"It's not quite there yet," Joe Trippi told a forum sponsored by Democratic group NDN. "It's moving exponentially but it's not TV." Mr. Trippi, who headed Howard Dean's race for president four years ago, was a senior strategist for John Edwards' campaign this year and is a consultant on internet issues.
He said that the Obama campaign has shown how dramatically web fundraising has changed since four years ago, while YouTube growth has provided another major change.
Still, the number of people participating in internet traffic for campaigns only represents about 10% of voters.
Peter Greenberger, director of Google's politics and issue advocacy sales team, said the information available on the effect of political ads on the web is starting to grow, but detailed research on effectiveness is still in its infancy.
He said there are indications that web ads can help candidates raise money -- but whether the advertising translates into votes and which do so best is less clear. He said initial research suggests that people who register to vote because of web ads do actually vote.
NDN President Simon Rosenberg said the 30-second TV ad isn't yet over, but he said the growth of DVRs and commercial skipping could force politicians, like other advertisers, to look more closely at alternatives.
Plenty of debate for everyone
Meanwhile, in another part of town, the Huffington Post, along with Universal Music and Political IQ, sponsored a luncheon further exploring the new-media/old-media divide in politics. Most of the discussion revolved around well-trod issues about content control and the trade-off between old-media expertise and new-media's engagement. The panel included Washington Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth (who is clearly over the term "old media"), George Stephanopoulos, YouTube founder Chad Hurley, "Saturday Night Live" comic Fred Armisen, Rahm Emanuel, Will.i.am, Matt Gerson, senior VP-public policy and government relations for Universal Music Group, and Arianna Huffington.
As Huffington pointed out, "Back in 2004, this panel could not have existed," since neither Huffington Post nor YouTube had been created. And new-media panels such as this probably wouldn't have drawn a 400-person crowd into a grand ballroom for a salmon lunch.
Most of the panelists seemed ready to move beyond the old-media vs. new-media debate, but Will.i.am proved a crowd pleaser by trumpeting the glories of new media and peer-to-peer sharing.
But as Huffington later wrote on her blog, "The old debate pitting print vs. online is obsolete." Indeed, perhaps the most interesting segment was when panelist tried -- mostly in vain -- to guess what new medium will come down the pike prior to 2012 and how it will shape that year's election for politicians as well as old and new media alike.