Scottish referendum: Social media, pollsters and Andy Murray

The prognosticators for today’s Scottish independence referendum are probably as anxious as the people of Great Britain – after all, the science of polling has been under siege lately as our society and its news sources have become more fragmented.


Andy Murray wraps himself in the Union Jack after winning a tennis match. (AFP photo)

Another dimension is added with the advent of social media, where emotion and a greatly accelerated news cycle can strongly influence public opinion.

Add the proliferation of mobile technology, call blocking, and the growing trend of moving away from land-lines — the traditional communication channel for pollsters collecting information — and for pollsters, predicting outcomes has become exponentially harder.

When people relied on only a few news sources, opinions were more predictable and less volatile.

As an example, just before polls opened today, British (sorry, Scottish) tennis star Andy Murray tweeted his support for the Yes vote:

What effect will this have on the vote? Is this simply preaching to supporters of the Yes side? And how will it influence the undecided?

Social media does influence opinion, but it can also be deceiving if not analyzed correctly.

During the 2011 general Canadian election, we observed that those who supported the NDP on Twitter outnumbered the Conservatives. But the Conservatives ended up winning the election (despite the NDP’s very strong showing).

We live in a very fragmented society. Ironcially, it could be even more fragmented with a “Yes” vote today.

Stay tuned.

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Amazing Race Canada (S2,E11): Spooner, Mikkelson, ice cream and hometown pride

*** Spoiler Alert ***

Season 2 of the of The Amazing Race Canada has been very successful so far, and if that trend continues the season finale will likely be the most successful episode to date.

New Brunswick

Mickey and Pete at the Hopewell Rocks, in New Brunswick.

This week’s episode saw a dramatic 25.7% increase in Twitter activity on the day of the airing compared to last week’s successful and entertaining episode 10, and compared to last year’s semi-finals episode activity was up 40.4%.

As mentioned in last week’s post, episode location typically has a dramatic effect on viewer social media interaction. Viewers look forward to the following week’s destination, and the trailer after the show can noticeably drive social media activity.

The hashtags #NewBrunswick (Episode 11′s location) and #Ottawa (the upcoming season finale location) were both in the top 10 for most-mentioned hashtags during episode 11. #NewBrunswick was mentioned in 2.8% of all tweets, and #Ottawa was mentioned in 2.4% of all tweets.

Furthermore, Ottawa was the second-most active location for twitter activity.

Toronto 23.5%
Ottawa 8.4%
Winnipeg 8.0%
Vancouver 5.6%
Calgary 5.5%

Both New Brunswick and Ottawa Tourism were very active on Twitter, which again demonstrates that The Amazing Race Canada offers an ideal platform to promote tourism.

And not only did Natalie Spooner & Meaghan Mikkelson win the leg, but they were also (once again) the most popular team on Twitter. They were mentioned in 25.3% of all tweets:

25.3% Natalie Spooner & Meaghan Mikkelson (won)
9.5% Sukhi & Jinder Atwal (eliminated)
7.7% Mickey Henry & Pete Schmalz (2nd)
6.2% Ryan Steele & Rob Goddard (3rd)

Finally, show sponsor Dairy Queen were mentioned in a very impressive 5.2% of all tweets. They were featured in one of the roadblocks and many comments either expressed cravings for their product, or were disappointed that the product placement took away from the New Brunswick location.

Air Canada’s #ACWinTheWorld contest continues to do well, and was mentioned in 2.8% of all tweets during the show.

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TIFF 2014: Robert Downey Jr. wows the crowd on Twitter

While Benedict Cumberbatch was wowing viewers inside the theater at TIFF 2014, it was Robert Downey Jr. who was drawing an audience outside on the red carpet.

We analyzed over 250,000 TIFF tweets between September 4 and 14 and RDJ had nearly three times as many retweets as anyone else.


Mr. Iron Man himself also accounted for the top eight tweets and nine of the top ten. Only a tweet from Once Upon a Time’s Lana Parrilla broke his streak:

RDJ was in Toronto promoting his new film, The Judge, with Robert Duvall. Maybe not coincidentally, The Judge was the most-mentioned film during the festival, of which its star accounted for almost three-quarters of its mentions.


Our pre-festival favourite, Clouds of Sils Maria, dropped to fourth, beat out by People’s Choice winner Imitation Game and Still Alice.

