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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hey Seattle Times...? How'd That Political Advertising Experiment Work Out for You?

Posted by on Thu, Nov 8, 2012 at 6:31 AM

Allegedly, the Seattle Times purchased political ads in its own paper—about $75,000 worth each on behalf of Rob McKenna and R-74—as an experiment, in order to demonstrate to political campaigns the "effectiveness and value of political advertising in newspapers." Or at least, that's what they claimed.

So now that the election is over, it's time to analyze the results, and evaluate the effectiveness and value of political advertising in the Seattle Times.

R-74 won! Yay! But then, it was always leading in the polls. In fact, the most recent Elway Poll—conducted October 18-21, immediately following the October 17 start of the Seattle Times political advertising experiment—had R-74 up by four points. As of tonight, R-74 is leading by almost exactly four points. Elway was spot on. But unfortunately, that doesn't show any evidence of the Seattle Times ads moving voters one way or another.

But the governor's race tells a different story. That same Elway Poll had McKenna leading Democrat Jay Inslee by two points at the start of this experiment. But as of the moment, it is Inslee who is leading McKenna by better than two points. That's a four point swing in Inslee's direction! And McKenna has done particularly poorly in the Seattle Times' home market, trailing Inslee in King County by a whopping 63-37 margin. Ouch.

Presumably, had McKenna improved his standing over the course of the Seattle Times' advertising campaign and gone on to win the election, the paper's advertising sales reps would have touted that as evidence of the ads' value and effectiveness. But since McKenna actually lost ground over the course of the ad campaign, we can only assume that these ads were to blame. Indeed, one could even argue that Seattle Times cost McKenna the election!

So there you have it: A clear demonstration of the effectiveness and value of political advertising in the Seattle Times. And a cautionary tale that political consultants and media buyers would do well to heed in campaigns to come.

 

Comments (25) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
1
Beautiful.
Posted by Why are there cars? on November 8, 2012 at 6:34 AM · Report this
2
The Times called for the THIRD time yesterday after I cancelled in mid-October. The caller was clearly in a phone room, with many other voices audible behind him. The deal just kept getting better the longer we talked, finally down to a $1/week for 40 weeks. But its not about the money, I said. It's about trust. Say what you will with your editorials, but the ads were a step to far. He gave up at that point.

Seattle Met had a good piece recently about the continuing plunge in circulation, leaving them off the top 25 newspapers list for the first time.
http://www.seattlemet.com/news-and-profi…
Posted by moretent on November 8, 2012 at 7:00 AM · Report this
3
#2 Glad you posted that link, showing the Seattle Times' continued circulation slide to obscurity.And I am even happier that you did not cave to the circulation shill.

This newspaper is not connecting with its community and has not for some time. The political ads are only part of the betrayal of trust story. Some journalists have bedded with the government agencies they are actually supposed to bird-dog. When that happened, I wrote the whole lot of them off. Too bad, because I do believe some reporters there are ethical. I hope they can find work elsewhere because this rag's days are numbered and Blethen and his YES advisors have only themselves to blame.
Posted by Fizgig on November 8, 2012 at 7:30 AM · Report this
DOUG. 4
Not that we needed further proof that Frank Blethen is a fucking idiot, but here's further proof that Frank Blethen is a fucking idiot.
Posted by DOUG. http://www.dougsvotersguide.com on November 8, 2012 at 7:33 AM · Report this
5
Having never been to Seattle, much less read the Seattle Times, I always figured The Stranger's hatred of the paper was just some kind of intra-industry bickering match, but holy fuck, how can a paper even pretend to practice journalism after this? "Experiment" my ass. Advertising my ass. If your paper buys ads supporting a political candidate, you have nothing more to say to people. @2 is right on. I wish I subscribed to the Times just so I could cancel.
Posted by MRM on November 8, 2012 at 7:41 AM · Report this
6
Wouldn't it be cool if Seattle became the first big city not to have a daily newspaper, Goldy? Hi-5
Posted by ian on November 8, 2012 at 8:00 AM · Report this
7
After 30 years in the print-ad biz, let me say that the ads were really badly done: Generic, boring headlines, jumbly to look at. I'd heard about the ads before I saw them and really had to look hard to even find them. And it was a terrible idea from an ad-sales point of view because it never could have proved anything. AND nothing undermines ad sales more than undermining the credibility of the paper's content.
Posted by janele on November 8, 2012 at 8:16 AM · Report this
8
@7 What difference does it make? Currently the Seattle Times online has the headline "Ref. 74 supporters hanging on to hopes of a victory," while the Guardian, half a world away, told me eight hours ago "Washington joins Maine and Maryland in endorsing same sex marriage." Does anyone still work at the Seattle Times?
Posted by cheakamus on November 8, 2012 at 8:17 AM · Report this
Sir Vic 9
That's some fine, well deserved, spiking of the football, Goldy.
Posted by Sir Vic on November 8, 2012 at 8:17 AM · Report this
10
Sorry, that's @6.
Posted by cheakamus on November 8, 2012 at 8:19 AM · Report this
11
I feel sorry for the journalists. Very sorry. The editorial staff, not so much. A couple of them have done major damage to this community with their one-note allegiance (that would be downtown business interests). Varner is way up there. Dickie and Ramsey complete the trifecta. They don't leave their offices and have no idea of the diversity of opinion out here in SLOGland.
Posted by gator bait on November 8, 2012 at 8:32 AM · Report this
Mike 12
Nothing like a little confirmation bias to start the day.
Posted by Mike on November 8, 2012 at 8:35 AM · Report this
Fnarf 13
I'd love for a mole at the Times to pop in here and tell us how many cancellations there were over this.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on November 8, 2012 at 8:38 AM · Report this
Goldy 14
@6 Seattle has a daily newspaper?

