Can online monitoring predict the Oscars?

by Eric Melin on March 3, 2010

in Blogs

With the Best Picture category at this year’s Academy Awards expanding to 10 nominees, this year’s race may be the least predictable in recent memory.

82nd-Annual-Oscars-PosterOr not.

Nobody really knows, since it is more than just the number of nominees that has changed. The Oscars are also employing a tiered voting system where Academy members rank the 10 films from best to worst and the scores determine the winner.

Even though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are the only ones whose votes actually count, I thought I’d take a look at the amount of online chatter about some of the nominees to see if there is any correlation between the movies people are talking about and the end result of the Academy’s voting.

Using Spiral16’s Internet monitoring platform Spark, I started tracking posts about the two movies that are generally considered to be the frontrunners—Avatar and The Hurt Locker—and the film that many say could be the spoiler: Inglourious Basterds.

Remember, Spark is not limited to merely social media sites. Also, because Spark is not limited to RSS-generated results, it pulls in a huge amount of data.

On Monday, I posted about setting up good search terms to get great results. This is absolutely key. For this study, I searched the title of each film and the words “best picture” to see only the posts that were equating the two in some fashion.

For The Hurt Locker, I left out the word “the” and for Inglourious Basterds, I searched for both “inglourious” and “inglorious,” knowing that everybody will catch the obvious misspelling of “bastards” in the film’s title, but might miss the more subtle misspelling of “inglorious.”

(The Nielsen Company, in a post from yesterday, appears to have made a major goof in their flawed Best Picture study. Not only did Inglourious Basterds come in last in terms of total buzz—not a chance that is accurate—but in their data chart, the movie is spelled incorrectly as well. Guess we know why it came in last! I’m also wondering how they solved the Up/Up in the Air problem, but that’s another story.)

Thankful that they are not considered to be in the top three, I purposefully ignored nominees Up and Up in the Air because differentiating the two would be nearly impossible and lead to a lot of bad data. (You can add “Pixar” as a search term for Up, but how many people are actually mentioning the studio when they talk about the movie’s Best Picture chances? 50 percent? 40?)

I set the date range to bring in results going back to Feb. 10, the day the ballots were mailed to members of the Academy. Hopefully, this brings back a total that is more relevant to the actual vote, as it reflects the online culture during the time when voters will be making up their minds.

CountsPerInsightHere is the big-picture Best Picture overview as of noon CST today:

  • Avatar leads with 42 % of the three-movie pie. It is the highest-grossing film of all-time, after all, but keep in mind these URLs are only the ones that also mention “best picture.”
  • The Hurt Locker has the second biggest total share of online chatter, with 33%.
  • Inglourious Basterds comprises 26% of this three-picture study.
  • Below are some random snippets that bear out some of the bigger themes of this race.

    Although Avatar is the most talked about so far, it also is the film that’s been seen by the most people. That means we have to assume that not all the conversation surrounding the Best Picture race is about how it’s going to win. (Check out the very first conversation excerpt.)

    Inglourious Basterds’ spoiler chances are a popular topic, as you can see by the snippets in the third box below.

    Come back tomorrow for more interesting data in our 2010 Best Picture race case study. After the Oscar telecast on Monday night, we’ll know if there’s any connection between online chatter and who wins the big prize.

    Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Xavier March 3, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Its an interesting experiment but I’m not sure how effective it is as to the accuracy. The monitoring only takes into account the amount of times that the movies are discussed, not the content of the discussion. So although avatar is the most discussed it could be that a lot of that is negative discussion by people shocked at the possibility of it taking home best picture. Whereas maybe although the posts on the hurt locker are less maybe they are more positive.

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    2 Xavier March 3, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Its an interesting experiment but I’m not sure how effective it is as to the accuracy. The monitoring only takes into account the amount of times that the movies are discussed, not the content of the discussion. So although avatar is the most discussed it could be that a lot of that is negative discussion by people shocked at the possibility of it taking home best picture. Whereas maybe although the posts on the hurt locker are less maybe they are more positive.

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