I was speaking with someone last night about how the 2008 presidential campaigns are using new media (blogging, web video, social networking, etc.), and the question about how to determine the success of these campaign came up.

One of the first things that came to my mind was media exposure.  I thought back to an article that awarding winning media critic Rory O'Connor wrote about a panel discuss he attended during Advertising Week back in 2006 in which Mark McKinnon, who has advised President Bush about media, and Democratic media strategist David Alexrod participated. 

One of the key points that O'Connor pulled out of it was that those pesky attack ads that people claim to hate aren't necessarily directed towards individuals voters as they are at the media.  Even an ad shown in a small market can gain national attention if they media likes it, which makes it a success. 

The same can occur for a new media initiative. For example, Hillary Clinton had a contest to find a campaign song that she launched with a Sopranos finale inspired web video.  How much attention did that get from the media?  Lots.

However, political campaigns aren't the only ones who can produce political new media that catches the media's attention.  Think about Obama Girl…  Further, this non-campaign generated media can help or hurt the candidate, and that's why the world of new media presents both opportunities and challenges.

Since media attention is so tempting, there are a lot of attempts to bait the media (and web surfers)  in hopes of something going viral.  Granted, there is a lot of substance out there (like Chris Dodd's Debate Talk Clock), but the desire of both campaigns and individuals to get media attention can also distract the election discussion to the trivial matters. 

Don't get me wrong, I like entertainment, but what solid substance did the campaign song contest or Obama Girl contribute to the discussion?  These initiatives were successful since they got a lot of attention, but they weren't successful at sparking important dialogue.

Of course, sometimes distraction can mean success for a campaign or candidate…