The Trouble With Twitter

thevoice_1One week ago I wrote a column titled “The Night That Twitter Changed Television” that chronicled the excitement of watching “The Voice” the night before, when NBC’s red-hot competition show initiated a new feature in its viewer voting process.

As usual, after the weekly “Voice” performance show viewers voted for their favorite performers via a number of alternatives. The elimination show the following night proceeded in the usual manner, with host Carson Daly slowly naming artists who would return the following week until the bottom three vote-getters were identified. Then, instead of announcing the name of the highest vote getter among the imperiled trio, Daly turned the whole ballgame over to viewers with Twitter accounts. In the first five of the last six minutes of the show, viewers were asked to tweet the name of the bottom dweller they wanted to save, using the hashtag #VoiceSave.



Watching all of that play out last week was actually somewhat exciting, in large part because it was something totally new that had never before been seen on a reality-competition program.

Watching it play out this week was decidedly less compelling. Gimmicks are like that. They tantalize at first, but quickly fade upon repetition.

That’s how it felt last night sitting through the final minutes of “The Voice.” There had been no indication the week before that the addition of this Twitter twist to the voting process would be an ongoing thing. I guess the response last week in the press (including this column) and on Twitter convinced NBC and everyone else associated with the show that they should stick with it for a while. For what it’s worth, according to Nielsen, the “Voice” elimination show last week generated 595,000 tweets, and two-and-a-half million distinct Twitter accounts viewed at least one of those tweets during the hour. This week, Nielsen says, the elimination show generated 778,000 tweets and almost four million distinct Twitter accounts viewed at least one of them.

Those are impressive numbers, to be sure, but do they provide enough evidence that “The Voice” should stick with the Twitter twist? Or should it be just an occasional thing? After following the aftermath response on Twitter to last week’s outcome, when tweeters saved Kat Robichaud and sent Jonny Gray and Josh Logan packing, I’m not so sure. Twitter blew up, to use an overused expression, in protest of Jonny’s departure. I have no firsthand knowledge of this, but on the #VoiceSave feed tweeters were ranting that Jonny should have been saved because he was getting so much support he was actually trending at the time. Also, tweeters fumed, many people were spelling Jonny’s name incorrectly in their tweets and, as a result, those tweets weren’t counted. (In other words, many people were tweeting “Save Johnny” or “Save Johny” rather than “Save Jonny” and those tweet-votes were ignored.)

Again, I don’t know if that was actually the case, but there was a lot of talk about it, and it does provide food for thought.

Meanwhile, Kat -- who was saved last week -- ended up in the bottom three again this week (along with Caroline Pennell and Austin Jenckes) and was dumped (along with Austin). But the closing moments of the show were so rushed that Daly didn’t even have a moment to ask Kat how it felt to be saved by Twitter one week and discarded by it the next, which would have been interesting. I really would have enjoyed hearing her thoughts about the unique situation in which she found herself.

Speaking of the show’s hurried and harried final moments, during which the winner barely has a chance to blink, the losers disappear into the shadows and the closing credits fly by on the bottom of the screen fast enough to cause a seizure, their super-speedy nature seems to compromise the drama of it all. Can’t we at least have a few tears or cheers or jeers from the winner -- or the losers -- or even a judge or two? It’s all poor Daly can do to say everything he has to say before the screen goes dark.

This crazy rush happens because the five-minute Twitter voting takes place so very near the end of the show, which runs for an extra minute into the following hour (until 10:01 p.m.). That final minute is arguably the most exciting of the telecast and likely the highest-rated. In Nielsen’s fast nationals, the rating for that minute counts toward whatever show NBC has in the 10 p.m. hour (in this case the firefighter drama “Chicago Fire”) rather than the hour that came before it. In the Live Plus Same Day numbers, the rating for that minute reverts to the actual show.

Last week I wondered how viewers who aren’t on Twitter but do engage in the show’s voting process felt about being marginalized at the last minute. I haven’t heard much about that. Apparently people are cool with it -- at least for now.



4 comments about "The Trouble With Twitter ".
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  1. William Meisel from TMA Associates, November 20, 2013 at 7:16 p.m.

    What about the whole West coast, where the show is broadcast delayed? Apparently, they are disenfranchised.

  2. Michael Greeson from TDG, November 20, 2013 at 10:16 p.m.

    Same with the mountain zone, residents of which are left out as well. Makes the entire process seem a bit arbitrary, it leaves out at least half the country.

  3. Bobby Calise from Horizon Media, Inc., November 21, 2013 at 9:11 a.m.

    Nice follow-up, Ed. I can't help but wonder about the long- and short-term effects of "breaking the fourth wall" by allowing Twitter users to dictate the results of the show (as opposed to tweeting about them as they are decided independently of their tweets). Idol was doing this via text for years, but Twitter's a little different because viewers are already tweeting about the show...but now those tweets "count." Anyway, I wonder if watching shows like this will ultimately be more or less fun if viewers/tweeters are tasked with the responsibility of writing the endings themselves.

  4. Chuck Lantz from, network, November 21, 2013 at 5:10 p.m.

    So, now viewer voting shows will be controlled by Twits, or Tweeters, or whatever they're called? (Obviously I don't use Twitter) Yet another reason not to get too emotionally involved in those results shows. But at least I did learn something interesting, about the extra minute being counted towards the "wrong" show in Nielsen
    s fast nationals. It's becoming more obvious that numbers only count at grocery stores and car dealerships.

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