Not that long ago, voters had just a handful of choices for getting news and information about current events: Broadcast TV stations, cable networks, a local newspaper, and maybe talk radio. Today that list has exploded with social media platforms, blogs, newsletters, and podcasts giving voters unlimited options when it comes to information about current events and political news.
Earlier this summer, Semafor’s Max Tani observed, “2024 is shaping as the first election of the age of fragmentation. Every legacy broadcast medium is in decline. Cable news is steadily shrinking…Facebook has largely pulled itself out of the business of news and politics, while Twitter remains a real, but diminished, force.”
This presents a serious challenge for campaigners trying to reach voters online and off.
What Used To Work Isn’t As Effective
In recent election cycles, we’ve witnessed the rise of “cord cutters” and other voters who are no longer reachable via linear TV ads. A recent Center for Campaign Innovation survey of voters in key battleground districts following Virginia’s 2023 General Assembly elections found that just half of seniors (65+) were reachable via linear TV advertising and a majority of voters under the age of 50 could only be reached via streaming or digital advertising.
Even more alarming, one in five swing voters reported being unreachable via TV advertising because they either don’t watch TV content or only consume TV content on platforms that don’t permit political advertising.
Streaming And Social Aren’t Perfect Replacements
The same survey found that at least 10% of voters said they use 8 different social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter/X, LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, and reddit. All of these platforms restrict or prohibit political advertising. And 19% of voters don’t use any social media at all.
When it comes to streaming, Netflix is the most popular service among voters at 39%, but the company’s forthcoming ad-supported plan will not permit political advertising. The same is true for Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and AppleTV+
The dual challenges of declining linear TV viewership and platform fragmentation mean it’s easier than ever for voters to tune out and completely ignore political campaigns. Heading into 2024, it’s critical that campaigners factor this into their strategy and planning.