Exec puts his 2 cents in on election pinball

Nielsen's John Burbank says Web, TV feed off each other

NEW YORK -- What does pinball have to do with politics and media content?

Quite a lot this election season, according to John Burbank, chief marketing officer of The Hollywood Reporter's corporate parent, the Nielsen Co.

He kicked off the second annual Media and Money conference, organized by Dow Jones and Nielsen, on Tuesday with a presentation titled "How are voters consuming the presidential election?"

Everyone knows that the growth of social networks and emergence of YouTube since the 2004 presidential election have changed the media landscape.

But Burbank said they have enabled a pinball effect for content this election season.

Case in point: About 6 million households watched Katie Couric interview Sarah Palin on TV, but clips from the chat then pinballed their way to the Web, with some videos getting 3 million views, Burbank said.

The content then bounced back to TV in the form of the "Saturday Night Live" skits featuring Tina Fey as Palin.

Those again went back to the Web to the tune of 25 million-plus views.

Burbank said he thinks this was a key contributor to the vice presidential debate drawing about 70 million viewers. "A lot of it (was) due to pinballing back and forth," he said.

As always, the key question now will be how to monetize this pinballing.

Another point Burbank made: Lloyd Braun once famously said it was his job as Yahoo media and entertainment chief to create an "I Love Lucy" moment -- original content that would transform the Internet and the content it provides and people look for online.

But Burbank believes this moment might turn out to have come out of the TV instead of the Web world -- in the form of the "SNL" skits.

The Nielsen exec also pointed out that the current election campaign hasn't led to a widely expected boom of citizen journalism via cell phones and Web videos.

No citizen journalism video has really clicked with people so far, despite "God's gift to citizen journalists, Joe Biden," he said.
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