Recipe for a Newspaper/Newsletter reporting digital advertising for the 2020 Democratic primaries and US 2020 elections

Why do we need a Newspaper for the 2020 US Primaries and Presidential Election?

Daniel Kreiss’s excellent book Prototype Politics exemplifies how digital communications and data are at the frontier of US political campaigns. When the book was published targeted social media advertising libraries did not exist. In 2016 Presidential Election more than $1 billion was invested on digital political advertising, yet journalists and voters had no way of analysing what these adverts were or to whom they were being delivered. Since 2018 Facebook, Google and Snapchat have provided public access to social media advertising libraries. The 2020 primaries will, for the first time, let the public actively monitor the quality and quantity of adverts being targeted on Social Media.

A newspaper is therefore needed to provide rigorous analysis and research from students that have studied platform technologies. The UK election was run on a far smaller scale. The total spend on Google was thought to be around £1.6 million. By contrast, in the exact same time period Mike Bloomberg alone invested £1.5 million more on Google advertising. During the UK 2019 election I worked with two researchers (and four developers) to provide effective coverage of digital advertising. By contrast the scale of the US election demands far more help. Kreiss, the US expert on data driven campaigning, admitted that there is no body dedicated to monitoring social media advertising for the 2020 Democratic primaries. Therefore it is necessary to create a newspaper dedicated to covering political social media communications. In turn, this will ensure effective transparency and accountability for the Democratic Primaries and later for the Presidential election.



Targeted Advertising Libraries to study:


Facebook: During the 2019 British General Election approximately 64% of targeted advertising spend was on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. Between the 15th and the 25th $4,112,029.


Google: During the 2019 British General Election approximately 24.5% of targeted advertising was on Google and Youtube Between the 3rd of November and the 15th of December approximately $18 million dollars has been spent by Democratic candidates. Unlike the British Election Google seems to be the most popular format for targeted advertisement investment.


Snap Chat: During the 2019 Britsh General Election approximately 1.3% of targeted advertising was on SnapChat. At the last reading only three democratic candidates were targeting on SnapChat. Buttigieg was the highest spender on $34,746. Warren second with $2447. Biden on just $500. During the Uk General Election major parties invested £84,8410 advertising on the social media platform.


Themes to study:


Locational Microtargetting: We can view what states candidates are targetting provding us with key insights into what states candidates are focussing on. For instance, of 266 climate change adverts, Mike Bloomberg targeted 95.1% at Super Tuesday states, 1.5% at South Carolina, 1.5% at Maine and 1.9% at Nevada, emphasising how he is mainly concerned with campaigning on for Super Tuesday.


Demographic Microtargetting: which sex and age groups are being targeted by certain themes. For instance are negative adverts being targeted at males?


Climate Change: The Green New Deal/Paris Accord/Carbon Neutral. Tom Steyer said that CC was his number one priority.


Gun Control


Health Care


Cult of Personality




Criticism: of Trump? Of other primary candidates? Between the 14th and 20th 15.9% of Bernie Sanders adverts mentioned billionaires. Could this be seen as a swipe on Bloomberg or the fact Warren and Buttigieg have around 83 billionaires backing the two of them.


Non-Party groups: In the UK election Non-Party pro Remain groups invested 20x more than Leave, this has the ability to swing the election and focus politicians on certain topics. Between the 22nd of November and the 21st of December of the top 100 Facebook political advertisers $2,502,565 are invested in either actively condemning or supporting Democrats or Republicans. Non-Party Pro Democratic advertising totalled $1,779,227 while Non-Party Pro Republican advertising equalled $723,338.


Political Endorsements: which figures are featured endorsing certain candidates. Between the 14th and 20th of December 20 Bernie adverts featured Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.


Social Media following: Measure the social media accounts of politicians on different dates and view the way they have gained followers. This could be done weekly on FB, Insta, Twitter and YouTube. Then create graphs.


