Time for the thrilling conclusion to the Bang-for-the-Buck Index, begun yesterday with the Senate installment. Follow the link for full methodological nitty-gritty, but the main thing that you need to know is that this index shows which races are the cheapest media-wise (and thus where one netroots dollar gets stretched the furthest). This list covers all House races that Swing State Project projects as Dem pickup opportunities.
The middle column lists every media market that needs to be utilized in order to blanket the district, and the number next to each market is the number of thousands of TV households in that market. The more TV households, the more expensive the market. (When a market only grazes a small part of the district where there's no major population center, I've deemed the market negligible, assuming that a smart media buyer wouldn't use that market.) The number in the right column is the sum total of the thousands of TV households in all markets in the district, which provides a relative number that indicates how expensive a media campaign in that district is.
As you'll see, there's a huge amount of variation, depending on the number of 'wasted eyeballs.' The wasted eyeballs problem becomes huge in suburban districts in major metropolitan districts, where you may be paying to advertise to people in the adjacent 10 or 20 districts as well.
Let's start with the cheap races:
Denver (1,415 *)
Salt Lake City (811 *)
Rapid City (91 *)
Billings (103 *)
Idaho Falls (115 *)
Lake Charles (negligible)
Lake Charles (94)
Columbus GA (205)
Charleston SC (284)
Myrtle Beach (266)
Des Moines (414)
Rochester MN (143)
Cedar Rapids (negligible)
Sioux City (negligible)
Lake Charles (94)
Charleston WV (478)
Washington DC (2,253 *)
You may have noticed a few asterisked races; I'll explain each one. WV-02 is partially covered by the Washington media market, which reaches into the tip of the panhandle (which is rapidly turning into DC exurbs). Advertising in DC is prohibitively expensive, so I've excluded it even though the panhandle is a populous part of the district. Like Manchester, New Hampshire (which we talked about yesteray), however, this is an unusual situation where there's a single station nearby that's considered to operate within the larger DC market, in this case in Hagerstown, Maryland. It's likely that most of the WV-02 advertising targeting the panhandle would go through this one station.
NV-02 is partly covered by the Salt Lake City market (the easternmost three counties). This area contains fast-growing Elko, so it can't be written off entirely, but again, it's unlikely that any media strategy here would include SLC.
And finally, Wyoming is a particularly perplexing case. Using just the in-state markets in Cheyenne and Casper, it's the cheapest district anywhere. However, these two markets cover only about 50% of the state's population; the rest is out-of-state markets like Denver and SLC, so a comprehensive broadcast-TV strategy would shoot Wyoming into very expensive district territory. Most likely, the outlying portions of Wyoming are targeted purely through direct mail, AM radio, possibly cable systems, and as Gary Trauner adeptly showed last time, face-to-face contact.
You may have also noticed a number of predominantly rural districts that should theoretically be cheap but in fact are very expensive; MI-07 and NC-08 are key examples, each of which are kind of located between major cities and wind up biting a corner out of a bunch of different markets. Poor PA-05 is the perhaps the worst example; it doesn't even have any TV stations in its boundaries, but it takes bites out of about 8 surrounding markets. Districts like these, again, are probably dealt with creatively, with buys in some TV markets and more focus on cable and other media.
The focus on cable, direct mail, and the like also probably becomes more important in the most expensive urban markets (New Jersey, anyone?) where even the best-financed House candidate isn't going to be able to go on the air much. As I said yesterday, much of this is conjecture (and I certainly welcome comment from anyone with more experience with campaigning in any of these districts, or media buying in general); it's just a rough guide to help netroots donors find races where their dollars might be used particularly efficiently.