The Water Cooler is Bigger than Ever

by Luke Wroblewski September 7, 2008

Despite the Web’s natural capacity to connect niche audiences and content, the most popular events are attracting more attention than ever before. Consider these so-called “water cooler” moments that huge numbers of people pay attention to and ultimately create a share sense of culture through shared context & dialog:

  • The Beijing Summer Olympics Games was the most-watched U.S. television event of all time. Through 17 days of coverage, 214 million viewers watched the Olympics on NBC Universal's broadcast network and cable channels, according to Nielsen Media Research.
  • Barack Obama's speech for the Democratic presidential nomination was seen by 38.4 million viewers (57% more than watched four years ago) and was the most-watched convention speech ever until John McCain's address at the Republican National Convention which was seen by 38.9 million viewers.
  • The 2008 Super Bowl was seen by 97.5 million viewers, which made it the most-watched Super Bowl ever.

This has some interesting implications on the long tail theory which states: “that our economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.” Despite the popularity of the long tail theory, several rebuttals have been published to it as well: