Media groups turn on Web for election cover

Mon Nov 3, 2008 3:27pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedy spoofs by Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert have made the U.S. presidential race a made-for-television event, but on Tuesday many voters will turn to the Internet to watch election night coverage.

Major media organizations expect record-breaking traffic on their Web sites as they follow results in the race between Republican John McCain and his Democratic opponent Barack Obama.

Cable network Current TV is taking its coverage a step further, relying entirely on Web users to provide its news content.

TV networks' plans for heightened Web coverage would seem to serve their audiences well. This past Friday, TV trackers at Nielsen Media released a study suggesting Web surfing and watching TV go together. Thirty percent of online activity at home happens while users are watching TV, the study found.

"Television will follow the Internet as much as the Internet will follow television, which I think is a relatively new phenomenon," said Frank Gilliam, dean of the school of public affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"When you watch CNN the commentators have laptops in front of them. That tells you all you need to know," he said.

Among major news services, CNN predicts more than 1 billion page views on its Web site, and has planned a "Your Races" feature where users can get updates on even the most remote races, from Congressional contests to state ballot measures.

The New York Times is asking its Web site visitors to take pictures of their polling places and upload them, providing an election day snapshot of the nation. The news sites will also have the up-to-the-minute election maps.   Continued...