Predicting American Idol 8 Winners via Search & Social Media | - ymarketing
Predicting American Idol 8 Winners via Search & Social Media |

A Little History

In his book Click, Bill Tancer wrote an entire section on discussing his “making reality television show predictions using search term data as a proxy for popularity.” In Season 7 of American Idol he got it close. His final post on the predicted outcome of the show’s finale showed eventual Idol winner David Cook trailing David Archuleta by a relative margin of 30%, but he included the following caveat: “If there are no surprises in their last songs, slight advantage to David Cook.” I’m not sure the data suggested that outcome, but a big tip of the hat to Bill for bringing the world an innovative way of humanizing the science of web analytics and search. To be fair to Bill, he’s been pretty accurate at predicting Dancing With Stars winners too.

A New Spin

A few of us at ymarketing thought it would be interesting to take on the same concept, predicting Idol winners, but using many of the online tools available to us today for much less cost than a mid-five-figure Hitwise subscription. And we decided to expand the scope by adding Social Media to the data sources to perhaps give the predictions a more accurate picture of true popularity.

Data Sources

We are currently using Facebook Lexicon, Google Trends,, YouTube and Twitter as our data sources, then analyzing the keywords and traffic on these sites and other top entertainment and pop culture sites, including American Idol, Hulu, People, Pop Eater, Perez Hilton and more, with plans to make weekly updates to this content.

Twitter volume

The Prediction

As of April 9, 2009, there is just one clear front-runner. #1 in search data, #1 on YouTube, #1 on Facebook wall posts, and #1 in Tweets. But before we mention the name you’re undoubtedly whispering to yourself already, let’s examine the challengers:

Lil Rounds was the clear and away most talked about contestant on Wednesday, March 4th after her powerful performance of Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You”. Her peak on the walls of many of the nearly 200 million Facebook users reached a level 4Xs that of any other contestant that week, and stands nearly as high as the record wall post peak set on Wednesday February 18th by Danny Gokey. In search queries Lil lags far behind: She’s being out-searched 11-to-1 by the leader, and 2-to-1 by Danny.  

Kris Allen is #3 in Tweets and a distant #4 on Facebook wall posts, but has pulled even with #2 Danny in overall search query volume for April.  He is a distant #4 in searches leading to (behind Matt Giraud, who is 5thoverall), and his volume and time on site are a mere one-quarter or less of the #2 contestant–not to mention the tremendous gap he has from the leader (15-fold gap in time spent on site)!

Danny Gokey holds the record for the most mentions on Facebook in a day, and he held the lead on search queries for one week in January and most of February. His is the #2 contestant search term leading traffic to, but his time on site is just one-third of the leader. Second on Twitter Danny has half the tweets of the leader, but 5% more than his nearest challenger, Kris Allen. Danny is a solid #2 in terms of search queries leading to YouTube, but the gap between #1 and #2 is wide. In overall search queries Danny has been falling farther and farther behind: Google Trends reports the leader is beating Danny 6-to-1 as of March, and the lead has widened to 11-to-1 so far in April.

And that leads us to the clear leader in the competition so far: Adam Lambert is the 25th highest drawing referral search term to YouTube out of all searches ending up at YouTube, not just Idol related terms! Adam draws an estimated 25Xs the volume of runner up Danny and owns at least 23Xs the time spent on site. Adam had a Twitter lead of slightly more than 2-to-1, and his overall search query volume on Google has grown to 11 times that of his nearest competitor.  Although he lags Danny in the highest one day volume of Facebook wall posts, he claimed the Facebook lead on Tuesday, March 10th and has held it every single day since.

Facebook wall post volume

Although anything at all is possible, based on all the data available, I’d say that this season isn’t even close. It’s 100% Adam’s to lose. He doesn’t just have an edge, he is about to lap Danny, Kris and Lil.

Predicting Idol winners as of 04102009

As for Anoop and Allison? Good luck. In the realm of search and social media, they’re not even in the running.

Who do you think is going to win? Will Search and Social Media results translate into Popularity with phone and txt voters? What other data sources should we be looking into?