American Idol

This just in: Phone Snags Thwart 'Idol' Voters!

Ok, Captain Obvious. But here's the interesting part:

In last year's finale between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken, a total of 24 million votes were recorded, with Studdard declared the winner by a slim 134,000-vote margin.

But on the same night, Verizon, the nation's largest phone company, saw its daily volume increase by 116 million calls while SBC reported a call-volume increase of 115 million, according to Broadcasting & Cable.

Doing the math, that's 24 million votes recorded out of 230 million+ calls (not including other carriers) which is only 10% of the total votes cast! [As a Floridian, this makes me feel much better about our ability to record votes. <g>]

Now I know that 10 million or even 10 thousand out of any sized population is more than statistically relevant - but it seems like there should be much better ways to capture the vote from a technology standpoint. Of course, Fox loves the higher numbers and busy signals since they try to use them as a proxy for rating, so they'd probably never bite on some of these ideas. But it's worth considering.

1) Use caller ID to determine where votes are coming from and only allow each person to vote once per contestant per week (potential problem here with “private numbers“ that don't support caller ID). Another problem is that there's disparity here w.r.t. the number of phones per household.

2) Assign voter registration codes. People go online to register for these just like they would a real voter registration. This allows you to vote from any phone more than once (everybody in the family is happy) and potentially allows Fox to use registration data as the carrot for getting a code. That could be extremely valuable to advertisers. It eliminates the problem associated with private numbers - the new problem is that it requires Web access, but maybe you have a separate channel for requesting a vote code via telephone or snail mail. Of course, making sure everybody requests 1 and only 1 vote code is your next challenge - you can't use something like a social security number to ensure uniqueness. But this would stem the tide of “power dialers” who simply revive their BBS WarDialer software to cast Idol votes.

3) Web voting. It's obvious why they haven't implemented this yet given the sponsor money they get from AT&T. But they could make MSN or that “other” online service the sponsor. ;-) Obviously Web voting may not scale either, but I think it scales better than the existing telephone voting system would.

4) Stop caring about the outcome. That's right, after all, it's just American Idol. Sure, I'm rooting for Diana DeGarmo as much as the next guy - but if she doesn't win, I'm sure she'll have a perfectly good career (once she finishes high school and all). <g>