The Big Business of Elections - The Intrepid

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Big Business of Elections

As my previous article on campaign spending indicated, elections are expensive affairs. Billions of dollars have been spent on the Obama, McCain, and various other campaigns across the United States. With all the money and attention, elections have become a big business. The U.S. economy might be going under, but cable news channels, political pundits, pollsters, advertisers, sign makers, and even swag manufacturers are rolling in the profits from the 2008 Election cycle.

The three big cable news channels, CNN, Fox New, and MSNBC, have all experienced ratings bumps this election. But, Fox News remains the most watched of the three. In October, the O’Reilly Factor drew in excess of four million viewers a night. Not to be counted out, Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” on MSNBC garnered an average of 2.17 million viewers last month, triple the average viewers of 2007.

If CNN=Politics, than Politics=Money. CNN’s ratings have surged during the primaries and general election. During the primaries, CNN averaged 444,000 viewers, an 87% jump from the same time last year. While still behind Fox News on average, CNN has managed to beat the ratings giant this month between the 7-11pm prime time slot.

While many viewers might have turned to the major networks for their election coverage four or maybe eight years ago, more viewers than ever are turning to the cable news channels. Higher ratings for these networks mean higher advertising revenues.

Advertisers have also made a fortune this election. Driven by the U.S. Elections, WPP, the world’s largest advertising firm, has posted record profits. Together, the McCain and Obama campaigns have spent upwards of $500 million on television advertising.

Interest in the election has also helped political pundits, pollsters, and websites. In the last few months, sites like FiveThirtyEight and Pollster.com have seen their traffic dramatically increase.

Swag manufacturers and sign makers are even benefiting. Sign makers across the U.S. have made millions of dollars. Everyone needs a lawn sign, right? All the Obama and McCain merchandise being sold is also generating huge amounts of money. Nearly every schlock store and online merchandiser is selling some sort of product related to the campaign. Search Obama on Cafepress.com and 2.6 million products appear. In contrast, McCain only has 1.7 million products. Even eBay is currently featuring Obama, McCain, Palin, and Biden Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.

Not surprisingly, estimates indicate that Obama merchandise is out selling McCain merchandise by nearly 5 to 1. Perhaps a sign of tomorrow’s outcome.

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