Republican convention spokesman James Davis said viewers weary of the limping economy will be eager to tune into the GOP gathering.
"People are as engaged as they have ever been in politics right now because of the devastation they are feeling across the country. It's breathing new life and excitement into our convention," Davis said. "In Charlotte, you have an incumbent with a track record. Tampa offers something fresh and something new and a vision for moving forward."
Democratic convention spokeswoman Kristie Greco said the Charlotte gathering offered a more user-friendly experience than Republicans are promising — from first lady Michelle Obama's email to supporters in 2010 announcing the convention's location, to a family-oriented picnic the night before the convention starts for anyone who wants to participate.
"In the past, the goal was to get the message out through key voices in prime time. That's the formula Republicans are following today," Greco said. "For us, the experience has evolved from broadcasting a message to engaging people in a conversation. It's not good enough anymore to make a statement from a podium."
Both sides are promising a robust online presence, including Facebook and Twitter pages and streaming video designed for smartphones and other digital devices. "People don't watch TV the way they did even four years ago," Greco said.
But ultimately, experts say, the conventions will be successful if the nominees can leave viewers with an enduring positive message, both through pictures and words.
"Obama needs to convey a more active sense that he's a leader and that he's strong. The political convention is not a time to take shots at Bain Capital," Mischer said, referring to the private equity firm Romney once headed. "Romney needs to get more specific about how he would implement his vision. And he needs three or four catchphrases people can latch onto."
Associated Press researcher Julie Bell contributed to this report.
Follow Beth Fouhy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bfouhy
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.