The top tweet from Downey Jr. was actually a farewell photo featuring his wife and son.

He also posted pictures of himself licking actor Vincent D’Onofrio and downing a drink on the red carpet.

TIFF’s own handle had the second most retweets, followed by Variety and Warner Bros Pictures.

Other top stars included the aforementioned Parrilla and Clouds of Sils Maria star, Chloë Moretz.

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Michael Geist: When is it OK to share copyrighted material internally?

BACKGROUND: Finance Canada was recently taken to Federal Court by an Ottawa news agency after the outlet claimed copyright violation by the department, alleging that staff emailed two news articles internally.

Michael Geist: MediaMiser board member

University of Ottawa professor and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law Michael Geist. (image supplied)

Finance Canada, for its part, responded that the articles “were emailed for non-commercial, research purpose and used fairly.”

In light of cases like this, it’s sometimes hard to know what the average Canadian should do if they want to share an article internally for research purposes — especially if they don’t want to step on any legal landmines.

We asked University of Ottawa professor and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law Michael Geist to explain:

MM: Is there a gap in knowledge when it comes to copyright law among Canadians?

MG: There’s certainly often a gap. That stems from those who aren’t aware, but also because there are real uncertainties about where the law falls on these issues. This case is a clear example of that: you have a provider who feels there has been an infringement and is seeking compensation, but you’ve also got a department who is responding in kind and believes that both on contractual and copyright grounds, they’re operating within the law.

Sometimes the law isn’t clear-cut. But even when it is clear-cut, you get differing opinions on how to interpret it.

MM: So can a user share a full copy of a story if it is for research purposes?

MG: This is an unsatisfying answer, but it depends. If you’re not under any contractual restrictions (from your subscription agreement), then I think the answer is that yes (it is OK). The dissemination of a single article for those purposes is likely to fall within the “fair dealing” exception.

Where things get more complicated is when there is a contract… that creates express limits on what they’re able to do with those articles. In that case the potential violation is not a copyright violation per se, but a breach of contract.

MM: How does a typical reader or subscriber know they’re under a contract?

MG: There certainly will be cases where someone isn’t aware of limitations that might exist. And if you’re an organization subject to limitations and providing access to users, you’d likely want to provide users with knowledge about what they’re entitled to do with the information.

But bear in mind these contracts are themselves still subject to the law. It may be that some contracts seek to override the law, and there is still debate amongst some on whether you can do that.

MM: When does it start to get really risky for those sharing content internally? Is there a rule of thumb in terms of the number of articles you can pass around?

MG: If a large number of articles all come from one source, it could impact the fair dealing analysis. But if we’re talking about one-off incidental copying of articles the fair dealing argument may still be quite compelling.

MM: How much impact does commercial vs. non-commercial use have?

MG: If you’re trying to argue that the copying was fair dealing, then there is a six-factor test that has been established by the Supreme Court of Canada to determine whether or not the use is more or less fair.

So commercial use is one of the factors, but contrary to what some have tried to suggest, it’s not disqualifying: it’s not the case that just because someone is (copying) for commercial purposes, that they have no opportunity at all to make a fair dealing claim.

(Please see this link, under the heading “Fairness of the dealing,” for a full list and explanation of the six factors that help determine fair dealing).

MM: What can people do to ensure they’re on the right side of the law at all times?

MG: If you’re regularly sending stuff around, and are subject to contractual limits, then you’ve got a number of options: You can get a site license that allows you to disseminate or distribute on a broader basis. You can also obtain a collective license that covers a wide range of materials from different copyright collectives. Or… you can just go to the copyright holder for permission to distribute that particular piece.

MM: Do you think we’ll see more of these types of legal actions as some media outlets become more and more cash-strapped?

MG: We might. I do think that as we see publications move toward pay walls and metering, they may find ways to enforce that—or at least send a few timely reminders that this is their business model, and they’re going to use the means available to them to try to enforce it.

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Amazing Race Canada (S2,E10): Everyone loves PEI

**Spoiler Alert**

As predicted in last week’s post, there was an increase in the social media activity for this week’s episode of the Amazing Race Canada.

This was largely thanks to strong activity from those on Prince Edward Island itself (where last night’s episode took place), but also people across Canada talking about PEI.


