How many people REALLY watched the Royal Wedding? Analyzing the ‘estimates’ and cutting through the hype

Prince Wiliam and Kate Middleton kiss at Buckingham Palace, shortly after being married and named the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. How many people watched the royal wedding? Let's cut through the hype.


The New York Times estimated that 3 billion people (give or take 500 million) watched the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Really? Come on.

Let’s imagine for a minute that we’re “giving” 500 million to that number, which would mean 3.5 billion watched it — last I checked, there were just about 7 billion people on the planet, which would mean literally 1 out of every 2 people spent their Friday morning watching a wedding.

There’s a quick and easy way to prove that’s not true: Poll 20 people. Did 10 of them watch it? No. Even my girlfriend, who LOVES weddings, didn’t get up at 6 a.m. to watch.

America, who left England’s rule to get away from royalty 235 years ago, was strangely interested but not as much as the media would have you believe. Only 22.76 million Americans watched the wedding, according to Nielsen TV ratings. For frame of reference, “American Idol” is averaging 25.9 and 24.0 million viewers this season — at the height of its popularity three or four years ago, “Idol” averaged 35 million.

NME reports that, even in the UK, only 24.5 million people watched on terrestrial broadcasts. Including Internet coverage, that number is still less than 34 million — and this is in the only country that should care about the royal wedding, since it’s their prince and princess (or duke and duchess, whatever). More British people watched Princess Diana’s funeral, and even the 1966 World Cup.

Okay, so if we’re going to come anywhere close to 3 billion people worldwide, it’ll have to be from international Internet streaming — times have changed since the last royal wedding, and you can’t rely on TV ratings to get an accurate estimate of live events like this anymore.

Akamai, which provides approximately 20% of the Internet’s streaming traffic for 300 news sites like MSNBC, saw about 5.4 million viewers per minute at its peak. The 2010 World Cup averaged twice as much.

Granted, a lot of people did watch and the royal wedding did occupy all of Friday’s trending topics on Google, Twitter and Facebook — but it didn’t “break” the Internet, like Michael Jackson’s death did. Perhaps the media was leading the conversation too much, trying to convince people that what they were reporting on was an accurate representation of what their audiences actually cared about. Fox News even desperately wrote an article giving three reasons why you “should” care about the wedding.

When’s the last time someone told you that you should care about something actually made you care about it? People can make up their own minds to decide what they care about.

Ironically, a New York Times poll said only 6% of Americans truly cared about the royal wedding — the same source that estimated 3 billion people watched the ceremony. Lesson? Don’t believe the hype, and take everything you read with a grain of salt.

Note: I did, in fact, watch about 45 minutes of the wedding — including the weak first kiss. The horse-drawn carriage afterwards was fairy tale-esque, but let’s face it. At the end of the day, it was just a couple who met in college getting married.

When false news spreads: Has Twitter become one giant version of the ‘telephone’ game?

We’ve all played the telephone game at one point when we were kids. One kid says “My aunt Sally usually likes to bake cookies using lots of sugar,” and by the time it gets to the 12th kid it’s become “My aunt Sally makes cookies with sugar and chocolate chips.” It’s a very human behavior, and sometimes the meaning is still intact, but… have you noticed news reporting, especially on a social medium limited to only 140 characters, has become sloppy?

First of all, fake celebrity deaths is a separate problem. We see a famous person’s name trending on Twitter and, morbidly, half of us assume the person has died without even checking to see what people are saying. If you do actually click to see what “William Shatner” tweets are saying, half of them are saying “Why is William Shatner trending?” and most of the rest will say “William Shatner is 80 – happy birthday, Captain Kirk!” But there’ll be a few that say “RIP William Shatner” and that will spread.

The real issue with “telephone” news is that a rumor quickly becomes fact without any proof or change, except in the flow of information from one person to the next.

On Monday, ONE source had claimed Katie Couric was “thinking” about leaving CBS Evening News since her contract is up in June. By Monday night, everyone had reported on it and moved on and said “I can’t believe Katie Couric quit” and “Now that Katie Couric has confirmed she’s leaving CBS Evening News, who should replace her?”

False. No one had confirmed anything.

But that’s the telephone game. “Source says” and “confirmed” are two different things, people. It’s more exciting to say you’ve confirmed something than “report claims” or any other softer approach. Plus, we’re often so excited at “big” news that we like to be the first to tell our friends, so often we’ll retweet or add our own $.02 without confirming anything or even bothering to read past one headline.

