The next presentation in this AoIR 2013 panel is by Pieter Verdegem and Evelin D'Heer, whose interest is in the role of Twitter in second-screen viewing. Twitter has been pushing this very strongly, but is social TV actually something new? We've seen attention to the social uses of television at least since the 1990s, through ethnographic research, but the use of social media has spread these practices further and connected users more widely.
Twitter can be a useful tool for measuring audience participation, but we also need to take into account the Twitter userbase in each country - in Belgium, some 20% of the population are said to be on Twitter, for example, but that group is neither demographically representative nor are they necessarily all active participants.
Pieter's study examines the tweeting around the political TV talk show De Zevende Dag, using the hashtag #7dag; tweets from viewers are shown on screen during the show, although they don't influence the live discussion much at all. The show generates strong Twitter traffic as it screens, even if it only attracts some 13% of the overall TV audience.
Hashtagged tweets around the show are mainly commenting, rather than @replying, retweeting, or sharing URLs - a common finding in studies which examine TV tweeting. Media personalities, politicians, and experts tend to receive the most @mentions, while ordinary audience members are most active in sending @mentions; only a handful of the established actors also engage with others through @mentions.
Most of the comments made engage directly with the content of the programme (51%), with discussion about the experts and politicians (25%) and the programme format (16%) next. The act of audiencing itself is rarely discussed. This means that the programme is successful in setting the agenda of the discussion.
60% of users use nicknames! and 50% provide some professional background information in their Twitter profiles. Information on age or gender is not generally forthcoming, and would need to be established through other means (e.g. surveys). Of course whether the hashtag actually constitutes an actual audience community also needs to be thought through further - people may engage with the programme through Twitter without using the hashtag.
In dealing with these data, it needs to be considered whether 'private' information should be revealed, even if it may be available from public Twitter profiles. Users did take some responsibility for their tweets when asked in interviews, and many also include "thoughts are my own"-style disclaimers for their tweets.