Natalie Spooner and Meghan Mikkelson strip mussels off their ropes during a particularly smelly challenge.











This week’s episode saw a 15.8% increase in Twitter interaction from last week. Other than Toronto, Charlottetown and the rest of PEI were the most active regions with 10.4% of all tweets in which the location could be confirmed.

This once again highlights the strength of Amazing Race Canada’s hometown appeal to viewers.

Hashtags such as #anneofgreengables, #Charlottetown, and #PEI were used throughout the episode. The hashtag #PEI was also used in 12.8% of all tweets, demonstrating the affinity viewers have for the Island and its citizens.

Top Five Cities (Percentage of known tweets)

  • Toronto 20.5%
  • Charlottetown/PEI 10.4%
  • Winnipeg 8.2%
  • Calgary 7.0%
  • Ottawa 5.1%

This episode will definitely pay off in spades for Tourism PEI, as the show has quickly become a fantastic marketing platform for the Canadian tourism industry.

Besides the picturesque location and challenging tasks The Amazing Race Canada’s penchant for great storylines continues, whether that involves viewers cheering for Canadian Olympians Natalie Spooner & Meaghan Mikkelson, underdogs Ryan Steele & Rob Goddard, or this year’s comic relief team Mickey Henry & Pete Schmalz.

Every protagonist needs an antagonist, however, and Sukhi and Jinder seem to have embraced this persona somewhat. Once again, The Amazing Race Canada focused on Sukhi and Jinder trying to deceive fellow competitors. Though the ploy on Natalie and Meghan failed, Sukhi and Jinder still ended up winning the leg.

But the majority of support still goes to fan favorites, starting with Natalie & Meaghan:

Percentage of Twitter mentions:

  • 26.1% Natalie Spooner & Meaghan Mikkelson (2nd)
  • 10.3% Sukhi & Jinder Atwal (1st)
  • 6.4% Mickey Henry & Pete Schmalz (3rd)
  • 4.7% Ryan Steele & Rob Goddard (4th)
  • 1.9% Alain Chanoine & Audrey Tousignant-Maurice (Eliminated)

As for corporate sponsors, once again, Air Canada’s #ACWinTheWorld contest continues to be a success. Air Canada was the most tweeted brand, being mentioned in 3.7% of all tweets for this episode.

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TIFF 2014: Clouds of Sils Maria and Kristen Stewart lead the buzz

The Toronto International Film Festival debuts today as Hollywood and international film stars descend on Toronto and a number of high profile films will be shown over the next week and a half.

We’ve tracked the festival the previous two years and we’d thought we’d take a look at the 2014 version., monitoring both #TIFF and #TIFF14 on Twitter to see what people are most excited about.

We’ve noted before that TIFF tweets tend to be predominantly Canadian, which is still the same this year. Of tweets with locations, just less than 72 per cent came from Canda, while just less than 14 came from the US.


Toronto, not surprisingly, was the top city, accounting for almost 47 per cent of tweets with a location. Los Angeles was a distant, distant second with 3 per cent and New York had 2.2 per cent.


Clouds of Sils Maria, starring Kristen Stewart, Juliette Binoche and Chloe Moretz, has generated by far the most buzz of any film at the festival so far.


Stewart herself has generated some good buzz for her performance in the film.

She was by far the most mentioned actor while Binoche also appeared in the top ten. tiff2014stars.png Bill Murray, who stars in the film St. Vincent also got some buzz and was the second most-mentioned actor:

And, finally, Julianne Moore may be up for this year’s Benedict Cumberbatch award, starring in both the second and third most mentioned movies, Still Alice and Maps to the Stars. Moore herself, though, was just the sixth most-mentioned actor.

With the festival just kicking off, stay tuned as we see how the festival progresses.

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Amazing Race Canada (S2,E9): Jet lag hits teams as they head back to Canada

**Spoiler Alert!**


This week’s episode didn’t have nearly the audience interaction as past episodes

For Episode 9 of Amazing Race Canada, Teams found themselves back in Canada this week as they raced through through the streets of Montreal.

Despite being in one of Canda’s biggest cities, Twitter interaction was down, both compared to Episode 8 and Episode 7 from this season and compared to Episode 9 from Season 1

Episode 9 was one of the strongest episodes from Amazing Race Canada’s first season. Episode 9 this year had 3.6 per cent less Twitter interaction than its counterpart last season. It also saw a 10.3 percent drop from last week’s episode. However, it should be pointed out the show was aired a day after Labour Day.

