Obama campaign takes over Ohio newspaper (sort of)

Residents of Columbus, Ohio, might be forgiven if they thought their local newspaper had been commandeered Tuesday by President Obama's reelection campaign.

A major portion of the Web site for the Columbus Dispatch was taken over by advertising for Obama, whose campaign is pushing supporters to the polls as voters in the crucial swing state begin casting early ballots. By early evening, Obama for America campaign ads still flanked both sides of the newspaper's landing page, with more ads across the top and bottom and a large display ad that took up much of the remaining screen when expanded.

Scrolling down led the user to a regular Dispatch news story on... the start of early voting.

"BREAKING," the largest display ad read. "You can VOTE NOW IN OHIO." Clicking took users to an Obama campaign page with voting locations.

The sizable online ad purchase underscores the importance of Web strategy to the Obama campaign, which has spent tens of millions of dollars on online ads this year and is ubiquitous on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Republican challenger Mitt Romney has also ratcheted up his presence on the Web and social media in recent weeks, though not to the extent of the Obama campaign.

There were no major Obama ads Tuesday afternoon on the Web sites of two other major Ohio newspapers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Philip Pikelny, vice president of Dispatch Digital, which oversees the Columbus paper's Web site, said he expected some negative reaction to the ad buy but has heard very little. He said the newspaper would welcome a similar purchase by the Romney campaign. 

"Our policy is and always has been that we're happy to afford the opportunity to either campaign or any candidate locally," Pikelny said. "If the Romney campaign wanted to do the exact same thing, we would do the exact same thing for the same price."
 
Pikelny declined to divulge the cost of the ad, which ran all day.
Deputy Editor, National Politics

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