Bloggers, BNP and the BBC

Frankly it was hardly suprising that most of last nights Question Time became a bit of slangging match. From the panel, to the audience to the twitterati. Nick Griffin still shocking as ever but not surprising in any way. It meandered its way in and out of homophobia (Stephen Gately), immigration (Winston Churchill) and racism (the KKK) – (all of whom will be starring in my script for a new west end musical – so watch this space!) – but what was most interesting, that of course wasn’t mentioned in the show as it was recorded a couple of hours previously – was the reaction on twitter.

As I mentioned during the show last night watching TV has changed dramatically when you add twitter into the mix. Some of the biggest televised events in recent months have taken on a whole new dimension when you add the live commentary of the twitterati to the mix, and the result is very interesting. From Jackson’s funeral, Obama’s inauguration to last nights BNP debacle (who co-incidental feature in part two of my musical), these events have been amplified dramatically through the help of real-time media – of which twitter has been central.

This is interesting from a number of points, firstly that of people using multiple media sources simultaneously is slowly moving into the mainstream as Alan from Broadsight’s Broadstuff blog pointed out today:

The dream of people interacting around TV programming via social networks, a key plank of Joost’s original pitch, has been shown to be valid – its just that people are using a microblogging service on standard terrestrial TV rather than herding sheeplike into the Web TV players’ own social networks

The way in which these media are now complimenting each other and providing additional functionality, as opposed to driving one or the other to the brink of extinction goes one step further to prove that we really are becoming a convergent culture, and are able to cope and adopt many different types of media, without sacrificing our time to another.

Uses of the #bbcqt tag on twitter in the run up to last night's Question Time on BBC where Nick Griffin head of the BNP was a panelist

Uses of the #bbcqt tag on twitter in the run up to last night's Question Time on BBC where Nick Griffin head of the BNP was a panelist

What is truly interesting however was the way in which twitter influenced the viewing of the programme in the first place. Last night’s programme received over 8 million viewers, more than doubling the last highest audience of 3.7 million. According to my research using Radian6 (our social media monitoring partner which we use here at Ogilvy) – the hashtag for question time – #bbcqt was used over 5000 times in the past 3 days (although the BBC reportedly say it was used 75,000 times), over half of which took place before the programme had started. The reach of these 2000+ tweets is phenomenal.

The Top 10 Tweeters who used the #bbcqt tag

The Top 10 Tweeters who used the #bbcqt tag

Looking at just the top 10 most followed twitter users who used the #tag in the past 3 days (even if they only used it once) would amount to a potential reach of nearly 250,000 followers – if you start adding up Mr Anderson’s “long tail” you begin to see the bigger picture, and how this could have some clear influence on reaching new audiences that would never usually watch the show.

The question is now, how will the BBC capitalise this in other areas? Tweeting Songs of Praise? Guess the price on Antique’s Roadshow? GPS tagged tweets during Location Location Location?

The possibilities are endless…


5 responses to “Bloggers, BNP and the BBC

  1. Hi James, really interesting article. The only thing I would question are the validity of the figures. I have been monitoring the #bbcqt hash tag for most of the day and I would say about 35% of posts (and I havent seen them all and didnt see any yesterday) are from people spamming the tag to sell crap. Now I know that these users of Twitter clearly only start doing this with highly active hash tags which would clearly indicate that there is a very high volume of posts containing the tag in the first place, but until Twitter make some serious steps to deal with this ever increasing problem I am taking most stats of this nature with a pinch of salt.

    • I completely agree, and i found that as well. If you can find anywhere the other 10 trending topics at the time then I can go back and re query the data set to look for mentions of the tag without the other trending topics which may give some purer data, however I don’t have these without trawling all 5000 mentions in the data set!

      Thanks for your interest in the blog. Connect with me on Linkedin here: or on twitter @jamespoulter

  2. I’m trying to hold out on twitter as long as possible, but I can’t wait to see your musical. What a cast!

    • You will succumb to the power of twitter soon, i can just feel it. It will get us all one day. An uprising of sorts and the fail whale will kill us all (you clearly, not being a twitter user will have any idea what i am talking about). However co-incidentally that is also the closing act of my play.

  3. Hi James,

    Yes, it is interesting to see, as you say, these events being, “amplified dramatically through the help of real-time media.”. It transforms the role of the “audience” from only a viewer to an active participant. In some cases it is happening without the event/broadcaster’s participation and, in other cases, the producer is actively embracing it. The MTV video music awards was an excellent example where the online conversation was incorporated directly into the live broadcast. MTV worked with us (Radian6) and Twitter to reflect the real-time conversation through a live on air correspondent. There were just over 2 million tweets about the VMAs. Amazing. MTV is a real innovator & completely embraces the idea of bringing the audience into the event as active participants. You can see clips of the pre-show buzz coverage in this video sequence ( and also the visualization that was live on MTV’s website here:

    So, I agree, there is tremendous opportunity for BBC and any other event producer to increase engagement through smart incorporation of online conversations into the events.

    By the way, I noticed your comment about about BBC claiming there were 75K conversations, etc… sometimes people get such numbers by opening a #hashtag search on search.twitter and leaving it there where it shows, “x new results” that increments. While this works well for low volume topics, the # of results that twitter search displays is an estimate and can show over-inflated numbers particularly for high volume tags and searches that are left open for a while.

    I’m really interested to see how things will develop in the media/entertainment space as a result of social media.

    CEO, Radian6

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