Wednesday, July 4, 2007

CBC Tests Power of Social Networking

CBC has really taken the reigns when it comes to technological innovation, partnering with mobile phone companies and Websites, alike to offer its content through various means of distribution. But the broadcaster is receiving some flak as of late for its attempt to use a popular social networking Website to “poll” Canadians on their wishes for the country. The project, in celebration of Canada Day, was aptly named the Great Canadian Wish List, and could be found on widely popular site Was this an innovative approach to reaching an audience; or rife with issues?

Many argue the obvious: how can you confirm that legitimate people are submitting responses, and not fake accounts set-up by lobbyists to promote their own cause? What’s more, how can you confirm that the people responding are even Canadian? Not to mention: how many people are actually taking the poll seriously? One of the most “recently created” wish lists was to “bring back the McDeal”. Need I say more?

On a more serious level, the top “wish” on the list is to abolish abortion in Canada (9,753 respondents); followed by (ironically) for Canada to remain pro-choice (8,302). Rounding out the top five are a spiritual revival in our nation (4,608); to restore the traditional definition of marriage (4,590); and to lower or altogether eliminate tuition fees (3,507).

CBC says that the exercise was not meant to be an actual poll, but rather an experiment to gauge how social networking Websites could be used to reach an audience, and to help build support for a cause that one believes in.

Some journalists have called the experiment “embarrassing” for the CBC; while others have commended the broadcaster on its innovative tactics. I agree with the latter: whether the experiment worked or not is irrelevant. After all, that's why it’s called an experiment. The Great Canadian Wish List represented a fresh, creative approach to expression, and deserves some applause in my opinion.

The final CBC report on the Great Canadian Wish List, for those who are interested, can be viewed here:

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