Once reluctant Republicans start embracing Web 2.0

Study finds many more users viewing YouTube videos from GOP presidential candidates

When Democratic presidential candidates attracted the attention of Web 2.0 technology users  early this year, many Republican hopefuls were noticeably absent from the popular social networking sites.

Since then, the GOP has quietly and significantly grown its Web 2.0 presence, according to a survey released Wednesday. The survey by the Nielsen/NetRatings Internet market research firm shows that 31% of time spent viewing campaign videos on YouTube in April were to see those featuring Republican candidates. The April result marked a 21% increase from March for the Republican candidates, according to the survey.

Meanwhile, the time spent viewing Democratic campaign videos declined by 20% during the month to 69% of the total viewership time, according to the survey.

Jason Lee, a media analyst at Nielsen said Democrats took the early lead by exploiting Web 2.0 sites and technologies to their benefit. However, he noted that the anti-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y. ) "1984"  video generated significant traffic in March, which was credited to Democratic candidates and accounted for some of the party's wide margin of victory that month.

Lee also noted that Republicans benefited by broad viewership in April of  videos featuring Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) singing "Bomb, Bomb Iran" to the tune of a Beach Boys song, the study noted.

"The bottom line is, video sites like YouTube cannot be ignored in this presidential campaign," Lee said in a statement. "Candidates can either embrace them or resist them, but either way, their uploaded images are going to be a part of the public conversation."

The study concluded that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) pulled in the most viewing time from YouTube viewers in April, with 20% of the total, up 11% from March. At the same time, Clinton's videos pulled in 54% fewer viewers in April than in March. McCain led the Republicans with about 15% of the total viewing time in April, the study said.

YouTube videos related to Democratic presidential candidates attracted 377,000 unique visitors in April, compared with 1.5 million unique visitors in March, according to the report. Unique visitors to Republican candidate videos totaled 311,000 in April, up 187% from 108,000 in March, Nielsen/NetRatings said.

There was an 18% overlap between unique visitors to Democratic and Republican videos on YouTube during April, the report added.

According to TechPresident, a Web site dedicated to tracing Web 2.0's impact on the 2008 presidential race, Obama also is the most popular candidate at other popular social networking sites, with more than 104,000 MySpace friends compared with Clinton's 92,000, while his 91,000 Facebook supporters widely eclipse Clinton's 21,000.

As for Republicans, TechPresident reports that McCain leads Republicans with more than 36,000 MySpace friends, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the lead at Facebook with about 9,500 supporters.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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