Is Labour’s digital dominance starting to counter the Tories’ advantage in the print media?

Labour's digital campaign was vastly more effective


The readers of six of Britain’s ten most prominent national newspapers are more likely to vote Conservative, according to YouGov’s post-election survey, suggesting that the print media continues to benefit the Tories more than Labour.

As the graph below shows, over three-quarters or more of Telegraph, Express and Mail readers voted Tory, along with 59 per cent of Sun readers and 58 per cent of Times readers. The FT’s readership is more balanced, with 40 per cent voting Tory to 39 per cent voting Labour.

This loyalty to the Conservatives — particularly among the readers of the Sun and Mail, which have the highest distributions — offers a clear advantage during election campaigns, allowing the Tories to easily disseminate messages through sympathetic editorial teams to sympathetic readers.

However, in this election Labour’s far-superior digital effort may have begun to shift that balance. Guardian report today suggests that Labour ads on Facebook and Twitter reached a much larger number of seats, and that its messaging was better-tailored to mobilise voters.

Robert Booth and Alex Hern write:

“Several observers suggested that Labour dominated the digital election because the party used Facebook, Twitter and online videos to build and motivate its voter base, rather than to attack the Conservatives.

By contrast, even in the final hours of the campaign the Conservatives were using social media to target Labour marginals rather than defend its own vulnerable seats, many of which it went on to lose.”

As Crowdpac founder Paul Hilder wrote for Left Foot Forward last week, thanks to the diffusion of influence through digital campaigning, ‘the Conservatives’ traditional advantage in getting millionaires to sign big cheques is no longer the silver bullet it once was.’

While Labour may have outspent the Tories on digital advertising, it also enjoyed the support of unofficial digital campaigns like Grime 4 Corbyn, and under Corbyn reaps the rewards of Momentum’s immense digital reach.

Hilder explains:

“Momentum, the movement which grew out of Corbyn’s leadership campaign, crowdfunded over £100,000 on Crowdpac in the opening weeks of the campaign. It swiftly put these funds to good use, building tools to help activists find their nearest marginal constituency and equipping them to get out the word; and its viral videos are regularly reaching millions of people around the country — far beyond the traditional echo chamber of the left or the media.”

The Conservative digital campaign — like the rest of its campaign — was lazy and lacking in innovation. Nor were they prepared for the power of the online Corbyn machine.

But the mobilisation of young voters, in particular, suggests that the Tories can no longer get away with falling back on their dominance of the print media.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.