Political junkies don’t decide elections. I think this is something we political junkies need to remember. As popular as the political television shows are, as big as some of the political websites are, they are but a tiny slice of the mass media market.
Earlier this year President Obama was getting flak for his “soft media” strategy. “President Barack Obama has been taking a lot of questions in the two months since his last press conference or national news interview,” reported Politico in August. “He’s just been doing them with ESPN, Entertainment Tonight, People Magazine and FM radio stations around the country, mostly to talk local sports and regional cuisine.”
Obama focused his time on being interviewed by Jay Leno, and doing feature pieces for People magazine. And it worked for him. Why? Because that’s where the people are.
Jay Leno’s ratings average anywhere from 3 million to 5 million viewers. In cable news the absolute pinnacle in terms of ratings, the most-watched show on the most-watched network, is Bill O’Reilly who averages just under 2 million total viewers.
People Magazine has a circulation of about 3.5 million. By contrast, the total global circulation for The Economist is 1.5 million with about half of that in the United States. The Atlantic? Under 500,000. National Review? Under 200,000. The only “news” magazine that even comes close is Time with 3.2 million in circulation.
But the nice thing about giving interviews to People instead of Time? Easier questions.
I think sometimes those of us who write and talk about politics a lot forget that we are not the norm within the American electorate. We, as I already wrote, do not decide elections. The people watching Jay Leno and reading People decide elections.
Conservatives need to figure out how to engage those people. I don’t think Obama’s soft media push, by itself, did Romney in. But it was a factor.