Other factors could have had an effect on social media interaction, though. Unlike previous episodes in cities, there was little engagement from local tourism groups or Montreal-based venues.

A good example of a city where local interaction drove engagement was Episode 6 in Winnipeg. In fact, that episode had 51.4% more Twitter activity than this week’s.

Local viewer interaction also has a big impact on social media activity. People like to talk about what they know and that creates even more interest for other viewers.

Winnipeg was the second most Twitter mentions, behind only Toronto, Canada’s biggest media market. Montreal, Canada’s second biggest media market, barely made the top 5.

  1. Toronto: 21%
  2. Winnipeg: 10%
  3. Calgary: 7%
  4. Ottawa: 5%
  5. Montreal: 5%

As we’ve mentioned before, storyline has an impact on viewer interaction, which could be the case this week — it was a non-elimination race, fan favourites Natalie Spooner & Meaghan Mikkelson had a mediocre finish, and the episode lacked the drama of other episodes. However, it did have some interesting twists, such as brother and sister team, Sukhi & Jinder Atwal, having to pose naked together for artists to earn a fast forward, which ultimately allowed them to win the leg.

Not only did it help them win this leg of the race, but they also dominated the social media conversation with 13.7% of all tweets compared to 11.8% for Natalie Spooner & Meaghan Mikkelson.

Also, Sukhi & Jinder Atwal almost eliminated their nemeses Ryan Steele & Rob Goddard by stealing the fast forward.

Percentage of Twitter conversations:

  1. Sukhi & Jinder Atwal: 13.7%
  2. Natalie Spooner & Meaghan Mikkelson: 11.8%
  3. Ryan Steele & Rob Goddard: 9.8%
  4. xMickey Henry & Pete Schmalz: 9.8%
  5. Alain Chanoine & Audrey Tousignant-Maurice: 3.5%

I expect that Episode 10 will do much better than Episode 9 on Twitter. Someone will get eliminated and, depending who it is, it’s almost certain to add to the social conversation and the drama.

Furthermore, teams are headed to Prince Edward Island. During this episode, PEI represented 3% of all tweets. Part of this was due to the trailer at the end of the episode and anticipation to next week’s leg of the race.

As teams head east, the jet lag should wear off and I predict more viewer social media interaction.

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Amazing Race Canada (S2,E8): Mentos, Karma, and I said Yes!

**Spoiler Alert!**


The Amazing Race Canada capped off their visit to the City of Love with a proposal.

Amazing Race Canada continued in France this week as the teams made their way to Paris and the storyline of the show keeps getting better each week.

Last week, contestants and viewers took pause to remember the sacrifices made by Canadians on the shores of Juno Beach in Normandy. Last week’s episode was a mix of emotion and Canadian pride and it made a significant impression on social media.

Tweets this week were down 14.5 per cent from the previous week. However, compared to last year’s episode 8, mentions were up 38.3 per cent.

Once again Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson came out on top, marking their sixth win. The pair was also extremely popular on Twitter, accounting for 17.6 per cent of all mentions. Other interesting storylines emerged, however, as the race took on a more personal tone.

With an addition of a double U-turn, which allowed teams to slow down their competition. Inter-team cooperation took a back seat and was replaced by resentment and animosity.

Twins Pierre and Michel Forget, went back on promise to Alain Chanoine and Audrey Tousignant-Maurice not to U-turn them and Sukhi and Jinder Atwal lied to Ryan Steele and Rob Goddard during a roadblock. Then, to add injury to insult, roadblocked them despite knowing they already had an extra penalty to complete.

Viewers engaging on Twitter showed their disapproval for both teams over their betrayals.

However viewers were rewarded with some justice when Pierre and Michel were eliminated on the Mentos challenge, which had contestants recreate art with Mentos candy.

Mentos are sweet, but Karma is even sweeter. The word karma was mentioned in 3.6 per cent of all tweets.

Mentos itself was mentioned in 2.4 per cent of all tweets, making for effective product placement.

Still, Air Canada continued to be the most recognized brand on Amazing Race Canada, with their #ACWinTheWorld contest mentioned in 3.6 per cent of all tweets.

There were heroes as well a villains in this episode, as both U-turned teams survived and received accolades from tweeters.

