Analysis of the TV viewership of the Olympics in the U.S. seems to reaffirm that television retains a prominent role in major global events. The stats, as per this article in US Today, appear fairly robust given all the distractions available to people seeking information or entertainment. But the real story here is the growth of coverage and viewership on-line. Millions tuned in to websites and blogs to watch the competitions (live and replays), peak at results or comment on the drama. The same pattern seemed to hold true for the recent political conventions in the U.S. – huge numbers for the keynote speeches but plenty of traffic and chatter online before, during and after. And the online political fundraising continues to be strong.

One conclusion to these developments is that network (or cable) TV is far from dead, particularly when it comes to seminal, high-profile events. But the other is that the Web has become a critical complement for coverage on major events, offering an array of advantages and options that are much richer than television. That lesson – that it’s often not one or the other but probably a mix – is valuable for PR professionals, who can sometimes ride bandwagons and be dogmatic and impulsive about the next big tactic – or as my friend calls it the “shiny new thing.”