How do the media election websites compare? (UPDATED)

The FT beat me to the punch with a review of the different election websites, so I’ll give my review a slightly different focus: which are best for local information about candidates? And if you are a candidate (or helping a candidate) what online information should you worry about making sure is correct?

BBC:

  • More extensive constituency descriptions that others listed below, but otherwise the constituency pages are surprisingly skimpy by comparison with only very limited election results and candidate information.
  • Some links to BBC news stories where there has been one relevant to the constituency.
  • Uses Thrasher & Rallings for the notional results where constituency boundaries have changed.

Financial Times:

  • Something completely different from the others: only a selection of seats and with a heavy emphasis on economic information.
  • Other than the economic information, only minimal candidate and seat information. (Despite this, I think the FT approach makes sense: why try to compete with the others when instead you can take a distinctive approach that suits your audience?)

The Guardian:

  • Detailed constituency pages with brief profile, historic results (in summary right back to 1945) and candidate information.
  • Has detailed voting records and other information culled from Parliamentary sources.
  • Includes links to candidate websites and Twitter presences (but not other social networks); links done in a very search engine friendly way
  • Displays leaflets for the seat from The Straight Choice.
  • Uses Thrasher & Rallings for the notional results where constituency boundaries have changed.

Sky:

  • Brief constituency and candidate information, with emphasis on expenses.
  • Intensive use of social media to populate constituency news pages (as I blogged about previously). Easily the most imaginative use of such information across any of the site but surprisingly low key link to these pages from the election map page, especially as the social media pages also contain more detailed constituency information too.
  • Uses Thrasher & Rallings for the notional results where constituency boundaries have changed.

The Telegraph:

  • Fairly minimal information on constituency pages so far, with all the ones I’ve checked only having a link to incumbent MP on They Work For You. However, from the design it looks like more is going to be added.
  • Also has a link to the Telegraph’s version of Vote Match which in turn (eventually) gives links to leaflets from The Straight Choice, constituency candidate information from Your Next MP and candidate policy positions from Democracy Club.
  • Uses Thrasher & Rallings for the notional results where constituency boundaries have changed.

The Times

  • Short constituency sketches but almost no candidate information (so far?).
  • Their innovation is to make use of betting odds information to provide a percentage chance of each party winning each seat.
  • Uses Thrasher & Rallings for the notional results where constituency boundaries have changed.

The Independent / Daily Express and Daily Star:

  • These three papers all have the same site, skinned branded differently.
  • Short constituency profiles but no past election results. The template looks like it is designed to have this time’s actual results added but not to carry voting history information that may be useful before polling day.
  • The sites also have a filleted selection of political news – very light for those interested in the election but a nice brief tour of events for people who are not so into politics.

Overall verdict? Sky has the most imaginative use of social media. Guardian makes the best use of accumulated data. Telegraph provides interactive system to help you work out how your beliefs match up with the politics of the different parties. The Times has some fun with betting odds. In other words, it’s worth scouting round them all.

The prominence of content from The Straight Choice will, I think, pose an issue for some Liberal Democrats who in the past have been put off by its provocative name, the lack of up front explanation that the name is based on a myth and some very partisan comments made by some involved in the site. However, given that two different sites are promoting its contents, encouraging participation is wise.

Although Your Next MP has been relatively low profile so far, a growing range of organisations is using it, including the BBC – so it is worth taking the time to ensure information there is correct and fulsome.

An honorary mention should also go to Google’s election site. Although Google isn’t a traditional media outlet, it is arguably as important or more important (discuss in no more than 500 words…) than them. Google’s offering is, so far, rather light on constituency data but provides unique content in the form of search data volumes and trends.

Finally, of course, remember that the two most important sites to get right are (a) a candidate’s own site and (b) the information on www.libdems.org.uk

Note: the sites above may well change during the campaign so if you spot any changes – or anything I’ve missed – please let me know and I will update this post.

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This entry was posted in General Election and Online politics.
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