Shortly after the 2019 local government elections in England, Dan Slee posed a question in his excellent article, why is it so hard to find out election results.
I’d been meaning to write something about why the speed of data reporting (how quickly and frequently data gets updated and published) varies. and in doing this I can also try to answer Dan’s question too.
In almost all cases the speed of data reporting operates at the need of the business, not the end user. Sometimes these are the same, in the case of local government elections they’re not. That’s why it’s so hard to find out election results until days after an election.
On the night the best place to find results was a news organisation’s website, radio or TV channel, for example Sky News. Why? Because their business model is built around getting you the facts as quickly and as accurately as possible, and in the case of a commercial news organisation having a reputation for doing this well means selling more advertising and therefore generating more income.
Local government’s business model on the other hand, whilst it does need accurate results, doesn’t require them quickly other than at the election count itself. In fact it can take weeks for the wheels of electoral democracy to stop turning and a new leader and council is in place.
So if you want the fastest, most accurate data news organisations are always the place to go right? Well, no actually. There are other types of organisation that are even faster. Take sports results for example.
This is because betting companies and make (and lose) money based on having the most up to date and accurate data on every market they offer. Similar, share trading sites offer up to the second information on markets around the world,
So back to Dan’s question, why is it so hard to find out election results on the night, it’s because the business model of local democracy is slower than both the media, and betting and share trading companies.