We run contests in which people submit either a photo or video, then audiences vote online each day for their favorites. When there are enough entries that many fall below the fold (particularly in mobile), how do we optimally choose the best order to present them in?
We want to balance the user experience of audience members with participants. However, audience member experience ranks first in priority.
Random order seems the most equitable, but then a particular entry could be anywhere on the page, thus making it hard to locate or predict.
Top votes first seems the most popular and best geared for casual audience members who do not know the contestants. However, the Matthew Effect (where the rich get richer) removes equitability pretty quickly.
Most recent first gives everyone a fair shake (just like on this site), but could bury top entries that came in early.
What other methods are available and practicable?
Bear in mind, users will go out and recruit their social networks to vote for them. In lesser publicized contests, this has a disproportionately high effect on ranking. In higher budget contests, the social effect is minimized against larger audience participation.