Catching up with Melissa and Chris on Twitter

There is a belief, widely accepted, that the Internet is drawing audiences away from television as people refocus their time to active engagement with social media. But for television shows with social media savvy, the best of both worlds can be theirs: top shelf video production with an audience that is engaged in the conversation via Twitter.

Two new(ish) shows on MSNBC have shot out of the starting gate with a strong social media component: the Melissa Harris-Perry Show and Up with Chris Hayes, which are broadcast Saturday and Sunday mornings.  I looked at their Twitter engagement shortly after their launches (here are the older posts on Melissa Harris-Perry Show and Up With Chris Hayes).  A few months have passed since I wrote those posts; in the interim, the shows have had a chance to hit their stride.  I thought now would be a good time to revisit them and see how they’re doing!

Let’s start with the overall Twitter activity of people discussing and talking to the shows:

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Of course, the peaks represent the weekend days, when the shows air.  This chart represents the number of times each show’s hashtag was used in a tweet or the hosts were mentioned directly.  It’s not the same as viewership numbers, and you should not assume a correlation.  It’s not the same as the quality of the show, either. What it does indicate is how often the viewers go onto Twitter to talk about the shows: it’s a measure of engagement.  Or reaction — in the case of Chris Hayes on memorial day weekend, when he gave his thoughts on the term “hero”.

What’s everyone been talking about for the past month and a half?  On the MHP show, here are the most popular words in tweets during this period:

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Interesting that Romney gets mentioned a lot more than Obama.

And for Up with Chris Hayes:

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Many of these words are focused on remarks Chris made about heroism — remarks that turned out to be controversial.

Here’s the most popular hashtags used with each show (not counting the show’s official hashtag, which is on just about every tweet).  First for MHP:

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And then for Chris Hayes:

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 #p2 is the winner on both shows! (#p2 is a hashtag for progressives on Twitter.)

How about the most popular retweets over the time span (5/1 through 6/10)?  For the MHP Show: 

RT @MHarrisPerry: Also on @MHPShow we’ll discuss politics of black hair. Given the emails I get about my hair, I know y’all will want to watch this. #nerdland
RT @beardedstoner: You can’t promote family values by preventing people from forming families. #nerdland
RT @marclamonthill: This #nerdland segment on Black hair is CLASSIC. Literally, this is one of the MANY reasons why Black people need to be on TV. @MHPshow
RT @BeaconIn: Beacon Book 1: “What Parents and Educators Need to Know About Bullying Online” #nerdland (please share!)
RT @MHarrisPerry: Presidency may have aged B Obama these past few years, but I swear Michelle Obama looks younger than 4 years ago. How is this possible?

I have to admit the “black hair” segment was quite interesting1.  It definitely resonated throughout #nerdland; you see it in the spike in tweets on 6/10 and in “hair” showing up in the list of most popular words.

How about Chris?

RT @majorityfm: Chris Hayes ( @chrislhayes) Attacked For Sensible Discussion of the Word “Hero” – VIDEO: #p2 #tcot #topprog
RT @chrislhayes: Wisdom from a friend: “In these days of conglomerates – it’s hard not to find a terrible billionaire lurking behind something you love.”
RT @chrislhayes: What’s Total Destruction of the Entire American Labor Movement priced at on InTrade?
RT @NaomiAKlein: This hazing ritual @chrislhayes is being subjected to for speaking a truth outside acceptable DC discourse is how groupthink is enforced
RT @upwithchris: Very emotional video from the We Do campaign ( @CSElive) about NC’s marriage rights #Amendment1. More this wknd. #Uppers

Interesting that the most popular retweet is from a fan defending Chris for his comments on heroism (I feel bad for Chris: #uppers may appreciate subtle distinctions and philosophical discussion, but all that is lost when it becomes political fodder).

Finally, who does each show draw as an audience? Here’s a gender breakdown of the people tweeting about the shows.  First for MHP:

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MHP skews female (I’m proud to be a 43%-er!).  And for Chris Hayes:

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Almost exactly opposite.  Please note, though, assessing gender on Twitter is very imprecise — and very simplistic — and I’ve learned from MHP that gender is never simple!2

What can we conclude from all this? Both shows continue to drive an extended social network through Twitter.  The volume of tweets has held up from the start, which tells me the audience is consistently engaged from week to week.  I know that in the cold hard reality of television, success is measured by audience and advertising.  But there are lots of ways MSNBC could look to monetize the social media component of their shows, if they just lean a bit more forward!

I think it’s safe to say that the combination of both a live TV show and a Twitter audience is defying the belief that the Internet Killed the Video Star3.


1 This is what I love about the show:  I learn a lot of things from it. It’s interesting to make a distinction between things that are very important to some people and things which people in general think are important.

2 On the internet, and especially Twitter, nobody knows you’re a dog, as Twitter doesn’t ask you if you’re a human, dog, or a cat when you sign up.  Or about your gender.

3 You have to be old to get this reference, I suppose.