Share Of Facebook: A Good Night For CNN, Facebook And America

OK, so you may not agree with the last part of the title for this column, but that's fine, since this isn't about whether or not the right guy won -- we won't know that for a while yet. Although I confess I wanted Obama to carry the day, this piece is about media, not politics, so you can read on without fear of any partisan proselytizing from me.

In common with most of the nation, my evening yesterday was held hostage to the election reporting of the unfolding drama that was always going to culminate in a historic recasting at the White House. Either way, we were in for a first of one kind or another - the first African-American president or the first female vice president. And with the cast of characters we'd been following for so long and the twists and turns the campaigns had taken, the dramatic tension and excitement was palpable, especially in my home state of Indiana -- a battleground for the first time in 44 years and one that eventually (at around 2 a.m.) was called in favor of Obama by the narrowest of margins.



Amazingly, after two years of heavy-duty campaigning through the primaries to the Big Vote, we didn't get bored and switch off. Partly it was the casting, partly the nature of the campaigns and the situation the country (and the world) found itself in. But it was also due to how this election was covered.

I've written before about the various innovations made possible by the advent of the emergent media platforms such as the social networks, YouTube, Twitter and the rest. But -- for me at least -- last night was the culmination of everything in terms of how the media landscape and how we navigate and exploit it has evolved. As ever, my TV viewing was reinforced by my interactions on Facebook (where you get to hear the Voice of the People - at least the People in your network who are active online at the time!). Last night was a frenzy of staus updates, comments, shared links, pictures and general outpourings of enthusiasm that increased as the evening wore on.

Indeed, there were times when the frenzy on Facebook almost matched the rabid enthusiasm of the pundits on our TVs (this is after all their biggest night in any four-year period -- and last night was bigger than usual with all the portent of the history that loomed). For me, the broadcast winner of the night was CNN. I dabbled elsewhere, but the investment in graphics and information design, the pace and clarity of the information, the presence of pundits from both sides of the political divide and the overall pace of the presentation won me over pretty quickly until the only other outlet I was using (in between posting on Facebook) was BBC America for a different perspective. Kudos then to CNN for what for me was some truly outstanding coverage of the election. Just to make things clear, I'm not uncritical of CNN across the board, but last night they outdid themselves (of course, having David Gergen on hand to provide some of the best political commentary going is no bad thing!).

Interestingly, when I think about my experience last night, it is clear to me that from the comments of my Friends on Facebook throughout the night, CNN seems to have achieved the largest "share of Facebook" (you heard it here first ?) of all the news outlets. Sure others were referred to -- pretty much all of them to some extent -- but none so much or so continuously as CNN.

All of this gave rise to this thought about "share of Facebook." Those of us posting last night were so intensely engaged because we were both receiving the stimuli from CNN and interacting with our Friends. It's a combination we create when we congregate together to watch a TV event -- be it an election or the Superbowl -- but to date, no broadcaster has been able to re-create it with its own TV and online offering.

So maybe the answer is a deal with Facebook for the likes of CNN. By capturing the largest "share of Facebook" among the news content players through a series of creative applications and content that relies upon the inter-relationship between the TV and computer screen, then surely the CNN audience is built and the brand is extended -- with all the inherent opportunities for revenue generation. For Facebook, there are similar opportunities in reverse.

Whether or not such relationships could ever be fully consummated such that CNN becomes "the official Facebook News partner" is another matter, but it is intriguing to think about. Certainly, the relevance of news to the Facebook user base cannot be in doubt -- and the creativity of both CNN and Facebook is up to the challenge challenge of making it work. It's just a matter of business details and the will do it. Isn't it?

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