Readership in the Political Arena

Andrew Steinberg

August 16th, 2023

For better or worse, political candidates and policy makers make headlines just as often as (if not more than) the topics they debate. While candidates have leveraged internet-connected tech and insights since the mid-90’s, the landscape they operate in has changed dramatically. Understanding what issues people care about most and how people feel about policy makers still sits at the heart of politics.

Today, we work with advocacy groups, political parties, and advisors to uncover readership around the biggest issues and candidate coverage–the good, the bad, and the ugly. In this blog, I’ll share the 3 ways we see readership leveraged in the political arena.

Identifying what stories are really moving the needle (and worthy of your attention)

Prominent politicians are mentioned in hundreds if not thousands of articles a day, some negative and some positive. Without understanding the true reach of these articles, it’s impossible to ascertain which stories are worthy of a response.

For example, say a political leader proposes a big bill that’s attracting a lot of commentary and negative feedback. Before the team pulls together a response or calls a press conference, readership can reveal that even though there’s a surge in negative coverage, more people are reading about the leader’s comment about ice cream. We worked with a group of advisors to do just this. Readership helped the team avoid further scrutiny of the bill by not responding to that story, and instead spent their time and resources focusing on something else.

Sometimes responding to a story could create more noise then the story had to begin with.

Surfacing topics driving consumer interest

Inflation, Abortion, Ukraine, Education, Gun Rights, National Debt, Climate Change, Civil Rights, Taxation, Health Care, Terrorism. There are no shortcomings of hot topics that politicians have to focus on to appeal to the public and work to effect positive change.

Aside from polling the public, how do teams know where to focus their limited energy and resources in real-time? Answering this question can help teams prioritize what they’re talking about and where. Outside of reactive PR measurement, many Memo clients leverage readership data as a proactive research tool, studying the data in the aggregate to understand how public interest on certain hot political topics ebb and flow over time.

For example, are people reading more or less about abortion, healthcare, inflation, Ukraine, etc. month-over-month and year-over-year? Every quarter, Memo’s Insights team creates a Macro Trends Report for all our customers analyzing readership trends on some of the biggest current event topics covered by the press.

Knowing what people are reading about is a leading indicator of what candidates should be talking about.

Understanding the politically leaning media landscape and accessibility

Seeing where people are reading is just as important as understanding what they are reading about. Right-leaning, left-leaning, or somewhere in between, publications with political slants can reveal a few things: the political leaning of the readers your coverage is attracting and/or the types of publications you should prioritize for similar or related news.

In Bud Light’s case, right-leaning publications attracted more than 5x the readership as left-leaning outlets reporting on a controversial Pride month social post. Digging deeper, 41% of left-leaning readership came from paywalled articles compared to less than 1% of right-leaning readership. This reveals that while coverage was clearly concentrated in right-leaning outlets, those reading about the issue were likely of much broader political views. Accessibility plays a big role in media consumption.


Looking at readership data at the article level and in aggregate over time allows teams to better understand what topics and narratives drive public interest. Using data to advise political leaders on what issues they should focus on the most can help shape successful campaigns and avoid amplifying crises.

Learn more about Memo’s approach to PR measurement.

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