Where Mr. Obama has been posting vast quantities of video from appearances around the country, Mr. McCain's team has been posting easy-to-digest 30-second and 60-second ads.
As has been widely noted, these so-called TV spots may or may not get much airtime at all, but on the web they serve as de facto national ads; they are embedded and linked to on blogs. And a few of them have ended up on national TV, free of charge, thanks to cable news channels.
Two weeks ago, for example, the McCain campaign posted a 30-second spot called "McCain Is Right," which was merely a montage of Mr. Obama crediting Mr. McCain for being right during the first debate. That video, posted right after the debate last Friday Sept. 26, helped Mr. McCain get more channel views than Mr. Obama on Saturday, a day when the nation was digesting who had won and why.
The last time Mr. McCain bested Mr. Obama on a single day was Sept. 10, the day after he posted an attack ad on his education record.
Overall, Mr. Obama is dominant on YouTube, as he is when it comes to Facebook, MySpace and site traffic. In September, Mr. Obama had 12.9 million views compared with Mr. McCain's 5.8 million. The big difference is that the Obama camp posted 206 videos to get there, while the McCain campaign posted just 40, including six radio spots with no video at all.
In September, Mr. McCain's average views per video were 150,948 compared with Mr. Obama's 59,253, according to web analytics firm TubeMogul.
Back in the early days of the campaign, Mr. Obama revolutionized web campaigning in part by taking YouTube -- and web video -- seriously. He hired a staff of 50 to produce video for both TV and the web. While Sen. Hillary Clinton would show up with one staffer to record a town meeting, Mr. Obama would show up with five to get multiple angles, cut the video on-site and post it immediately. The Obama team routinely churns out a dozen YouTube videos in a single day. Since the beginning of the campaign, Mr. Obama's channel has had 69 million views to Mr. McCain's 18 million.
But ever since the nominees were selected and Mr. McCain focused TV attack ads on Obama and posted them on the web, Mr. Obama's volume advantage has diminished.
Mr. Obama narrowly won August, 9.3 million to Mr. McCain's 7.6 million. In July, a month when Mr. McCain had some big web hits, including the now-infamous ad comparing Mr. Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, Mr. McCain had 3 million YouTube-channel views compared with Mr. Obama's 3.2 million.
On the attack
Lots of behind-the-scenes video was a great strategy for the primary, when Democrats were trying to get to know Obama, and it will no doubt be emulated in election cycles to come.
But in the general election, that strategy has become less potent, as the candidates try to score points in a more-hardened political environment.
In the election's waning days, good, old-fashioned TV-style attack ads have been Mr. McCain's not-so-secret weapon.
Of course, two can play that game. A recent McCain lead was wiped out by Mr. Obama's "Bad News" video, which imagined news coverage of a McCain win. The spot went viral one day after it was posted.
YouTube took down the video after NBC objected to the use of its news personalities in a campaign ad, and Mr. Obama's views began to plummet.
Time again to crank up the video-producing machine.