You’d expect me to be a rabid pro-BBC Question Time nutter. Well, I am.
But I hope not averse to facts.
I’d like BBC Question Time to be the most popular thing on Twitter – certainly. But I’d only claim it if I thought it were true.
The BBC PR machine did make this claim and I think it’s false. I have commented before about the BBC Question Time PR machine. I think it’s flippant, light-headed and manipulative. (see previous posts on how it leaks “gossip” before it’s broadcast).
At first, I ignored the latest PR overstatement, but now I’m having to comment.
The latest PR travesty is David Dimblebobble’s comment on last week’s show that Question Time was bigger on Twitter than the X Factor.
At 24:04 minutes in (iPlayer) he said: “we’re now as popular as The X Factor, which is nice to know”.
I thought it was a slip of the tongue – no way, I thought.
But then The Guardian (.co.uk) ran a story which said:
- “Question Time got as big as The X Factor on Twitter”
- “David Dimbleby flippantly remarked that the show was now as big on Twitter as The X Factor”
- “A quick glance at the stats would suggest that Dimbleby’s comment is true”
Here it is:
I commented on their website saying it was a nonsense. [But comments on websites are silly - there is no reaction, no dialogue, no response].
Then the Technology Editor of The Guardian, @charlesarthur, tweeted on 21st November: “How Question Time got as big as The X Factor on Twitter” with a link to the guardian.co.uk article (sorry, I can’t find the original tweet).
My response to him on Twitter was to say that the only source which The Guardian had used was the website What The Hashtag and that was not reliable. (I’ve used it regularly – its data is total nonsense and any rudimentary testing would have spotted that). I also added a few expletives along the line of “this is a disgrace” “total screwup” etc etc.
Some tweets below (the @GabrielleNYC tweet is just an example of a retweet of @charlesarthur’s original):
I must admit to being a bit miffed.
But on reflection, it was clear to me that I had to “muck in” and try and set the record straight.
So here it is: this is NOT a scientific study, I am NOT offering FACTS. The reason is that “measuring Twitter” accurately is impossible – there is very little reliable data and repeatable analysis. And I did it quick-and-dirty in a rush to get off down the pub. But you can get enough “finger in the air” and “rough” data to get the gist of what’s happening here.
The gist is that Dimbleby was wrong, The Guardian was wrong and @charlesarthur was wrong.
All three parties propagated a mistruth. And they did it with conviction and they resented being challenged.
There are many terms about the use of hashtags and Twitter to measure (like “influence” and “amplification” ha ha) – most of them snakeoil and bogus – but the vast majority seem to indicate that The X Factor is significantly more popular than Question Time:
It’s also worth refuting a different point. The Guardian says that Twitter has given Question Time “a new lease of life” and it sings the praises of a BBC journalist by the name of Alex Hudson or @aj_hudson. His work with @bbcquestiontime is, apparently “a great example of how to involve the audience beyond those in the studio”.
And he is also quoted in The Guardian article as saying “we thought Twitter would work really well as it gives people, if nothing else, facts and debate topics to tweet around”.
He also says that on Twitter he is “really trying to push people into agreeing or disagreeing with other people”.
And of course, “he is genuinely proud of how successful our Twitter operation has become”.
This is all very grand self promotion and self congratulation. PR. It’s not really the truth.
To believe that the BBC spotted this opportunity and has driven it to success is not true. The BBC has responded, with some considerable delay, to what people on Twitter have been doing. The debate, the argument, the [beloved] hashtag, the growth, the stimulus, the the music, the dancing, the competitions, the @DIMBLEBOT, the playlists, the bbcqtbingo, pubqt, even the Facebook Page dedicated to a member of the audience with an interesting moustache – and other inventions (lots on this post) and the momentum all came from PEOPLE on Twitter. Not the BBC.
We have even asked them to do more – considerably more – with the Twitterers Manifesto for example).
For them to assume that degree of influence is not right.
What broadcasters and newspapers are slowly realising is that PEOPLE can actually now get on with quite a lot on their own – we love our telly and we can do more with it. You don’t need to control us. Just help us. We can take lots more from here.
The BBC’s use of Twitter around Question Time is growing and hugely welcome, but it is still tentative and immature: the @bbcquestiontime ID does precious little: not active for most of the time, sends out “interesting” one-off comments from the panel or audience and retweets what some viewers says.
In no way can you class the BBC’s use of Twitter around Question Time as either leading edge or bigger than The X Factor.
I think the upshot is this:
- Twitter analytics are very unreliable
- Journalists at the BBC should know better than to rely on single-source unreliable numbers to make grand claims like being “more popular than the X Factor”
- The Guardian should know better too
- The BBC and The Guardian and @charlesarthur should put the record straight
- I think it was all a big hoot for the mates at the BBC and their mates at The Guardian
- Broadcasters (well, all of us actually) shouldn’t be too self important
- I should drink more Guinness and Jaegermeister and not take things too seriously
So, I am expecting to be overruled by Wikidemons. I also expect my frail blog to be trampled by the credibility of the “reliable source” or the “reliable, published source” which they say is so important to the Wik. Anyway, we’ll see. I may be wrong.