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Royal wedding – winners and losers in NZ media

May 4, 2011
royal family on balcony post wedding

Photo by Magnus D, via Wikipedia

The royal wedding was a right royal media pimp-out. Here’s how NZ’s media did.

What did they do? Twitter widgets, live streams, message walls, and photos photos photos. Also, psychic predictions from tea leaves, because English people drink lots of tea, you know. So Wills, be careful of your lower back on your honeymoon…

Lots of dedicated royal wedding sections, no surprises there, and Stuff went all out with a pretty static html landing page (Disclosure: I work for Stuff).

How did they do? TV3  and Stuff impressed by experimenting with Facebook chats, which lets people log in with their Facebook profile to comment inside a widget. It’s basically unmoderated too, so a bit scary, but really the only way to keep up with livestreams without someone full-time moderating. Here’s Stuff‘s, now unfortunately closed off, but it was fun while it was going.

The NZHerald took a different approach, using the Cover It Live software to host a reader chat. Stuff uses these all these time (like yesterday) so I dipped in a few times to see how it was going. Too much Herald staff, not enough readers for my taste, but I like the idea of sitting on your laptop chatting about what you’re watching on TV.

It’s tough to mix talking about the event with coverage of the event. But in this case, since most people were apparently watching it on TV, I think a lot of sites worried too much about the play by play, not enough about providing places for people to talk about what they were watching.

Also the NZHerald’s live stream wasn’t live streaming for most of the event, as far as I could tell, despite being prominently promoted. So plus one but minus two for the NZHerald, I’m afraid.

So did did all this whizbangery bring in lots of punters on the big night?

No. No it didn’t.

Traffic to the big NZ news websites was actually down on Friday vs previous Fridays. Here are the lovely numbers from Nielsen/NetRatings, showing domestic unique visitors:
Friday, April 29th 457019 261996 20039 307872 248272 95389
Difference from average Friday -405.375 1231.875 -237.875 -1273.63 -9225.5 -1691.25

So what gives? My hypothesis is that people were at home, so watched the “historic” event live on their TV, instead of tuning in online. If the event was during work hours, many of these people would have livestreamed it, and the internet in this country would have collapsed like the hearts of so many young women when William said “I do”.

It was an average Friday, no big news stories to lure people to the site, so traffic ended up below average when people didn’t come that night, instead choosing to spend the evening in front of the telly. I just hope they didn’t get brain damage from listening to the vapid chatter the bookended the TV3 broadcast of the event. I think I’ve been permanently stupided by it.

But the story doesn’t end there. Here’s Saturday’s domestic unique visitors from Nielsen/NetRatings:
Saturday, April 30th 388595 215786 17800 236263 186516 82035
Difference from average Saturday 6925.125 6049 -3455.5 7112.25 -23447.1 -918.75

So traffic to some sites was up on Saturday, significantly higher than average. What’s going on?

Well people watched the event on TV, but TV isn’t the internet. It’s inferior in many ways, because all it can send you is the words and pictures. There’s slim to no interactivity.

Most importantly, you can’t look at extra content if you’re interested. They only have time for a small slice of video clips available. And photos, forget about it.

So people tuned out on Friday, then came back in droves for more content after the event was over to watch extra clips, views photo galleries and read the pundits. That’s when the effort and depth of a site really mattered.

Beforehand we see the same kind of thing. Domestic unique visitors on Wednesday and Thursday were up at most sites vs average:
Wednesday 500264 288198 19251 324036 259979 94052
Difference from average Wednesday 12385.6 7653.71 2234.71 3979.43 -4312.1 4876.71
Thursday 498263 286706 19220 326447 262735 100212
Difference from average Thursday 17019.1 10039.7 1280.86 9291.86 1320 10110.1

I wish I could release Stuff’s hourly stats publicly, because they clearly show the dips and peaks to support when people tuned out and came back. But sadly, duty prevails of neato!-ness.

What’s the lesson in all this for online media? For one, don’t worry so much about live streaming or live blogging events that are on TV outside of work hours. The vast majority of your audience has TVs and prefer to watch it there (it’s also cheaper – my livestream of the event Tysoned my data cap).

People are more interested in stuff beyond that compliments what they’re watching or have watched earlier on TV – photos in particular.

It’s the extra content before and after an event like this that your readers want. Plan your strategy around this to win big.


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