Ryan Steele and Rob Goddard received 4.7 per cent of all tweets, a big improvement over the previous week.

The episode was nicely wrapped up by both not only a strong finish from Alain Chanoine and Audrey Tousignant-Maurice, but also a marriage proposal from Alain to Audrey at the finish line.

And it was the perfect location, too: the famous Pont des Arts, where couples make commitments to each other by adding a pad lock to the bridge.

And, of course, she said Yes. With the promoted hashtag #congratsalainandaudrey, Alain and Audrey took top spot in mentions with 20.6 per cent of all tweets.

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VMAs: 5 Seconds of Summer was surprise top performer

The MTV Video Music Awards are known for their unpredictability. You never know who’s going to wear what outrageous outfit or do a performance of a lifetime.  So, we weren’t going to miss this year’s VMAs!

We monitored the keywords “Video” “Music” and “Awards” together, as well as “MTV Video Music Awards” and the handle @TheVMAsNews during a four-and-a-half window around the EDT broadcast. We looked at the Twitter handles of the performers and charted our findings via share of voice among the top five.

The Australian pop/punk boy band 5 Seconds of Summer received the most mentions on Twitter during the live broadcast of MTV's Video Music Awards.

The Australian pop/punk boy band 5 Seconds of Summer received the most mentions on Twitter during the live broadcast of MTV’s Video Music Awards.

The performer that garnered the most user handle mentions on Twitter during the VMAs was 5 Seconds of Summer – an Australian pop/punk boy band with 34 per cent SOV.

It was a little surprising was that despite doing a 20-minute performance and bringing her husband Jay Z and daughter Blue Ivy on stage, Beyonce wasn’t the top mentioned, she came in second with 29 per cent SOV.

Ninki Minaj came in third most mentioned with 13 per cent SOV and Ariana Grande and Fifth Harmony, rounded out the top five, with 12 per cent SOV each.

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Amazing Race Canada (S2,E7): Lest We Forget

**Spoiler Alert!**

Once again, The Amazing Race Canada left the confines of Canada for an overseas destination. This time instead of heading to an Asian country, teams travelled east to Normandy, France.


Most teams got emotional when touring the Canadian D-Day cemetery, and at the end of the leg after meeting Canadian WW2 veteran Jim Parks.

Like all Amazing Race episodes, roadblocks are typically designed to either show a unique cultural element or promote a sponsor’s product. But the show had to be extra sensitive about how it approached this leg, since it focused on the Canadian D-Day military cemetery at Bény-sur-Mer and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Juno Beach and elsewhere.

This sensitivity also had to be extended to social media, or the show risked being perceived as exploiting something sacred to most Canadians — namely, the sacrifices of Canadian World War 2 veterans.

The show’s official Twitter account, contestants, and host Jon Montgomery set the tone with tweets touching upon their experiences at Juno and Bény-sur-Mer.

The Juno Beach Centre Twitter account also tweeted during the episode, receiving 4.1 per cent of all tweets mentioning the show. This is extremely high for any group or organization featured on the show.

The impact of Bény-sur-Mer, Juno, and D-Day veteran Jim Parks, who greeted contestants at the Pit Stop, was expressed by viewers on Twitter.

Almost all the comments were respectful and many viewers expressed gratitude and pride about being Canadian.

Jim Parks was mentioned in eight per cent of tweets, with nearly every tweet personally thanking him for his sacrifice.

During the episode ARC also promoted the hashtag #OurCanadianHeroes, and it ended up representing an incredible 26.1 per cent of all tweets. This is definitely the most influential promoted hashtag on The Amazing Race Canada to date.

Overall the show saw a 55.3 per cent increase from last year, but a decrease from last week of 13.9 per cent. However, the post show last week have skewed these results somewhat: If comments from the post show are removed, this week’s show featured a decrease of just 5.8 per cent.

In many ways, the Amazing Race Canada is the ultimate travel brochure for all things Canadian. There’s nothing wrong with educating Canadians on sacrifices made on Juno Beach, and if approached properly, social media can have a role to play if done with tact.

The Amazing Race Canada did a great job achieving this balance. In fact, the episode prompted curiosity and questions from one of my children on the significance and sacrifices made by Canadians and other Allied soldiers on June 6, 1944 in Normandy, France.

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