Rarely divulged email list stats
Hi everyone, it's Chris Bowers, Senior Campaign Director here at Daily Kos. That means I manage our activist campaigns and our email list.
There is clearly interest in the community about how we choose what actions to take at Daily Kos. You deserve to know more about that process than the glib, inappropriate answer I provided over Twitter on Friday, an answer which I am sorry for and which sparked this recommended list diary by david mizner.
Since the beginning of 2012, I implemented a new strategy of choosing what we take action on that cedes significant editorial control to the Daily Kos community. Specifically, looking at recommends and Facebook likes / shares for every single diary posted on Daily Kos (and on our Facebook page), the campaigns and activism team here at Daily Kos tries to 1) find the topics that are trending within the Daily Kos community at any given moment and 2) work to generate actions on those topics.
Once we have an action, we start testing it to small segments of our community via our blog, our Facebook page, our "pop-up" or "splash" tool, and our email list. If the action meets certain thresholds, we scale up the number of people to whom we send it. The hoped for final stage in this process is when we send our highest performing actions to our entire email list, place them on the "pop-up" splash tool that you sometimes see when you visit Daily Kos, and blog about them multiple times on the front page.
This strategy for determining actions proved wildly successful from basically the first day we tried it, and as such it is still the system we use almost seventeen months later. Our email list has grown by more than 150% during this stretch, and our action rates per email sent have increased by more than 50% during the same period. Overall, this has increased by ~400% the number of people we can get to sign a petition to, say, Harry Reid demanding filibuster reform.
I have come to the conclusion that the reason this worked so well is because you—with "you" meant as a hugely multiple plural—are way, way better at determining what actions we should take than I am. And how could you not be? How could one person, or even a small group of people, ever possibly compete with the collective brainpower of tens of thousands of people? Not to mention tens of thousands of highly engaged, news junkie progressives of the sort that frequent Daily Kos? No matter how smart one person is, no matter how politically engaged a small group of very smart people might be, there is no way for them to consistently have their finger on the pulse of the community zeitgeist more accurately than tens of thousands of people who are voting in real time with the recommend button and Facebook likes / shares.
The campaigns and activism team here at Daily Kos takes our job of supporting and serving the Daily Kos community very seriously. We always want to make sure that your voices are being heard and you are having as much impact as possible on the issues that matter most to you. The best way we have determined to do that is to pay close attention to what you guys are recommending. And even then—even when we already think we have a pretty good idea of what you are most interested in—there are still multiple layers of testing we go through to make sure we have it right. (Layers of testing which, btw, make it impossible to spam this system through a coordinated mass rec'ing or sharing. If a trending topic isn't really capturing the interest of the wider community, we will find out during the tests.)
That is the answer everyone here deserves, not the dismissive one I made last Friday. You can read more of my thoughts in this comment. Further, I'm happy to stick around for a while in the comments of this diary and talk more.
(Not that this excuses anything, but Twitter really is a terrible medium for complex thoughts, isn't it? Thankfully we have Daily Kos to blog and comment at.)