Did Twitter Correctly Predict the Winner of American Idol?

As I write this, it is 9:22 GMT+8 so it’s almost an hour or so before the actual tweets announcing the winner of American Idol go out over the Twitterverse. But if some Idol-tracking scientists from universities like Harvard, Northeastern University, and the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences in Turin, Italy – social media (specifically Twitter) may have already predicted the outcome.

In their paper titled “Beating the news using Social Media: the case study of American Idol“, the scientists examined the data coming over the Twitterverse after the elimination episodes. They also considered the location of the tweets as they considered USA tweets to be more influential over the final outcome than those coming from overseas (which skew heavily towards tweets from the Philippines.) You can download the complete paper (in PDF format) here.

The conclusion?

Based on aggregated worldwide tweets, Jessica Sanchez clearly wins the Twitter popularity poll. But if you consider only the tweets coming from the USA, Philip Philips edges out Sanchez.

Considering that voting is mainly a US-based activity, geolocation is relevant. The paper concludes:

In the US, Phillip appears to have the largest fanbase of the two contestants (see also the cartogram of Figure 6). If the possibility of votes coming from abroad is discarded, using the available data, we could then claim that Phillip is going to be the winner of the 11th edition of American Idol.

** Update, it is 10:02am GMT+8 and Philip Philips was just declared the winner.

 Twitter correctly predicted the outcome.

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