Aside from the event's historic significance, the Obama camp has thus far successfully engaged a wide variety of audiences -- including some audiences historically less involved in the political process. The echo of that engagement will be seen next Tuesday in the ratings generated by the coverage of the ceremony, in sales of newspapers and magazines -- and subsequently, in the volume of online viewing of clips, edits, mash-ups, commentary and (who knows?) maybe even a few related spoofs.
CNN set its own records on election night, and it may well do the same for the inauguration.
But longer term, it's interesting to consider the extent to which the expertise that Obama and his team have amply demonstrated can be applied beyond the election and the inauguration (think Super Bowl, only bigger) and into regular season politics. To what extent will the sense of excitement, optimism and involvement that was so effectively cultivated on the ground during the campaign be translated through the first term of office?
And what effect might that have on ratings of news programming, Web traffic on news sites and social networks (a mainstay of the election campaign), print media sales and the email marketing business?
Right now, the Obama camp is sitting on something like ten million opt-in email addresses, which is a formidable base from which to start when looking to stimulate participation at any number of levels. If these ten million can in any measure be used to leverage the interest of larger numbers, then we have the basis for a political environment that is more participatory -- at least in how much people are informed on events of the day.
The result could / should be a greater level of interest that leads to the consumption of more information. Enter the media.
Of course, the overall narrative and the cast of characters play a crucial role - as was the case in the election. There will be scandal and embarrassment (this is politics, after all), just as there will be moments of triumph and victory. Bearing in mind the current economically and politically poisoned chalice being inherited, there is at least plenty of vested interest to stimulate ongoing involvement (over and above that created by Obama himself).
And then there is the inventiveness of the news media. We saw during the primaries and the election campaign itself how the likes of Facebook, YouTube, CurrentTV and other platforms were and are being integrated into the approach of Big Media to their coverage of the issues. Not only did we see direct collaborations between such parties, we are also increasingly seeing news organizations developing their own Media 2.0 offerings as they go increasingly cross-platform (with CNN probably the best single example).
There's nothing to suggest that such inventiveness is going to wane in the next four to eight years. Assuming President Obama (as he will be known from next week on) maintains the interest, the sense of involvement, and participation of enough of the electorate, it just may be that the news media will come to see him and his team as good news for the ratings.