Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Bacon and Twitter: a marriage made in heaven

Would you be surprised to learn that the most followed British celebrity on Twitter isn't Stephen Fry? How about if I told you it was Richard Bacon?

Yes, really. He of getting sacked from Blue Peter fame. He of occasional not being the MP Richard Bacon confusion. And he of the voiceover to Blockbuster ads.

So, what is it that has made a former second or even third fiddle to a pair of annoying puppets at least two whole @wittertainments (i.e. more than 50,000 followers) more popular than all-round national treasure, Apple fanatic and cuddly uber-geek, Mr Stephen Fry?

The somewhat surprising answer would appear to be: late night national radio.

Certainly Richard Bacon has TV presence, too, but it's hardly on the scale or noticeability of Stephen Fry's, or even that of Jonathan Ross, say - much of it, for one thing, being voiceover work. Neither is he a renowned blogger and technophile, as far as I'm aware. But what he does have is a a late night national radio show - four nights a week, between 10pm and 1am, on BBC 5live - and, most crucially, the Special Half Hour.

Notorious as a time listeners switch off and go to bed, Bacon decided to make the last 30 minutes of his show into a sort of secret club or community. It isn't trailed or even mentioned during the rest of the show, but as soon as it hits 12:30am, to quote Jane Graham in The Guardian, "[w]hat changes is Richard's tone, which becomes honeyed and familial, and is used to punctuate the show with regular reminders that we are now cocooned within the Special Half Hour and we are his 'favourite listeners'", as well as - more recently - some SHH-only special features such as listeners recording Jeremy Kyle re-enactments (other listeners have to guess the show's subtitle). Supporting all this is a Facebook Group and Richard's frequently updated Twitter account.

We've probably all read about how the internet has been a boon to radio, but here what's also at play seems to be the live element of the show - listening later on iPlayer, or to the podcast of the week's highlights, you lose that sense of everyone listening together, secretly, at the same time. The internet plays an important role, certainly, but it's only a part of the SHH's success.

Ultimately, what I think Richard Bacon's overtaking of Stephen Fry on Twitter perhaps shows us most clearly, then, is an unusually good example of mutually beneficial symbiosis between "old media" and "new media" - not to mention the power of word of mouth, likability, and a flair for building community. Or on the other hand, maybe there's just a remarkable overlap in demographics between Twitter users and people who like Richard Bacon? Whatever the case, though, there's something to be learned from it all.

Talking of radio

Remember how teenagers don't listen to radio or use Twitter? Well, here's How 31 Year Olds Consume Media. As the author says, "Don't expect it to make the front page of the FT any time soon though."

1 comment:

forgetmenot525 said...

special half hour club FINISHED ?? not good, somehow I always seem to listen to it and soon it will be no more.