Monitoring organic social media posting: in 2016 Trump’s Twitter was one of the most important arms for his electoral victory. It is therefore important to follow the above themes through posts on FB, Insta, Twitter and YouTube.


Monitoring the overall press coverage of targeted advertisements through everything that’s posted on:




–        Quantitative overviews can be provided by one person based on the CSV provided by Google, Facebook, .

–        Qualitative researching needs to be divided between individuals. For instance one individual may have Biden/Klobuchar; Warren/Buttigieg. There are 11 candidates and therefore we probably should have at least three people doing qualitative research into policies/microtargeting, social media followings on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc.

–     Create a medium page/blog/website that will exhibit all these ideas. I have already talked with the BBC and the Times and they are interested in this work.

– Provide weekly quantitative reports on Google and Facebook spend

– To understand levels of A/B testing get a Google Ad Sheet and manually record the number of adverts and amount being spent by Presidential candidates. In the case of the Facebook political ad library breaking this will provide a manual store to measure the investment numbers provided by the social media company. In the case of the UK election Facebook lost up to £750,000 pounds worth of adverts.




Joe Biden


  • 77 years old
  • US sentaor for Delaware (1973-2009); VP of the US (2009-2017); candidate for president in 1988 and 2008
  • Twitter following (19.12.19) 4 million
  • Facebook following (19.12.19) 1.5 million
  • Instagram (19.12.19) 1.3 million


Mike Bloomberg


  • 77 years old
  • Mayor of New York City 2002-2013; CEO of Bloomberg
  • Twitter following (19.12.19) 2.4 million
  • Facebook following (19.12.19) 776,317 followers
  • Instagram (19.12.19) 247 K (3.34)



Pete Buttigieg


  • 37 years old
  • Mayor of South Bend Indiana 2012- present
  • Twitter following (19.12.19) 1.6 million
  • Facebook following (19.12.19) 510,778
  • Instagram (19.12.19) 1 million (3.11)


John Delaney


  • 56
  • US represnetatives from MD 2013-2019; maryland
  • Twitter following (19.12.19) 38 k followers
  • Facebook following (19.12.19) 356,841 followers
  • Instagram (19.12.19) 6,270


Tulsi Gabbard


  • 38
  • US representative for Hawaiii 2013 until present
  • Twitter following (19.12.19) 761.4 thousand followers
  • Facebook following (19.12.19) 438,450
  • Instagram (19.12.19) 284 k


Amy Klobuchar


  • 59
  • US senator; 2007 – present
  • Twitter following (19.12.19) 825.6 k
  • Facebook following (19.12.19) 270,547
  • Instagram (19.12.19) 140 k followers


Deval Patrick


  • 63
  • Governor of Massachusetts (2007-2015)
  • Twitter following (19.12.19) 52.4 k
  • Facebook following (19.12.19) 53,541
  • Instagram following (19.12.19) 2,751


Bernie Sanders


  • 78
  • US senator from Vermont 2007 – present; US representative VT-AL (vermont); Mayor of Burlington (1981-1989); Candidate for President in 2016.
  • Twitter following (19.12.19) 8.9 million
  • Facebook following (19.12.19) 5.1 million
  • Instagram (19.12.19) 3.9 million


Tom Steyer


  • 62
  • Hedgefunder
  • Twitter following (19.12.19) 251.2 k followers
  • Facebook following (19.12.19) 495,477
  • Instagram (19.12.19) 59.9 k


Elizabeth Warren


  • 70
  • US senator from Massachusetts 2013 – present)
  • Twitter following (19.12.19) 3.6 million
  • Facebook following (19.12.19) 3.348 million
  • Instagram 2.1 million
  • 048


Andrew Yang


  • 44
  • Founder of Venture for America
  • Twitter following (19.12.19) 1.1 million followers
  • Facebook 232,891 likes
  • Instagram 478 k


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Caucus and Primary calendar:








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