Turning Campaign Coverage Into Ratings, Revenue No Easy Task

Turning Campaign Coverage Into Ratings, Revenue No Easy Task

This year's presidential campaign has drawn more voter interest than any other race in generations. For mainstream news media, however, capitalizing on that interest has been hit or miss, though not for lack of trying.

Cable news ratings have risen sharply, with record viewership for debates and growing numbers for Keith Olbermann on MSNBC and Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Sites including MSNBC.com and CNN.com have set new records for views of online videos. A trade association for newspapers has placed advertisements telling campaign managers that "newspapers deliver voters."

But many media companies are struggling to translate campaign coverage into repeat readers and viewers -- or revenue. The presidential primary debates had little lasting impact on TV ratings, and some magazines say that issues with candidates on the cover show only a modest bump in newsstand sales.

More noticeably, the broadcast networks' evening newscasts -- the traditional standard-bearers of television news -- have been unable to stop their long-term ratings declines, even during the hotly contested primaries. The newscasts on NBC, ABC and CBS had an average combined audience of 23.7 million viewers from January to June, down 2 percent from the same time period in 2007.

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