18 Jun 2014

800,000 tweets a minute – The world cup goes digital

We’re a week into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and it has so far been even greater than anyone expected. Were it not for Iran’s 0-0 draw with Nigeria stinking the place out on Tuesday, every game so far would have had goals – and by the bucketload. The tournament threatened to be overshadowed by the allegations of corruption aimed at Fifa and the protests in Brazil – but, as is often the case, as soon as the football started there was only one thing to talk about.

And don’t we talk. Technology is fundamentally shifting the ways in which we watch football and the social relationship we have with the beautiful game – and each other.

Technology solutions are all the rage at this tournament. Fifa’s goalline technology, used at the World Cup for the first time (welcomed in after the Frank Lampard ‘goal’ debacle in Bloemfontein got its first run out in the France-Honduras match – an inauspicious grand opening (Noel Valladares, the Honduran goalkeeper fumbled the ball over his own line) – to real success, even if it confused the BBC’s Jonathan Pearce.

While Twitter was well into its stride during the 2010 World Cup, the social network has reached peak match fitness this time around, adopting colourful flag hashtags and featuring live score updates embedded into its interface for web users. During England’s 2-1 defeat to Italy on Saturday (booooooo!), Twitter reckon there were 7.2 million tweets sent during the game’s broadcast. That’s 800,000 tweets every minute.

Almost 200,000 tweets were sent at the moment Claudio Marchisio opened the scoring for the Italians. If there were any from England fans, they no doubt contained expletives aimed at the Three Lions’ defending. Not to be outdone, though, Daniel Sturridge equalised two minutes later, and almost a quarter of a million tweets were fired out into the Twittersphere. Also containing expletives, we’d reckon. Though the numbers dropped slightly when Mario Balotelli scored the winner for the Azzurri – heck, it was Saturday night at midnight and people have sleeping/drinking/crying in silence to do – it is clear that for millions Twitter has become an integral part of watching football.

Dual-screening is not new. The BBC’s Question Time is not the only show whose producers have tapped into the digital conversation that transcends the programme’s reception. We don’t just watch anymore – we relate via our social selves.