Apparently there’s some sort of election approaching. You’ve probably heard about it because you watched Buzzfeed’s Brew with David Cameron, a live-streamed interview with the PM hosted by the online news site.
What’s that? You didn’t watch the Brew? Well, don’t worry, you are not alone. Apparently only 12,000 people clicked in for the live interview. At least I assume they were people and not bots with a passion for politics, but you never know these days. It’s still available to watch on demand, if you can resist the other temptations on the relevant Buzzfeed webpage such as ‘Celebrities guess what Chris Pratt smells like’.
12,000 is an ok number, but it is not a terrific live audience. Imagine Wembley Stadium with 85% of the seats vacant; that’s what 12,000 looks like. And this was despite it being much vaunted, with national media getting excited it was going to happen. As usual, it was going to change things.
The Guardian glimpsed peril for established media. Buzzfeed, it said, offers ‘the ability to reach a broad swathe of young people who are increasingly disengaged from the newspapers and broadcast TV channels that have dominated political coverage’. Even if all the viewers were ‘young people’ and not middle-aged journos checking it out, I’m not sure 12,000 counts as a ‘broad swathe’.
12,000 is an even narrower swathe when set against The Leaders Debate on ITV, which had an average live audience of 7.4 million, 18% of them 16-34 year olds. However, the real equivalent metric to an online ‘view’ would be how many people watched a decent chunk of the live broadcast and that number is more than 9.7m people (1.7 million of whom were 16-34s). Thanks to BARB we can be confident they were all human.
In fact, more people registered to vote online after seeing the TV ad encouraging them to do so during the TV debate than watched the Brew. There were 82,378 online applications made on the day of ITV’s debate and visitors to the registration site peaked at 12,500 in the minutes after viewers saw the ad.
I’m certainly not knocking the Brew. It’s heartening to see online companies investing in proper current affairs coverage as opposed to the latest quiz to determine which Game of Thrones character you are. Some, such as Vice, are a genuinely valuable addition to democratic debate. And I can see why politicians are happy to appear on them, particularly those parties who need to get their voices heard directly because they don’t enjoy the highly partial support of the majority of established newspaper brands.
The depressing part is the way the Brew story follows a familiar pattern; something is streamed live online, PR’d to the hilt and heralded by professional journalists as a replacement for/ threat to existing media only for the numbers to wilt in comparison. Remember Kate Modern? Or Felix Baumgartner? Young people continue to devour TV across all the screens now available to watch it on. Nearly 70% of 16-34s watch TV for nearly 4 hours every day and it accounts for 42% of the time they choose to spend with media, according to IPA Touchpoints. That’s a broad swathe. But it’s not just TV; according to Newsworks, about a third of young people read a newsbrand every day, whether in print or online. You’d think journalists would bother to check the stats before they start writing themselves off.
This blog originally appeared on Wallblog
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