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The 2016 Election Has Been Very Good to Google

By Chris Neiger - Mar 28, 2016 at 8:42PM

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People are turning to YouTube for information and candidates are buying ads.

This election year has already gained lots of attention from voters, the media, and political pundits. And for Alphabet's (GOOG -5.14%) (GOOGL -4.95%) Google, all that attention has turned into some very good metrics for YouTube.

According to a new report (link opens PDF) put out by YouTube last week, the company's seen a massive spike in "candidate- and issues-related content" since last April. In fact, YouTube users have viewed 110 million hours of candidate- and issues-related content since that time (an increase of 485%). YouTube says this is 100 times more content than what's aired on CNN, C-Span, MSNBC and Fox News combined.

Viewers are coming to YouTube specifically for election-related news, and the video service has seen searches for this content spike by 4 times since the presidential candidates started announcing their campaigns last spring. 

And don't think that it's just the younger voters who are clicking play on political videos. Sure, 59% of those searching for these videos are under the age of 35, but one in four of the viewers are over the age of 45. 

So YouTube is a great place to find video content on candidates and political issues, and more people are using it to watch those videos in an election year. That's not all that surprising -- but what's important is how the company is using this upsurge in political content viewing to cash in on the election year (this is America, after all). 

Why this really matters for Google
Google hasn't laid out how much it's making from the uptick in political content viewing on YouTube, of course, but the company has shed some light on the increase in ad spending. 

YouTube said there's been a 294% increase in political paid views since October. The company says that political paid views now account for an amazing 77% of the site's total paid views. 

And YouTube essentially sold out of its reserve ads ahead of some of the early primaries and caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. The company said this was the first time this ever happened for Iowa and New Hampshire. 

All of this plays into a bigger theme of digital political ad spending this election cycle. According to Borrell Associates, $1 billion will be spent on political digital ads in 2016 (the first time it's crested $1 billion), which is an increase of 5,000% from similar spending in 2008. 

Foolish final thoughts
We're still too early into 2016 to know how much the election cycle could add to YouTube's revenue, but it's clear the company is already off to a great start. 

Alphabet investors should be pleased with YouTube's ability to experience such explosive ad growth during this time, even in the face of tough competition from Facebook's targeted ads. And the good times may keep on coming. Digital political ad spending will reach an estimated $3.2 billion by 2020. And if the campaigns are even half as interesting (or troubling?) four years from now as they are this cycle, YouTube will certainly benefit again. 

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