Monday, 8 June 2009

The elections online

The different strengths and weaknesses of different media channels were very obvious watching the election results over the last few days.

The traditional media did a good job of comprehensive analysis both online and offline, but hours after the events, so was usually my last port of call.

The legal constraints and lack of imagination of councils mean that while they run the whole process they are very poor at communicating the results quickly or interestingly.


Twitter wins hands down for being the fastest way to find new information about counts around the country. For instance a Twitter search on ‘Bristol’ directed me to a good source of results on Bristol council’s count on Thursday night.

For the really targeted stuff, like who won the local council by election in my backyard, text messages were faster than anything the councils did, or indeed any other medium succeeded in doing.


Facebook’s status updates worked well at telling me results relevant to my Facebook friends. So I found out, for instance, about the Conservative to Lib Dem swing in Sutton courtesy of Tom Brake’s Facebook update.


The BBC worked well at giving me answers to questions like ‘What percentage of the vote did the Liberal Democrats get compared to 2004?’

However the BBC didn’t bother with sub regional results online, even though nobody really cares about regional results until they are finally announced. So for questions like ‘Who has done best in the European results in Burnley?’ discussion forums were a far better source of results.


Discussion forums such as Vote2007 and the comments threads on ConservativeHome, LabourHome, Lib Dem Voice and Political Betting were excellent for gathering together softer gossip and the feel of counts as they went on.

This is exactly the sort of thing that CNN’s panellists gather up superbly during American elections. But British forecasters seem to be comfortable with pundits who have never run an election campaign, so have very few links into the grassroots campaigns.

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