World Cup

The World Cup: The World's First Truly Globalized Media Event

We're soccer fans here at NDN, in case you haven't noticed, and we're currently addicted to the World Cup in a bad way.  As the Cup approached, I wrote a couple short posts on how the World's Greatest Sporting Event might affect global connectivity-- whether it would drive adoption or innovation-- particularly in the mobile space.  And it has, no doubt.  If you've been watching on ESPN, you've heard the announcers remind you that you can "follow all the action online, on your TV or on your mobile phone" (with British accent-emphasis on the mow-boile phoune).

In addition, it turns out all this football madness has had an impact on this here internet.  Post Tech reports that the opening day of the World Cup saw the highest web traffic ever, with over 12 million visitors every minute around noon EST.  That's a good 50% higher than the second-highest peak in history of 8 million visitors/minute, which occurred on the evening of November 4, 2008.  Note that the third-highest peak ever was also a World Cup moment-- it happened around the time the US was eliminated from the 2006 Cup by Ghana. Akamai has the numbers.

Maurice Edu Scored That GoalWhat's driving all this? A few facts, followed by a few theories: Numbers this big are necessarily driven by North American internet users.  While every other continent is over 100% above usual internet usage (North America is at about 90% above typical usage), all those continents combined don't equal the number of viewers in North America.  So despite the canard that Americans don't care about soccer (popularized by Europeans, adopted by American conservatives)... they do.

But, if the numbers are driven by the U.S., why does the World Cup cause a bigger spike than, say, the Super Bowl? Or Michael Phelps? Or the Christmas Day bomber?  Part of the explanation, at least, has to be that the Cup, unlike most sporting events, happens at odd hours, while Americans are at work, rather than on their couch, so they're depending on the internet, more than television. But I think there's also a more interesting explanation...

As NDN has noted time and again, we live in an increasingly globalized, interconnected world-- and this trend has accelerated as connectivity has expanded to include the over 4.5 billion people on earth with a mobile phone. Increased web activity around this truly global event is echoing beyond borders, and the passions of foreign football fanatics are driving greater activity of American web-users. 

What I'm saying is that World Cup frenzy in the US is being driven not just by soccer-maniacs, but by regular people who are responding to the global obsession. Though Stanley McChrystal snuck into Twitter's Trending Topics today, the top-ten list has been absolutely dominated by World Cup-related items over the past two weeks.  Media produced around the world is being gobbled up by Americans. And who could have imagined the word Vuvuzela on the lips of so many Americans this week?

Global football madness is driving Americans' activity on the web, whether they know it or not. I can think of a few examples of American media driving global activity, but this may be the first time it's gone in the other direction. Does that make this World Cup the first truly globalized media event?  I'd say so.

Space-Binding, Time-Splitting Soccer

"Live" coverage of the Olympics and the World Cup are space-binding and time-splitting technologies of international sporting culture, recorded and read across the world through a complex prism of nation, region, race, class, sexual practice and gender.

- David Rowe, Jim McKay & Toby Miller, Come Together: Sport, Nationalism and the Media Image

That quote comes from Mediasport, an edited volume on how media affects sport and vice versa.  It was written in 1998, before the real space-binding technologies went truly global. I wrote last week about how the World Cup has Mandela & World Cup Trophythe potential to be a big driver of mobile adoption around the world. Basically, I argued that, because this is the first World Cup to be played in a world with widespread mobile access, people from Togo to Tokyo will want to get SMS score updates, audio broadcasts, and even live video of the games.

The appropriate level of technology will vary from place to place, but I'd be surprised if we didn't see a global bump, as everyone upgrades just a little-- whether it's an Argentine farmer who buys his first phone so that he can get score updates in the fields, or a Danish businessman who needs a way to watch the games in his lap at the conference table.

I'll go a step further even, to speculate that we'll likely see a great deal of innovation and new products and services emerging to enable yet more space-binding and time-splitting technology around the world. In places where television access is limited, I'd have to imagine there's a strong market for SMS score updates, and further, a place for a company to step in and offer those updates for free, in exchange for the occasional SMS advertisement. In the developing world, SMS is a marketing tool with powerful, largley untapped potential. The World Cup may go a long way to pushing that forward.

Anyhow, here's another video to pump you up for South Africa's World Cup, this one brough to you by the good folks at Pepsi, and including some space-binding, time-splitting play from Lionel Messi, Thierry Henri, Didier Drogba:

The World Cup and Global Connectivity

Every four years, it's amazing to see the way soccer (futbol) brings people together from all over the world, with eyes in Japan, Iran, Algeria, Brazil, and every other country on earth glued to the TV screen. For a month, politics and dispute disappear, and the world comes together over one simple thing.

The World Cup is now barely a month away, and I've been thinking about what this huge global event (the hugest global event?) means for global connectivity. Four years ago, when the World Cup was held in Germany, less than half of people on earth had access to the global communications network.  Only about 41% of the world's population had a mobile phone-- barely 20% in Africa. Today, in South Africa, where the World Cup will begin next month, nearly 100% of the population has a mobile phone-- and through that device, instant access to the worldwide information and communications network. Over 4 billion people on earth are connected.

I talk a lot about how universal access to a truly global network is, in itself, a seminal event in human history, and I wonder if this World Cup will be a tipping point in that regard:  pushing up the number of mobile subscribers because everyone wants to know the score of their games, increasing the number of smartphone users because everyone will want video on the go, increasing the use of cross-border communication for cheering, chatting and taunting... Fururism is a hazy science, but how could this global event not feed off of and contribute to global connectivity?

Anyhow, this ad, which already is one of my all-time favorite ads, sums up the nature of the World Cup as well as anything:

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