The price for "pre-roll" political advertising — the short ads you have to watch before featured videos on Web news sites — has nearly doubled, to $45 to $50 per 1,000 online views, from about $25 six months ago, said Rick Masterson, cofounder of CampaignGrid L.L.C., the Fort Washington-based, Republican-oriented online advertising consultant. The new price is five times 2010 levels.

Thank (or blame) the spread of Internet-by-smartphone, the social-media personal-data explosion, and especially the Supreme Court and its partisan Citizens United decision that eased campaign-spending limits, inflating political ads and rates.

"We're seeing a lot of impact from Citizens United and the Super PACS," billionaire-funded groups that buy political ads to push favored candidates and beat up rivals, Masterson said. "The political community has really embraced online video," now "sold on an auction basis, like pork bellies."

It's selling quickly. Already on popular networks, in battleground states, "they're making early buys for October and November. We're seeing video disappear for [the] two weeks before the election."

The contentious GOP presidential primaries kept CampaignGrid busy: "We've worked with Ron Paul, Michelle Bachmann, a little bit of analytics work for Rick Santorum, and for the Super PACs backing [Mitt] Romney."

CampaignGrid is hiring (staff now is 30 at headquarters, plus a smaller Capitol Hill office): "We're looking for programmers and digital strategists."

Businessmen in the hunt

A chance at U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) this fall has raised an interesting five-candidate field for Tuesday's Republican primary. It includes a couple of businessmen, both ex-Democrats: coal-company owner Sam Smith, from Western Pennsylvania, and suburban Philadelphia engineer-turned-tech entrepreneur Steve Welch. They got the state GOP committee and The Inquirer editorial-board endorsements, so we can see what those are worth.

Their resumes look like Smith's old-Pennsylvania heavy industry vs. Welch's new-Pennsylvania high tech. Candidates play to their strengths right before a vote, so it wasn't surprising to find Welch last week at Monetate, the 100-employee Conshohocken-based retail-software-maker (QVC, eBay and Dick's Sporting Goods are clients) that's growing so fast, it's been advertising for engineers and developers with posters on SEPTA's Paoli Local trains. The company plans to add 75 this year, but it's having to scramble.

Monetate boss David Brussin said the scarcity of "knowledge workers" has made him sensitive to two big national issues: education and immigration. He said he invited candidates from several races, and "Steve took us up on [the] offer."

Welch punched the right buttons, according to Brussin: He came out for "educating more engineers," and for letting foreign science grads from U.S. universities apply to work here "instead of sending them away to compete with us."

Monetate isn't making endorsements. But "across our network, people are more active and engaged in politics than they were 10 years ago," Brussin said. "It's great to see Pennsylvania politicians are becoming aware of our issues."

With the economy under pressure, businesspeople want to see government run more effectively, and more are paying attention to politics, Citizens Bank executive Daniel K. Fitzpatrick, chairman-elect of the nonpartisan Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce told me separately.

In touch?

"A lot more people with business backgrounds are upset at how Washington is adversely affecting the business community," Welch told me. President Obama and Sen. Casey aren't "bad people, but their policies are wrong, they are out of touch."

What to do about health care, which is eating corporate profit margins? Welch said he wants states to decide. Won't states feel forced to cut services to match rival states? That kind of competition has made schools and colleges more creative, he said. "Washington is broken. We need people with fresh perspectives."

Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194,, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.