At 3:30am. CDT Friday, April 29, my iPhone blared a special royal wedding alarm: Glees Raise your glass, rousing me for the fairytale about to unfold 4,000 miles away.
And yet, my own brothers wedding last summer didnt feel as real as this — and I was standing seven feet from him as he took his vows!
I prepared with a full-out Wedding War Room: TV turned to ABCs Barbara Walters, desktop browser opened to both the official royal wedding YouTube feed and the MSNBC livefeed, an active #RoyalWedding hashtag Twitter stream on my iPhone and Facebooks British Monarchy page on my laptop. All the while, I live-tweeted, live-blogged, live-Facebook-status-updated (like this one: @JuliaAllison: No matter what, Prince Harry ALWAYS looks like he just rolled out of bed after a wild night clubbing with Ke$ha) while guzzling from the endless fountain of online royal commentary and clicking links frantically like a starving lab rat pressing a lever for bridal heroin.
At one point my mother exclaimed in delight, We have a better view than the Queen! and indeed we did. The Queen could not check out the spectacular multicam HD Westminster Abbey views on YouTube. But we could!
Media historians will likely credit these nuptials for setting a new global standard for digitally integrated, exhaustingly comprehensive 360-degree event coverage: multiplatform, interactive, and very, very social. (Some 48 hours later, the subsequent social media tidal waves created by Osama bin Ladens death served only to reinforce the trend.)
Clarence House — the official royal household of the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate and Wills) — was charged with making the ritual and tradition of monarchy relevant to the modern age, with their webpage (http://www.officialroyalwedding2011.org) promising the most digital and interactive coverage of a Royal Wedding to date, and boy, did they deliver. From YouTube to Facebook to Twitter to Flickr, nary a social media platform was overlooked. In 24 hours, the idea of royals being exclusive, isolated or unapproachable shattered like the dreams of wannabe Princess Brides (OK, fine, theres still Harry).
On Twitter, @ClarenceHouse asked its 1,33,020 followers if they wanted to see the royal wedding cake (they did!). With military precision, they issued updates on the wedding party outfits, and linked to a copy of the Bishop of Londons sermon mere seconds after he finished delivering it. Music from the ceremony could be downloaded from iTunes and official family portraits were available on the monarchys Flickr stream. Of course, the entire event was HD livestreamed and archived on http://www.you tube.com/theroyalchannel.
The couple couldnt have been more accessible than if they had stood in a reception line for a year!
Indeed, the wedding broke records of concurrent viewers — 3,00,000 on Livestream alone at 6am EDT — and dominated trending topics on Google and Twitter. Mentions of the #RoyalWedding hashtag topped 1 million by midceremony alone.
Meanwhile, Facebook recorded 6.8 million mentions in 24 hours and hundreds of tribute pages, including one titled Pippa Middleton is single — Prince Harry Likes This, which garnered 94,899 fans and comments like, Hes not the only one. (Sigh.)
Social media is now an integral part of covering a live global event like the Royal Wedding, explained Ryan Osborn, NBCs director of social media, in an email.
But all this online socialisation wasnt at the expense of television viewers. Many people used both. According to Nielsen, 9.6 million viewers tuned into NBCs Today show, its largest audience in 10 years. ABCs Good Morning America averaged 8.65 million viewers, the biggest in two decades. Meanwhile, MSNBC garnered more than 18 million video streams online.
Social media was a great complement to our TV coverage, said Osborn. In other words, TV and social media do not have to be zero-sum, but instead can create a positive feedback loop of deeper viewer interest and engagement.
I found something incredibly charming about the way the wedding was handled. I felt almost as if I were in a global stadium for a Royal Bridal Super Bowl with all my friends. I wasnt the only one:
@mrjoezee: Can we do this everyday? A world spectacle, a fairytale romance, good hats & David Beckham all before breakfast.