How a fish biologist living down a dead-end road can reach more Iowans than the Des Moines Register

Paul Doffing | Gary For Governor Campaign

The Des Moines Register would not write about Gary Siegwarth, nor would they include him in their polls.

The televised debates did not invite Gary.

The media have almost entirely ignored him.

The fact that the Des Moines Register ignored the statistics-focused article we sent them last week while running stories like “Iowans would be lucky to have a governor like the Fred Hubbell I know” leaves little room for speculation about their internal loyalties.

Here’s a shot of their “election coverage”:

Screenshot 2018-11-05 09.50.46

Despite the media blackout that needlessly deprived Iowa voters of a fair chance to meet and review all four candidates, we aren’t bitter. However, we do want to share an interesting lesson we’ve learned through the experience, namely that the spread of information no longer depends solely on these publications. While the media ignored Gary, he amassed over 600,000 video views in Iowa; a number equal to that of Fred Hubbell, even without the constant media attention.

How He Did It

The rate at which a social media post spreads depends on the relevance of the information. That spread of information is not based on who posted it, which means the relative number of views is an unbiased measure of popularity and interest.

On Facebook, this is called a Relevance Score. The algorithm uses it to award posts that are more interesting to viewers more exposure. It limits the reach of posts that get less engagement from viewers.

We thought it would be fitting to compare the Facebook relevance of a recent self-published article on the Gary for Governor page to an average Des Moines Register post – after all, the Register didn’t find Gary important enough to mention.

Looking at the last ten posts from each page, we can see that the Register’s last ten posts on Facebook had an average of 39 Reactions, 10 Comments, and 10 Shares per post. In contrast, the last ten posts on the Gary for Governor page averaged 94 reactions, 12 comments, and 22 shares.

The article that the Register passed on last week has now generated 222 Reactions, 12 comments, and 99 shares. If the business of Iowa’s largest newspaper is to inform and engage Iowans in an unbiased way, they’re failing.

While the Register definitely didn’t do us any favors by ignoring the story, they did give us a chance to prove that in this relevance-based age of voter engagement, a fish biologist living down a dead-end road can reach more Iowans than the Des Moines Register.

If traditional media outlets can’t be trusted to give voters and the future of our state a fair scoop, then maybe it’s time to let an unbiased computer algorithm do it for them!

Published 3:47 PM, November 5, 2018