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The online world of Eurovision: Are we at a turning point?

by | Mar 22, 2018

The online world of Eurovision: Are we at a turning point?

by | Mar 22, 2018 | Eurovision, Featured |

About this time twenty years ago, back in 1998, I got my very first internet connection. One of the first things I searched for – not via the search engine with the multi-coloured “g” – was anything to do with Eurovision. To my surprise, I found that other fans exist. Learning that the contest has so many fans all over the world was exciting and verified my own status: I am truly an ESC fan. It took me some time to discover the most relevant places, pages with content created by fans, as Eurovision itself only had a temporary and rudimentary website for each edition at this point. From 1999 I was even able to listen to “leaked” songs from the upcoming contest. What a wow effect! Can you imagine?

Surfen Surfen durch die Welt mit Multimedia! (image: ard/youtube)

Another year on, in early 2000, I discovered “euronet” and its IRC chat. A place created by fans, for fans. I quickly became addicted, met a lot of wonderful people who shared the same interest in Eurovision, and as a previously lonely fan I became a part of a Eurovision community for the first time in my life. Euronet was also home to the messageboard, another popular place made by fans for other fans, with quite a large overlap between both user groups. And that was not the only online place for fans. There were mailing lists (wiki that), Yahoo! groups, and lots of other small places with their own communities.

mIRC – our favourite IRC client for Windows (get it here*)

As many of you will know, back in 2004, a fairly large section of the euronet chat community established a new chat (“#esc”) that was independent of its former host, and a little later the messageboard found a new home too. Around the same time, fan websites were generally getting larger and larger. We saw the rise (and eventually the decline) of “esctoday”, the first really big player in our fan website scene. By that time, the Eurovision Song Contest had its own permanent official website, too. Meanwhile, the #esc chat remained a very active and popular place.

And then, in 2008, everything changed. The formerly popular forums began to die out. And in our chat – as backed up by our statistics – we saw a massive drop in engagement. A decline in activity of over 50% in just one year.

The activity in the chat (total number of lines), in 2006, 2007 and 2008

Chat activity (total number of lines) in 2006, 2007 and 2008

What happened? Social media happened.

One site in particular, beginning with “F” and once musically extolled by Valentina Monetta, basically wiped out large parts of our community, and others too. Of course, each individual is free to (re)locate their euro-social activity to wherever they see fit, especially when everyone else is doing it. But it was sad to see organically grown communities, run privately by fans in their own time, dying out and being replaced by gigantic global enterprises.

source: eurovisionbyjaz.com

Uh oh. (image: eurovisionbyjaz.com)

We responded, established our own website in 2009 (formerly esc-chat.com, now escgo.com) – and by doing, so we actually managed to reanimate the chat. However, other than on nights with shows and events to watch together, when we’re still nicely busy, our little place would remain relatively quiet from now on.

Fast forward ten years, and social media are literally everywhere. Whether you can escape them (or whether you would even want to) is unclear. The fact that “everyone is there!” makes it even harder to draw a line and quit, after all. FOMO. Fear of missing out. But what if you did decide to take that step and actually leave those corporate-controlled posts, groups and tweets behind – for whatever reason?

What’s good is that there are still lots of different websites about Eurovision, serving different audiences and providing different types of content. This variety ensures that you, as a user, have a choice. More websites lead to more diversity, more communities to participate in, and can even help keep the Eurovision world free from fake news.

And yes, you can keep in touch with the Eurovision community outside of social media! How?

  • Join communities on platforms that are run by fans, not by global operating companies.
  • Repopulate the forums and message boards – they may be old-school, but they’re real.
  • Join your national OGAE fan club, still going strong even in this internet age.
  • Exchange landline phone numbers – or even postal adresses – in real life. Go organic! It’s not just for hipsters.
  • And last but not least, visit our very own IRC chat. Yes, IRC, that old technology that’s still simple and effective even now. Maybe especially now. We can’t promise anything concerning its security, but we have zero interest in collecting and selling your personal data. And that’s worth something in 2018.

* For Mac users who want to join the chat via an IRC client application, we recommend colloquy

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