Tweeting le Tour: Connecting the Tour de France’s global audience through Twitter


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Paper presented at the ECREA conference, Istanbul, Turkey, 25 October 2012.

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Tweeting le Tour: Connecting the Tour de France’s global audience through Twitter

  1. 1. Tweeting le Tour:Connecting the Tour deFrance’s global audiencethrough TwitterTim Highfield, Axel Bruns, and Stephen HarringtonARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and InnovationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbane, Australiat.highfield | a.bruns | s.harrington @ | @snurb_dot_info | @_StephenH
  2. 2. OVERVIEW• The Tour de France as both a sporting contest and media (televised) event – Different ways of viewing the race – as a competition, as a ritualised broadcast• The global audience and social media – Does tweeting about the same event connect Twitter users around the world? – Common features in tweeting patterns among the Tour’s Twitter audience – Different ways of framing the Tour through social media
  3. 3. SPORTS AND TWITTER• Social media increasingly used by sportspeople – Self-promotion, brand management – Commentary on competition, training – Interactions with other athletes, fans • Twitter offers visible connections between spectators, sportspeople, and broadcasters as @mentions create links to other accounts - even if replies not forthcoming• Sports events also among most popular topics covered on Twitter (Olympics, FIFA World Cup) – High volumes of tweets, frequent updates
  4. 4. LIVE TELEVISION EVENTS ON TWITTER• Watching events as they occur crucial for tweeting about them – Twitter acts as a virtual loungeroom for television audiences – Broadcasters incorporate tweets into shows, online coverage – Avoiding spoilers, results from sports broadcast on delay• 140 character limit, use of hashtags make Twitter a popular tool for public discussions around television broadcasts – Automatic creation of links for each hashtag connects tweets to wider coverage of ongoing events – Does not require users to be following each other – Broadcasters promote show-specific (and even broadcaster- specific) hashtags
  5. 5. METHODS• Part of wider, ongoing research into Twitter activity (Mapping Online Publics): – Tracking of keywords / hashtags through Twitter API using yourTwapperkeeper. • Data captured include text of tweets, URLs, hashtags, @mentions/replies• Collected tweets around several hashtags, keywords, and user accounts for a more extensive overview of the Tour’s coverage on Twitter than provided by a single hashtag; including: – Race-specific hashtags (e.g. #tdf, #letour) – Keywords (“tour de france”) – Broadcaster-specific hashtags (#sbstdf) – Mentions of cyclist Twitter accounts (@bradwiggins, @cadelofficial), teams (@rsnt, @teamsky), commentators (@philliggett, @paulsherwen), non-competing riders/figures (@lancearmstrong)
  6. 6. TOUR DE FRANCE 201230 June – 22 July 2012198 riders (31 nationalities), 22 teams21 days of racing (two rest days) over 3,497kmBroadcast in 190 countries
  7. 7. OVERALL COVERAGE hashtag/keyword total tweets total users peak activity 22 July #tdf (29 June - 23 July) 559,569 145,328 (42,548 tweets) #letour (1 July - 23 July) 11,833 5583 7 July (875 tweets) “tour de france” 22 July 428,989 224,616 (29 June - 23 July) (37,732 tweets) 18 July#sbstdf (29 June - 23 July) 39,115 3185 (2851 tweets)
  8. 8. 0 10000 15000 20000 25000 30000 35000 40000 45000 50002012-Jun-292012-Jun-302012-Jul-012012-Jul-022012-Jul-032012-Jul-042012-Jul-052012-Jul-062012-Jul-072012-Jul-082012-Jul-092012-Jul-10 #TDF AS IT HAPPENED2012-Jul-112012-Jul-122012-Jul-132012-Jul-142012-Jul-152012-Jul-162012-Jul-172012-Jul-182012-Jul-192012-Jul-202012-Jul-212012-Jul-22 tweets per day2012-Jul-23
  9. 9. #TDF AS IT HAPPENED tweets per hour25000 Stage 2120000 Stage 14 (tacks)1500010000 Stage 7 Prologue 5000 0
  10. 10. #TDF, 29 JUNE – 23 JULY 2012 general clustering (degree 20+)
