The presidential election is starting to heat up.
As we head into tonight's third and final debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, polls show the gap between the two candidates has narrowed. It's going to be a race to the finish.
This is obviously great news for companies that rely on advertising to make a living. Radio stations, newspaper publishers, and television networks are high-fiving one another right now. After tonight's debate, ads will be the popular choice to get talking points across to the public.
It doesn't matter if you're for Obama, Romney, or anybody else at this point. Money's going to pour into the marketing campaigns, and media companies are going to make a lot of money between now and early November.
There are certainly plenty of smart traditional advertising plays these days. USA Today parent Gannett (NYSE: GCI ) has a generous yield of 4.4% and is trading at an earnings multiple in the single digits. Sure, analysts see flat revenue and earnings growth in 2013, but it has managed to beat Wall Street's profit targets with ease over the past year.
Most of the country's largest terrestrial radio operators are either private or part of larger conglomerates, but Cumulus Media (Nasdaq: CMLS ) is intriguing in this climate. Yes, it's had its problems with sustaining profitability in the past, but Cumulus is now fetching just 11 times next year's estimates of net income.
However, there may be an even smarter play than traditional media companies.
After all, isn't Facebook (Nasdaq: FB ) the perfect stock during a tight election?
It's not just the advertising revenue, though you know that both campaigns will be investing heavily to engage Facebook's stateside active users. Facebook itself will be alive with activity as fans of either candidate will be jockeying for position and debating on the site.
Sure, that's why many people say that they're going to stay away from Facebook until after Nov. 6, but you how many of them have truly bolted?
Facebook is in a great position to cash in this time.
Forget the fact that it's much larger now. Facebook had just crossed the 100-million-active-users mark the summer before the 2008 election. Facebook has nearly 10 times as many active users today.
It's also about the connections between users, and Facebook's ability to monetize its traffic. Sponsored Stories -- where advertisers pay to promote brands to friends of people that "like" them -- has been used by both Obama and Romney campaigns to reach out to Facebook users.
Things will intensify, and Facebook -- despite shedding half of its value since going public at $38 five months ago -- may be the ultimate winner in this presidential election run.
A world of opportunity
There's a new premium report on Facebook detailing the opportunities and challenges in store for its shareholders. The report includes a full year of updates, so time's ticking. Click here to check it out now.