Political Fragmentation

One thing that has become clear from the recent election is that traditional outlets for reaching conservatives are not delivering what they used to deliver. The chart below shows the shift in viewership for “The O’Reilly Factor” since last October. The decline in total ratings was a .75, but for the core audience of conservative viewers (from Rentrak’s Political Segmentation Schema), the decline was even greater — a 1.6 rating drop. Ratings stabilized in January, but are still way off their pre-election high.

Shift in Live HH and Conservative Viewers to The O'Reilly Factor

“Hannity” shows the same pattern. Total ratings are down by .9 and the rating among core conservative viewers was down by around double — at a 1.8 decrease.

Shift in Live HH and Conservative Viewership for Hannity

Of course, just because conservatives are not watching the tried and true the way they used to does not mean they can’t be captured on TV. The chart below shows this for a sample of networks where large concentrations of conservatives can be found.

Index of Conservative ViewershipUnfortunately, the Republicans stuck to an old style type-buying pattern, using traditional demographics and sticking to a limited number of networks. Obama for America used a privacy-protected matching process to align their key segments with Rentrak viewer data. This enabled them to buy much deeper, going to around 60 networks. Rentrak went to the Republican side and made the same offer. We were turned down. The results were much more narrow with traditional buys going only 18 networks deep.

Marketers have often talked about fragmentation with traditional targets. Obama for America was smart enough to see it happening in the political arena. It’s up to the Republicans now to recognize the reality of political fragmentation or remain in the marketing world of 2004.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

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