PennMedia to Serve Campaign E-mails

The major presidential candidates — with one notable exception — this week agreed to insert brief campaign messages into e-mail newsletter marketer PennMedia’s newsletters.

Last week, the Chicago-based company offered five presidential candidates the chance to insert a 50-word campaign messages into e-mail newsletters the company handles, free of charge.

PennMedia announced this week that four of the five campaigns took it up on its offer, with the only abstainer being that of “Internet inventor” Al Gore.

As a result, next week, the company will insert 50-word campaign messages for presidential candidates George W. Bush, Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan and Harry Browne into e-mail newsletters. Each will receive 10 million impressions.

Figuring the average rate card CPM at $15 for PennMedia newsletters, the company will be offering the campaigns about $150,000 worth of impressions

Representatives from the Bush and Gore campaigns did not return phone calls seeking comment by press time.

Political groups and campaigns are only just beginning to use the Internet in their efforts to reach the voting public. As a result, online ad and marketing companies like 24/7 Media are attempting to capitalize on this by setting up Washington, D.C. offices — where much of their revenue would potentially come from lobbyists.

That’s partly because the two major parties are wading but cautiously into online advertising during the current election season. Jupiter Media Metrix’s AdRelevance division, which monitored the two major parties’ online advertising impressions, reports that the GOP purchased about 4.5 million impressions between mid-July and mid-August. According to AdRelevance, the Democratic National Convention purchased about 8 million in mid- to late August. Neither party is advertising currently.

PennMedia is the largest advertising network for e-mail newsletters. It reaches more than 45 million opt-in subscribers with nearly 800 different daily newsletters.

In addition to publicity, PennMedia said the work helps both the online advertising industry and, loftily enough, democracy.

“We made this offer because we felt that the presidential campaigns were not using the Internet in all its possibilities to help voters make informed decisions at the polls,” said PennMedia chief executive officer Jaffer Ali. “After all, the Internet democratizes the flow of information — and 30-second sound bites are not adequate for addressing key issues facing this country.”

The work “lets us promote the idea that the Internet is a viable medium for this kind of discourse. We made the offer as much to promote the Internet as a medium as to increase voter turnout. There’s no doubt that this can be an important inflection point for the use of the Internet.”

But on a personal side, Ali said he felt the Internet was being underutilized as a medium for disseminating political information. The candidates “all have a Web site, but if nobody visits, it doesn’t really exist,” he said.

Ali said he believed the Internet — unlike other media — is uniquely suited for democratic debate.

“You don’t get as many viewpoints — on network news, for instance, or on radio, because there are only a few voices being heard. The Internet should be the ultimate in information flow. We believe it is. The chances of it consolidating like other media are pretty remote because the cost of distribution is so low.”

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