  11. 11. CLUSTERS AND CONNECTIONS• Distinct national clusters sharing common features: – Cyclists, teams, commentators from these countries central to @mention/RT network• Clusters connected by: – Prominent cyclists within race itself – Cyclists from one cluster also having some affiliation (often team-based) to another – Users (cycling news sites, blogs, as well as teams and riders) with an international audience rather than a national or regional focus
  12. 12. LIGGETT AND SHERWEN SBS (Australia) NBC (US) ITV (UK)
  13. 13. 0 10000 12000 14000 2000 4000 6000 80002012-Jul-012012-Jul-022012-Jul-032012-Jul-042012-Jul-052012-Jul-062012-Jul-07 tweets per day, 1 July-23 July2012-Jul-082012-Jul-092012-Jul-102012-Jul-11 TWEETING AT RIDERS:2012-Jul-122012-Jul-132012-Jul-142012-Jul-152012-Jul-16 BRAD WIGGINS (@bradwiggins)
  14. 14. 0 1000 1200 200 400 600 8002012-Jul-012012-Jul-022012-Jul-032012-Jul-042012-Jul-052012-Jul-062012-Jul-07 tweets per day, 1 July-23 July2012-Jul-082012-Jul-092012-Jul-10 TWEETING AT RIDERS:2012-Jul-122012-Jul-132012-Jul-142012-Jul-15 CADEL EVANS (@cadelofficial)2012-Jul-162012-Jul-172012-Jul-182012-Jul-192012-Jul-202012-Jul-212012-Jul-222012-Jul-23
  15. 15. 0 1000 1200 1400 1600 200 400 600 8002012-Jul-012012-Jul-022012-Jul-032012-Jul-042012-Jul-052012-Jul-062012-Jul-07 tweets per day, 1 July-23 July2012-Jul-082012-Jul-092012-Jul-102012-Jul-11 TWEETING AT RIDERS:2012-Jul-122012-Jul-132012-Jul-142012-Jul-152012-Jul-162012-Jul-172012-Jul-182012-Jul-19 FABIAN CANCELLARA (@f_cancellara)2012-Jul-202012-Jul-212012-Jul-22
  16. 16. STYLES OF TWEETS: #SBSTDF• Australian broadcaster-specific hashtag – Set up for multicultural public service broadcaster SBS and its integrated coverage of the Tour • Social hub on website combining Twitter feeds, Facebook comments, blog posts, photos, and video of the race • #sbstdf often used alongside #tdf and other related hashtags• SBS’s long-running coverage of the Tour, featuring recognisable presenters and commentators for regular audience makes each broadcast a familiar event – Viewing late at night (10pm-12am/2am local time) – Common format across stages (pre-race coverage)
  17. 17. #SBSTDF AND TROPES OF THE TOUR• Familiarisation with the SBS broadcast also leads to the identification of recurring tropes within coverage – Regularly-used phrases, stock images (chateaux, cows, sunflowers), awareness of the different presenters and quirks – #sbstdf discussion can be as much fandom for the SBS broadcast as for cycling itself –
  18. 18. #SBSTDF AND TROPES OF THE TOUR• Humour a central part of #sbstdf activity – Many of the most retweeted comments light-hearted – Fake and satirical accounts set up for SBS presenters (including pre-race chef - @fakegabrielgate) – Tropes mix and lead to additional droll content • Fake accounts promote ‘bingo’ card during one stage, based on common phrases used by commentators Liggett and Sherwen
  19. 19. JENS VOIGT AS CHUCK NORRIS @JensVoigtFacts Voigt’s official account: @thejensie @thejensie has a polar bear stretched out on the floor of his den. Its not dead, its just too scared to move. #sbstdf Welcome to viewers in WA. You just missed Jens Voigt riding so hard that a chopper got knocked off course by his wake turbulence. #sbstdf
  20. 20. FURTHER OUTLOOK• Twitter users commenting on the Tour connected through large (nation- based) clusters – Different groups bridged by shared linking to accounts of key cyclists, teams, analysts • Volume of tweets directed at riders’ accounts seems to follow fortunes during race – Global audience still appears to be subdivided, though not completely separated • Importance of broadcasters to this distribution – the Tour as a media event as well as a sporting contest – Overlapping views of race – fan-athlete communication, sports commentary, television backchannel• Tweeting styles beyond Australian context – how do different national groups (and the Tour’s Twitter audience overall) cover the Tour? – What do cyclists, teams, commentators tweet about during the race (and beyond)? What patterns of interactions are there between the audience, the competitors, and the broadcasters?
  21. 21.