks, that is measured. And a little, you know, a little monkey somewhere in a server puts a chalk mark on the board. And you say, okay, that ad has just received another click.
And then you can follow that person through and see how they behave. Do they give money? How many pages do they look out on the Web site? Do they come back for more? Did they leave a comment?
YDSTIE: So this, in a way, this is really the Holy Grail of advertisers. They finally are beginning to be able to figure out what kind of effect their ads have.
Mr. COPELAND: Absolutely. I mean, Internet is still shocking to people, and a lot of folks are still coming to grip with it. I mean, overall, what we would call social media - which is to say people creating content as opposed to professionals creating content, as opposed to, you know, the old infrastructure creating content.
The social media is just, you know, it's a hundred times bigger than it was three years ago. And that's the really hard thing for people to get their heads around for the consulting class. You know, not only are there these new metrics, but there are all these new dimension, these new playing fields that they get - need to get used to.
YDSTIE: Henry Copeland, founder of Blogads. Thanks for being with us.
Mr. COPELAND: John, my great pleasure. Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.