My biggest complaint about the paper is that its publisher and editorial board neither defend nor represent the interests and values of the city named in their banner. They routinely endorse candidates Seattleites uniformly reject, they defend shipping Boeing jobs to South Carolina, and they attempt to undermine an arena in Sodo in the service of building one in Bellevue. Etc.

That aside, the Seattle Times' problems are its own. It's Frank Blethen who gambled the family jewels with his foolish venture into Maine... and lost. Yeah, the economy and business model went south, but if the paper hadn't been leveraged to the hilt it could have survived this downturn without the newsroom cutbacks that have made the paper even less relevant.

Frank likes to present his paper as a public good. Maybe so. But if so, he's been a terrible steward of it.
Posted by Goldy on November 8, 2012 at 8:51 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 15

Are there numbers so we can compare McKenna (2012) versus Rossi's performances (2008, 2004) in:

King County
The suburbs
The cities

Changes up or down, etc.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on November 8, 2012 at 8:55 AM · Report this
16
@8, Your argument about the Guardian vs. the Times actually demonstrates that the Times is the better source of accurate reporting, which is not, I don't think, the argument you meant to make. The Times isn't declaring a victory for R-74 because, as they say right in the article you cited, the state is still counting ballots and has not made the passage/failure official yet. Enough ballots have been counted to make it LIKELY it is going to pass, but it's not been made official yet (and "making it official" is not the Seattle Times's job, incidentally).

So, the Guardian is jumping the gun, declaring results that haven't been announced yet, and the Times is waiting, appropriately, for the official announcement (while also providing updated count figures) -- you know, so they don't end up "Dewey defeating Truman" the whole damn thing. Jesus. No wonder newspapers are dying. Everybody just believes everything they read online, even in newspapers from "half a world away."

The Times's advertising scheme was fucking bullshit, and every reporter who works there is as pissed about it as the rest of us. But it still doesn't change the fact those reporters are still working incredibly damn hard to do a good, unbiased job with their work. Keep that in mind while you're canceling your subscriptions. When the state has no newspapers left and all we have to rely on is the fucking Guardian, it's going to be a bad day for knowledge.
Posted by Meg on November 8, 2012 at 9:54 AM · Report this
Goldy 17
@16 Elections aren't really official until the state certifies them. It's media outlets that call elections, not the SOS office.

We called R-74 and the governor's race election night because the outcomes were obvious. Of course, it's possible we could be wrong, but would require some inexplicable late voter trend.

So the Times is just being over-cautious on R-74.
Posted by Goldy on November 8, 2012 at 10:48 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 18
Frank Blethen's Dead Dog ftw!
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on November 8, 2012 at 11:11 AM · Report this
19
@3 Name some names. I've got a pretty high opinion of the news staff (if not the ed board or ownership), which makes this whole thing all the more heartbreaking.
Posted by Hutch on November 8, 2012 at 11:26 AM · Report this
20
Well, the experiment may not have demonstrated anything concrete, but at least it only cost them $75000 and all of their credibility, which adds up to ... carry the one ... $75000.
Posted by beef rallard on November 8, 2012 at 11:52 AM · Report this
21
@20: comment of the week.
Posted by Michael H. on November 8, 2012 at 1:43 PM · Report this
22
Keep in mind, their own reporters called bullshit on one of their ads. The Seattle Times has a fact checking column, and they found that the company's ads "don't add up" (http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2…). Pretty cool stuff. I especially like the headline, since they could have easily spun the headline in a different way. In other words, while there may be plenty of reporter bias found in various parts of the paper, this suggests otherwise. I agree with the last paragraph of @16, there are still plenty of good reporters working there, but management is a bit nuts.
Posted by Ross on November 8, 2012 at 2:33 PM · Report this
23
ever heard of something called Margin of Error Goldy? it's related to polling.
Posted by ian on November 8, 2012 at 2:46 PM · Report this
24
Bailo @15:

Have you ever heard of the internet? The answer to the county-level part of your question is trivially easy to locate. Here's 2008. For 2004, you'll have to do a bit of elementary school arithmetic (if you're capable of that).

Getting down to a finer split ("the suburbs", "cities") wouldn't be easy, but if you're willing to pay me $50/hour I'd give it a shot.
Posted by N in Seattle http://peacetreefarm.org on November 8, 2012 at 3:02 PM · Report this
zachd 25
@16 OK, but the phrasing is entirely lacking.
Posted by zachd http://zachd.com on November 8, 2012 at 5:41 PM · Report this

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