Are we victims of our own human nature to spread false information on the Internet? Speaking especially as a hard-of-hearing person, I’ve noticed that we often hear what we want to hear and interpret it in our own way. Then when we relay the information, the facts change. Sometimes slightly, sometimes completely.

News media has always been more interested in being FIRST than being correct, and the Internet has perpetuated that incredibly in the SEO and SMO game. Plus, if you post a false story on your Twitter or your blog, all you have to do to correct it later is other post something new or just edit the original story. Tempting, I know, but please… check your facts before you spread news.

Happy Coffins – have a funeral with a smile!

Image courtesy of AOL News

'Happy Coffins,' introduced last week by the Lien Foundation, are intended to help take the fear out of death.

Death is a funny thing.

I’m sure when the first person said “Hey, maybe we should give them a pillow” there was a similar reaction to this: Happy Coffins.

Debuted last week in Singapore by the Lien Foundation, Happy Coffins are designed to make funerals less grim.   These decorated coffins include designs such as jeans, wine bottles, and even quirky expressions like “Hello, coffin, you seem to be nice.”

They even have a website where you can choose your Last Playlist – a soundtrack for your own funeral.  (If that’s not weird enough, there’s a different website, AndVinyly.com, that lets you get your ashes pressed into your favorite vinyl record.)

According to AOL News, the Happy Coffins currently available are 12 winners of a design contest with over 700 entries from 33 countries around the world.

Lee and Sister Geraldine Tan came up with the idea, and first tried the idea out on residents of a senior home in Singapore – of the 10 they asked, only five liked the idea.  Of those five, three helped design their own casket and even took turns posing for pictures with it.

Some say it’s distasteful to try and do this to death: “I’m sure people have differing views about the desirability of Happy Coffins,” said Lee Tan.  But don’t forget, we once though it was inappropriate to walk down the aisle to anything other than “Here Comes The Bride” and now everyone seems to want to dance to Chris Brown’s “Forever.”

What do you think?  When you bite the big one, do you want to lighten the ceremony for the grieving friends and family with a Happy Coffin?

Is 45 too old for trick-or-treating?

Some Halloween costumes I've worn over the years: Deaf Chef, Michael Phelps, Baby Spice, Flava Flav.

The last time I went trick-or-treating, I was probably 13 or 14. I’ve worn costumes many times since then (most of which had nothing to do with Halloween).

However, the debate comes up every October – how old is too old for trick-or-treating? A Dallas mom has a rule that if you’re too old for a Chuck-E-Cheese party, you’re too old.  Another blogger says, as long as they still get in the spirit and dress up, teenagers are okay to trick-or-treat.  This one says if they have their drivers’ license, they should be doing something else for Halloween.

One Illinois town even banned all kids above 8th grade from trick-or-treating.  Parents who allowed their kids to go from door-to-door asking for candy would be fined $25.

Meet Stan, the 45-year old attorney from Wichita who still goes out every year:

This is what Stan wrote about his October 31st compulsion:

I have a sweet tooth the size of Alaska. That’s why when Halloween rolls around at the end of October, I’ll break out the old shopping bags and go begging.

Some people may say I suffer from a case of arrested development, but where on the law books is there a statute of limitations on trick-or-treating? I should know–I’m a lawyer.

At 45, it’s not easy to look like a kid. I’m five-ten and two-hundred plus pounds.

But I’m nothing if not ingenious. Last year I taped wrapping paper and ribbon around some cardboard boxes and went as a stack of Christmas presents. All you could see of me was my baby blues through the eye holes.

I keep an up-to-date computer database on the best and worst neighborhoods for candy. It’s based on a somewhat complex program that considers the number of lit and unlit porch lights, size of pumpkins, types of treats, etc.

As far as getting caught, the closest I ever came was three years ago at my parents’ house.

But the best part of Halloween for me is the rest of the year. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to offer clients a Starburst from the Wedgwood jar on my desk, then pop one into my own mouth. And only I know my Halloween secret.

Is it fake?  Could be.  Nevertheless, I’m curious as to what you think.  How old is too old?

Note: You’re never too old to wear a costume and act ridiculous for a day/night at work or a party.  Are you looking for couples costume ideas, by the way?