Tuesday, March 13, 2012

ICT and Eurovision: The Dynamic Duo

In a slight change from our national final coverage today we consider the profound impact that ICT (Information Communication Technology) on Eurovision and Eurovision fandom.

When Eurovision began all the way back in 1956 nobody thought that it would grow into the massive contest of forty-something countries [maybe because there was not that many countries in Europe in the first place]. However until the early 2000's the contest really was quite a grand affair. It was closer to a piece of theater than the massive arena style concert that it is today.

But where did it all come from? What caused the massive boom in Eurovision after a period of declining popularity of television. Well in my view there were two major changes. The first was a rather simple one. This was the expansion of venues. This led to a change in the audience at the contest. No longer would it be an audience of government officials and the great and good of society. Now Eurovision fans can get tickets and today they descend upon any arena, in any country, in a flag waving frenzy.

The second and slightly more important change in Eurovision fandom is the growth of technology. This has allowed Eurovision fans to build more websites and blogs discussing the contest. But social media outlets like Twitter has succeeded in bring fans together in one place far more successfully then any other website. It allows for far more chat and opinion then we used to see. Twitter has also allowed Eurovision news to move from a newspaper style to a much more entertaining format with fast developing stories for us fans. Only as I was writing this news came through about Italy changing their Eurovision entry.

Other hugely important changes is the advent of live streaming online. This allows the contest to be shown anywhere and has lead to a huge growth in the numbers of fans that can watch the contest. This has lead to a growth of the contest in non-European regions such as the USA (Samantha Ross might elaborate a little further here)  regions such as Australia have the contest broadcast on TV so that doesn't really count. The other major advance with web streaming was the ability of fans to watch national final season. I think Melodifestivalen was the first to be broadcast online in 2005. This opened fans to the wonderful national final season in every country. This brought fans together much earlier in the year to see what was being chosen and the songs that were .

However of all the technology out there YouTube probably has changed the face of Eurovision and Eurovision fandom completely. Now you can watch almost every performance at Eurovision online any time you want. This also helps immensely with national finals and promotion of Eurovision entries. As someone who became interested in Eurovision through it's history rather than something else I heard many of them on YouTube before I got involved in the day-to-day ongoings of the contest.

Where to next?
Well this is the big question.

Somethings - such as Twitter or Facebook probably are broadly going to stay the way they are [unless new features are added]. However as a means of communication they are still really important. But as with many things in social media after the shock of the technology and the hysteria wears off, focus moves from the social side to what is actually being said in the media part. Anyone who, is a political nutcase/junkee like myself [I have other interests outside Eurovision] will have noticed that the tweet tracker in the Washington post probably is a fair way of gauging how the GOP race (Republican Primaries) is going. [I would also argue it is going nowhere]. Other internet trackers of Eurovision such as the Google tracker are very good at seeing who are the talked about entries. Anyone who is following National Final season on Twitter will understand the importance of using Twitter trends in gauging national finals.

YouTube on the other hand is another story. YouTube intends to launch their own TV channels to be streamed online. That certainly will be important as time passes. It may be one day possible to stream national finals using YouTube as a platform. Given that YouTube intends their TV channels will cater towards more niche areas rather than mainstream television. This possibly could lead to a Eurovision oriented channel online. [That's purely speculation by the way]

YouTube may also affect national finals. The advent of the "YouTube generation" of artists, to an extent, has changed the way the music industry works. This has had an impact on Eurovision as we now also see that "YouTube Artists" such as Peter Nalitch and Buranowskie Babuszki coming through in national finals. For performers or people who get famous Eurovision may offer an alternative method of getting before a huge audience very quickly. Other television shows, such as Britains Got Talent have turned to YouTube to find budding contestants.

Overall it is likely that these performers will bring more entertainment to the contest. But the other service that YouTube offers is it allows a national final performance to go viral. Buranowskie Babuszki's song "Party For Everyone" has done very well in under a week on YouTube. What will viral songs and YouTube do for Eurovision? Will this actually bring Buranowskie Babuszki a good result? These are all questions that will be answered in the future. All we can do for now is wait.

The last 10 years have seen an expansion of the Web 2.0 and social media. As this as occurred there has been a huge change in the way fans of the contest interact with one another. While I suspect that this will continue to change I also think that the pace of change will be somewhat slower. However I think we are only beginning to feel the effects of the Web 2.0 on the actual songs showcased in Eurovision.

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