One of the biggest differences between the current NHL lockout and the one that occurred in 2004-05 is the ubiquity of social media. Facebook was launched in 2004, but wasn’t available to non-students until 2006, the same year Twitter was first introduced. While other social media sites existed at the time, they had nowhere near the impact or influence of either of these two sites.
Now, a company called Fizziology is trying to use the ubiquity of social media to figure out what fans are saying about the lockout and what that might mean for the NHL in the future. In essence, they’re treating all of social media like one massive focus group.
While plenty of digital and literal ink has been spilled over what players and agents have said on social media, there hasn’t been as much focus on the fan reaction. Twitter gives players, agents, media members, and companies a direct connection to fans and the various tweets that players have sent out have been fairly well-covered, even ones that have no direct connection to the lockout, like Evander Kane’s cash-stack-cell-phone.
As for the fans, the obvious reactions, like the Twitter accounts created specifically to call for a boycott or protest of the NHL, have gotten some attention in the media, but those are red herrings. There’s novelty to them, but they rarely gain enough traction to actually make an impact. Meanwhile, the reactions of the vast majority of fans, from the hardcore to the casual, don’t get the same attention.
It’s fairly easy to understand why: the benefit of social media is that it gives everyone a voice, but that is also its main detriment. The number of NHL fans that use social media, from Twitter to Facebook to Tumblr, number in the millions. With that many voices speaking all at once, it can be very difficult to separate the signal from the noise.
Too often, the media, both mainstream and otherwise, latches on to a small subset of the Twitter or Facebook population to make a point, cherry-picking a few choice quotes from social media and treating them as if they were true of the entire population. But the alternative is to try and capture the mood of a vast swathe of the internet population at once.
Enter a company like Fizziology that attempts to do exactly that. Fizziology normally does its analysis for the entertainment industry, tracking whether films are generating buzz on social media and using that information to predict box office trends. They also identify which elements of movie trailers and TV shows are capturing the audience’s attention, information that can be used to target marketing efforts more accurately.
Now, they have turned their sights on the NHL lockout. A copy of some of their basic findings found its way into my hands, likely because they want to create a little buzz for themselves and get someone to pay for their more in-depth analysis. Whatever their motivations, there are definitely some interesting findings.
While I have no idea what units “Social Buzz” is measured in, what is clear is that Ontario cares way too much about the NHL. The sheer volume of talk surrounding the NHL lockout in Ontario dwarfs that of other major markets, to the point that it was discussed three times as much in Ontario as it was in any other market on December 14th. That’s crazy.
The bulk of the lockout discussion in the US is coming from the New York area, which shouldn’t be too surprising, with Columbus coming in dead last, which is also unsurprising. Seeing Minneapolis that far down the list is a little jarring, given the Ryan Suter and Zach Parise signings. You would think that Minnesota Wild fans would be both actively lamenting the lack of a season where they could see their new stars and also getting angry at their owner crying poor while doling out money.
The bulk of the negative sentiment is coming from Los Angeles and New York. It definitely makes sense to see so much vitriol coming out of L.A. since they just won the Cup and are likely eager for the Kings to hit the ice again.
As for the other cities, I would find it disconcerting that there isn’t more negativity surrounding the lockout. Since I suspect most of the “buzz” online about the lockout isn’t positive, that means there’s a lot of neutral discussion of the NHL lockout out there right now. That may sound okay, but that likely indicates that a lot of fans have simply stopped caring. Apathy is the last thing the NHL wants from its fans; anger at least indicates passion.
Manitobans are clearly upset that the revival of the Winnipeg Jets has been interrupted, with the largest percentage of negativity coming from them. You can see the same apathy seeping into the Canadian results, with the data from Quebec being particularly alarming. Either that or Canadiens fans are just really not looking forward to seeing their team playing again.
Ontario, however, is still fully engaged, with 46.8% of the total discussions on social media surrounding the lockout in Canada coming from that province. That is insane. Look, I get that Ontario has the largest percentage of the Canadian population, but still, it doesn’t have nearly half of the population.
Come on, Ontario, get it together.