Bloomberg is reporting that New Hampshire has already been “flooded” with $100 million worth in political ads. Regardless of which candidate wins the New Hampshire primary on the 9th, a big winner will be the media:
About $100 million has already been poured into broadcast and cable television ads courting voters for the Feb. 9 vote, according to estimates from Kantar Media’s CMAG and an analysis by Ken Goldstein, a Bloomberg Politics analyst and University of San Francisco professor. In comparison, about $2 million had been spent in New Hampshire by this point in the 2012 race that ultimately came down to Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
The spending in New Hampshire shows how American politics is being transformed by U.S. Supreme Court decisions in recent years that cleared the path for unbridled spending in elections. The sheer number of candidates and the lack of an incumbent in the race has also intensified the flow of money.
So far, the vast majority of New Hampshire ad spending—about 80 percent as of Feb. 1—has come from the Republican candidates and outside groups supporting them, according to Goldstein. Even Donald Trump, who rode a wave of free publicity through the early months of his campaign, began TV advertising in early January, according to CMAG.
Whether the platform is television, radio, or internet, media networks rely on advertisements to make a profit. It doesn’t matter whether the network is identified by viewers and critics as “conservative” or “liberal.” At the end of the day, media networks are nothing more than businesses with the sole purpose of making as much money as possible.
How do they make money? They have to build up a viewership (listenership or readership) and be able to show potential clients that it would be well worth their money to pay for ad space on their network. An increase in viewers means an increase in ratings, which translate into an increase in advertisement rates. The more people watch the network’s shows, the more the network can charge for ad space. Same goes for radio and internet.
It’s no surprise that during political campaigns, national and local media networks go crazy at the prospects of record viewers, which will certainly mean lots of revenue and profits. This is why presidential debates are such a big money-maker for the media.
The particular networks that host and air the presidential debates don’t care about the pressing issues of our country or the world, which explains why the moderators typically don’t ask any substantive questions and instead stick to “gotcha questions.” If they only asked serious questions and had an intelligent discussion with the candidates, viewers would lose interest and not watch. That would defeat the whole purpose of the media. What they want is a boxing match between the candidates. They want mud-slinging. They want whatever it takes to get people glued to their TV screens for a couple hours. During those couple hours, advertising rates are through the roof.
You ever wonder why presidential campaigns seem to start earlier and earlier? One reason is that it makes things a lot easier for the media. The media isn’t some “public service” that is devoted to giving their viewers objective data about current events. Everything they report, they report for one reason: to get you to watch. If they can devote most of their time to covering extremely popular things like presidential campaigns and major sporting events – which are pretty much the same thing – it would relieve them from having to report on actual stories that give them some semblance of credibility.
It’s easy for this to be blamed largely on the media. But it’s important to remember that they’re only giving viewers what they want. In a sense, they’re only following market trends.