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The Source: Tracking The Political Media Landscape

Flickr user: Jerod Tarbell

An estimated 7 billion dollars was spent in the 2012 elections, according to the FEC. And as anyone who lived in a battle ground state can attest, a lot of those dollars were spent on campaign and issue ads. Who is paying for what these days is a tough issue to tackle. And up until now tabulating and indexing the ads and who was trying to influence your vote was not possible, but if a new project by the Internet Archive succeeds it will be possible to have all that ahead of election day.

The Archive will store everything broadcast in the Philadelphia region during this election cycle making it possible to rewatch any political ad within 24 hours. The voluminous project will also look for websites and other media that influence political outcomes. 

A crowdfunded project of the Sunlight Foundation called Political Ad Slueth hopes to keep up with who is buying what ad when. 

This kind of unprecedented data, which is offered to journalists and scholars for free, expand the conversation around political advertising and the ability to track campaigns and those that would manipulate the electorate.


  • Kathy Kiely, managing editor at The Sunlight Foundation
  • Roger Macdonald, director of the Television Archive at the Internet Archive
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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive