Sunday Commentary: A Brave New World

bloggerlI was reminded of something a couple of days ago, by a comment from one of our readers who said something to the effect of “most of your readers agree.”  I stopped right there.  How does anyone know what the Vanguard readers think?

On any given day, somewhere around 20 different individuals post comments on a regular basis, there is another group of periodic commenters, some occasional commenters and a few that have responded only to a particular article. 
However, all told, we have over 1000 registered users and, remember, we just started requiring registration in late 2009, so in a year and a half we have amassed over 1000.  Some are duplicates, others have never been activated, but I would estimate over 1000 different individuals have registered.

Registration is the tip of the iceberg, as well.  This week, over 6000 different individuals came on this site – some as few as once, others hundreds of times. 

Since we launched this new site just over two years ago, we have had over 2 million hits, and roughly 3 million overall have visited the Vanguard.

The purpose of this column is not to give a math lesson, but to demonstrate how little we know about what most of the Vanguard readers think about anything.

That brings me to my main point here.  The supporters of Measure A ran a traditional campaign.  Contrary to popular belief, the Measure A proponents did not run a heavy money-oriented campaign.  They spent considerably less than most city council campaigns – certainly most winning city council campaigns.

Sheila Allen even noted to me on Tuesday night that there is a growing cottage industry that has grown in consulting, specifically for parcel tax elections, and none of that happened here.  There was no campaign chair.  There was only one person on paid staff, the person who organized the phone bankers.

They ran a traditional campaign, with limited mail, phone banking and word of mouth through various support organizations.

The opposition had almost no money, and they spend it poorly.  Robocalls are about the least effective way to spend money.  Particularly when people are more and more reliant on unlisted cell phones.  If they called us, we do not even use our land line, except for faxes or other rare instances.

But the No on Measure A side did do one thing very effectively, and that is use new media.  The Enterprise’s new site has changed the game even more.  Now a small group of people with a lot of time can get their message out and pound it home, simply by commenting on sites like the Vanguard and the Enterprise.

Following the Measure P campaign, we went to required registration, in part to tone down the angry posting but also in part because a lot of people would post comments under different names, even though they were the same individual.  It gave the impression that there were a lot more people commenting than actually were.

Opponents of Measure A did not need money.  They had Bob Dunning who either intentionally or unintentionally became their voice to air problems that they saw, like the District letter, their qualms about an all-mail election, the League of Women Voters, etc.

They had a few letters to the editor.  And then they could make their comments.  The Enterprise has not figured out that they need to require registration for comments and pull nasty ones.  They will learn pretty quickly, as we did two years ago.

Through that cheap and unconventional campaign, the message got out.  The supporters of Measure A should have had a group of posters waiting to respond to claims.  There were a lot of faulty claims made by opponents of Measure A, and we covered a lot of them.  Much of it had to do with the failure to understand school financing.

No longer can campaigns hope to control the message, even when they have a sizable money advantage.  A small group of persistent citizens have enough access to the voters through free media – Facebook, Twitter and blogs – that they can mobilize a good opposition with small numbers and limited means.

Any modern election needs an online media consultant to help deal with social media and blogs.  Otherwise, your message gets drowned out by a small group of opponents who can sit on the web all day and churn out falsehoods.

There is a reason why there are now a host of social media consultants and people who specialize in counter-posts on blogs.

It is a new world and the supports of Measure A are very fortunate that they did not get overrun on the web.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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8 Comments

  1. Tecnichick

    David, in the business world – Silence equals consent. People usually speak up in 2 contexts; either A – they disagree, or B – agree, but have something to add. Your articles are well covered therefore people just agree and say nothing. So of course the 20 regular bloggers look like alot. But the reality is, you are batting a 1000. I do appreciate the work that you do. You bring so many subjects to light. You dare to question injustice and try to bring change. Hang on to those 20 regular bloggers because obviously you have them thinking.

  2. Musser

    DMG, did it ever occur to you some people voted in the election for both sides that neither read the paper (or read it seldomly) don’t read blogs, and don’t follow the news?

    DMG: “Otherwise, your message gets drowned out by a small group of opponents who can sit on the web all day and churn out falsehoods.”

    excellent point. I can think of a few people who do this.

    but I think this particular claim is pretty low. I mean you put out a story or view point, you get responses, some who agree and some who don’t and when the ones that don’t try to make their case, attack them.

  3. Fight Against Injustice

    David: You do a great job talking about those tough issues that other media sources are afraid to bring up. You have a huge number of readers because the stories you publish are stories that resonate with many people.

    People in this community know that if they want to hear the details of what is going on, they have to read the Vanguard.

  4. wdf1

    The Sac Bee has been online and had comment registration for much longer, I believe. I don’t have the time to do anything scientific, but the flavor of their overall comments, to me, don’t reflect how the voters vote. There are some extremely prolific commentors, there, some of whom I expect are retired folks with some time available.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    And here again is yet another article about Measure A, and how unfair and uninformed the opposition was. But not one word about the missteps of Measure A proponents. So much for “fair and balanced”. And nothing like beating a dead horse… last time I looked Measure A did just barely pass, so the vote is over and done with already.

  6. civil discourse

    “A small group of persistent citizens have enough access to the voters through free media – Facebook, Twitter and blogs – that they can mobilize a good opposition with small numbers and limited means. Any modern election needs an online media consultant to help deal with social media and blogs.”

    This cuts both ways, of course. There is, and never will be, a free lunch.

    Access to voters by persistent citizens sound nice and populist, but super fast and easy social engineering by online media consultants sounds ominous.

    There will always be a need for electioneering experts, no matter what medium is employed. Is the Vanguard up for hire?

  7. David M. Greenwald

    “And here again is yet another article about Measure A, and how unfair and uninformed the opposition was.”

    I don’t know where you got that idea, it certainly wasn’t what this article was about other than a passing reference or two. The main point of this was about the changes to how one must conduct a campaign in an age of blogs and social media.

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