Monday, 12 July 2010

After the first Twitter election comes the first Twitter World Cup

Greg Grimmer, partner, Hurrell Moseley Dawson & Grimmer, argues that real-time linear television broadcasting has been the real dominant force of the World Cup, not social media updates...

So, its finally over. The hype, the brouhaha, the noise, the cheating, the lies, the endless senseless babble, it is no more.

No more will we have to face the onslaught from print and broadcast journalists about the enormous effect that the web (and Twitter in particular) has had on this year's football shindig in South Africa, the bastions of old media will have to wait for the next big occasion to blow their Vuvuzelas' in support.

May's election was a similar story, you couldn't open a newspaper or turn on a television set without being bombarded by the number of relevant tweets and twitters that had been typing away about the day's coverage.

However, what has struck me during both these events is not the fact that people are using the real-time web properties of Facebook, Twitter and 4square to update their friends, followers and fawning acolytes of their views, observations, and insights in to the travails of Maradona and co. But instead it is the fact that both with the election (for the first time?) and with the World Cup (to a greater extent than ever before?) it has been real-time linear televisionbroadcasting that has been the real dominant force of the big occasion.

Unless you were either a politician or political journalist analysing the micro-performance of the party leaders, the election debate was a must-see real-time occasion that didn't have people pre-programming their Sky+ box in a way they do religiously for 24 or The Wire. Likewise, with sixty four games coming at you daily from the rainbow nation over the last four weeks, whether you were watching Brazil v Holland or Germany v Argentina, it didn't matter as long as you were watching it in real-time and in good company. With evening highlights programmes to catch up on what you missed during the day, the domination of linear viewing was in hindsight both an obvious result of the scheduling and an Englandesque defeat for those naysayers predicting the demise of both linear viewing and terrestrial free-to-air television.

The truth of the matter is the live election debates and the World Cup were excellent examples of how people will use multi-screen experiences to share their feelings, prejudices and humour.

We are all slowly turning into David Bowie in 'A Man who Fell to Earth' - for those with no Sci-Fi knowledge or not of a certain age, Bowie played an alien who amazed his earthling captors by being able to assimilate data from the simultaneous broadcast of a wall of television screens, not unlike my teenage son's bedroom (replete with Xbox, TV, Skye and mobile being consumed concurrently).

Like Pulpo Paul, the psychic Octopus - which is still trending on Twitter - I will make a prediction...

For a good time to come (and certainly in another four years where I can confidently predict an election and a World Cup), whenever an event can be watched in a bar with alcohol, the opportunity to watch in a mass audience will be taken up by a huge number of potential viewers and this will far out-weigh those that will chose to time-shift the event to watch in a convenient one-to-one viewing experience.

On a slightly different note and with no stats to back it up, I will lay a bet that a huge percentage to of the 250,000 people in the Madrid fan park tweeted or updated their status with something along the lines of "Estupendo!!!!! EspaƱa Campeones del mundo!!!!!"

What is it with social media and exclamation marks? That social comment will have to be the subject of another column...