"If you couldn't say it in less than 10 seconds, it wasn't heard because it wasn't aired." - Michael Dukakis, during the 1998 presidential election
In the political run-up to 1992 presidential election, a professor at the University of California published research that proved the length of the average television sound bite had dropped from 43 seconds during the 1968 presidential election to just nine seconds during the 1988 election. A 2011 study published in the Journalism Studies Journal found that the typical political soundbite had shrunk to just eight seconds!
It sounds absurd, but trend is neither new nor specific to televised sound bites. According to the study, by 1916 the average political quotation in a newspaper story had shrunk from 1.71 column inches to about half the length of the average quotation in 1892; just 1.08 column inches. The authors of the study, sadly, did not address radio-derived sound bites, as radio's evolution would have likely offered similarly interesting data as that of television and newspapers.
Radio was like television for a few generations of Americans. Due to the sheer size of the audience during its heyday, sound bites were mastered on radio to communicate specific platforms. For example, during World War II public service announcements (PSAs) were aired on radio in order to encourage listeners to buy war bonds or, as in the following clip, get a job. What makes the following PSA so effective is its lyrical sound bite, "woman must work as men must fight."
As you have read, two of the three historical and powerful soundbites chosen to highlight in this piece come from the vice-presidential debates, which may seem surprising to some. Those in the know should compare the gaffes generated during this year's presidential debates versus those generated during the vice presidential debate. Joe Biden could spend most of the evening with his left foot firmly inserted into his mouth, and who knows with young Paul Ryan? Is this another Bentsen-Quayle type of set-up? Keep your ears tuned.
For a list (and listen) of Wednesday night's Top-10 Most Listened to Sound Bites on Hark.com from the 2012 presidential debate, click here: http://bit.ly/O7Xfcj
 QUOTING PRACTICES, PATH DEPENDENCY AND THE BIRTH OF MODERN JOURNALISM, David M. Ryfe, Markus Kemmelmeier, Journalism Studies, Vol. 12, Iss. 1, 2011