This is the week that voting leaks leapt out of the murky world of internet forums and into the full glare of ITV1 spotlight. In his immediate post-elimination interview, Aiden revealed that a rumour on Twitter told him he had been running third last in the voting and was therefore in danger. Dermot quickly replied, “that’s uncorroborated,” to play down the comment. Too late: the cat was out of the bag. [UPDATE, 26/11/10: Read an interview with the source of that alleged Twitter vote leak]
The leaks have been posted on the Digital Spy forum throughout the live shows over the last seven weeks. We at Sofabet were sceptical at first: anyone can claim they have the current voting figures and make up a list.
However, more often than not the information was proving correct. We were starting to think there was more than educated guesswork going on and we could share this information with our readers. Now, however, with the rumours relayed on Twitter, the cover has been blown.
First, let’s tell you the story of what happened with the leak as soon as it sprung last weekend.
When on Sunday morning, as phone lines were still open, the source of the previous leaks revealed that Paije was last, Katie second last and Aiden third last in the votes cast so far, it quickly became the most popular topic of discussion on the forum before spreading onto Twitter.
This helped motivate a core group of Paije fans to initiate a voting campaign throughout Sunday with Facebook pages and pleas on an array of internet forums. Did the extra votes lift Paije and condemn Aiden, against producers’ wishes, thus proving the importance of social media on X Factor voting?
It seems possible that had last Sunday’s leak revealed that Aiden was last in the voting figures, and Paije out of the danger zone, the result would have been a different one. Punters have to be careful with future leaks, therefore. Not only will they affect the odds as people rush to bet based on the information, the rumours can affect the voting too.
For example, it’s feasible to imagine a scenario whereby the vote Wagner campaign mobilises after a worrying leak about his poll position. Paije fans may attempt a similar rescue mission this coming weekend. Whilst it will be more difficult to affect the result as the number of acts is reduced and the amount of votes required increase, you must treat any leaks or information gleaned from social media with caution as a betting opportunity.
This is also the lesson from our very own regular commenter Nick, who has worked harder than anybody I know to find opportunities to make something out of the link between votes cast, and internet stats such as iTunes comments, YouTube views and Twitter activity for each artist.
He has made some excellent predictions so far this series, calling the bottom two correctly in Week 3 – with the surprise inclusion of TreyC. Since then, trying to perfect a system for analysing the data has not been easy – Aiden for example had higher Twitter activity than most – but Nick’s regular analysis in the comments section of our Sunday Update article, usually posted just before the results show, has become required reading here at Sofabet.
What conclusions has he reached so far? Direct correlation is difficult for a number of reasons. Mary is regularly near the bottom of iTunes stats or Twitter activity, but has not been in the bottom two probably because her voters are less likely to be using these tools. “The area that is interesting is comparing an act’s week on week activity,” he says. “Both Katie and Aiden’s activity dropped before finding themselves in the bottom two.”
So it’s when an act starts being ignored in the social media and online by those previously interested in them, that indicates they’re in trouble? “Yes. I think Aiden was the victim of voter apathy which might have been noticeable with more targeted Twitter analysis, which I’m trying to perfect. The BBC used some software during the election that was more specific.”
Nick has worked in entertainment TV for many years and has friends producing X Factor – though none of them will leak him any results. However, clearly there are some gaps in the system.
The broader lesson is that social media is harder for producers of X Factor to control. Tabloids and magazines are largely working with the show, getting privileged access to stories in return for the publicity they can offer. X Factor producers can do that with mainstream media outlets because there are a finite number of them, and both have commercial needs.
Neither is the case with social media. Whilst programme makers are obviously happy to see the show being discussed online, they must also hope that this arena doesn’t upset their best-laid plans, such as last year’s successful campaign to make Rage Against The Machine the Xmas Number 1. That’s why Aiden’s revelation last Sunday and Dermot’s quick dismissal of it was a fascinating moment.
This is just the beginning. The hype generated by the X Factor will cause more and more noise on Twitter. As difficult as it sounds, punters will need to keep their ears to the ground and a level head.