Advertising Revenue Not Yet A Concern for Online Presidential Debates

Yahoo, The Huffington Post, and Slate will host two online-only presidential debates during the 2008 campaign, moderated by Charlie Rose. With a possible combined audience of millions, these first-ever online debates could serve not only the candidates, but a group of select advertisers as well. That is, if advertising revenue were a primary concern.

The debates--one for Republicans and one for Democrats--will feature real-time questions from the online audience and viewer questions that have been uploaded on video, and will take place after Labor Day. Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean will make opening remarks for the Democratic debate.

"Our discussions were never focused on the question of sponsorship," said Cliff Sloan, publisher of Slate. "We've decided to sponsor these debates as a public service ... as an innovative way to foster public discourse."

While both the Democratic and Republican candidates' recent forays into the Web 2.0 arenas have been well-documented, the success of these online debates could signify a high point in the trend of Internet-fueled political campaigns.

The Web has brought a sense of immediacy and transparency to next year's race for President. Running totals of campaign funds are available on top-tier news sites like, while researchers use data from search engines like to predict which candidates will be the "most searched in 2007." These diverse information sources represent viable opportunities for advertisers to reach politically savvy viewers--especially the coveted youth generation.

"These debates represent an opportunity to ... engage the new generation of young voters who spend so much of their time--and get so much of their information--online," said Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post.

While the intended focus of the debates may be delivering political information in a groundbreaking way, sources say that the right sponsors could end up with a highly captivated audience. Video of the co-branded debates will stream from a Yahoo-hosted microsite, with users submitting questions and reactions through social media platforms like Slate's The Fray and Yahoo Answers.

According to Cyrus Krohn, director of Yahoo's election strategy, these debates will help create "a directly interactive communication stream between candidates and their constituents"--which is what politics is about. In the coming months, we can expect to learn which advertisers are invited to sponsor this historic communication stream.

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