The numbers suggest that The Shire will be a hit

shireA couple of months back, Google Analytics launched an addictive new feature.

You can watch, in real time, exactly how many people are on the site, where they’re being referred from, and – best of all – which stories they are looking at.

So up on the wall we have a 42 inch plasma screen showing the real time state of play.

When traffic builds minute-by-minute as our daily email drops, it’s like watching a set of stairs being build as the columns get higher.

So far, I’ve only once witnessed a moment when we had more than 1000 people on the site at once – we’d just sent an email rounding up the stories my colleague Robin had filed overnight from the Cannes Lions when word came in of Fairfax’s upheavals.

It creates a competitive atmosphere in the office as everybody battles for – and banters over – who wrote the top rating story of the minute. I believe that strategists would call it gamification.

shire analytics

The Shire tops the Mumbrella analytics screen

Which brings me onto Ten’s new “dramality” show.

Over the last 36 hours, one topic has been consistently in number one spot on the analytics board – and that’s The Shire.

It’s being referred from Twitter, from Facebook, from Google News and from organic search. Which suggests to me that when it airs on Ten at 8pm on Monday, it may do better than might be expected.

Last night, we got the first proper taste of the characters and the conflicts of The Shire.

Now this comes with the caveat that Ten does amazing trailers which the ratings sometimes struggle to match. Remember the one for Junior Masterchef? And also that by being based in Sutherland Shire it’s a very NSW-centric show.

But check out last night’s first look at The Shire. Regardless of how depressing you might find so-called reality TV, it looks like production company Shine has found some  people that viewers are either going to love, or enjoy hating. Usually when I post that sort of video, it’ll take a week or so to hit 1000 views. Twelve hours later, it’s already topped 900.

shire kiss 1Characters such as the exotically spelled Vernesa and Beckaa asking questions like “Would you want to be born with brains or looks?”, and stating preferences such as “I love looking fake” have big watercooler potential. Not to mention the  more meta, inevitable conversation about the banality of Australian television.

It’s going to be schlock of course, but I suspect it will be well made schlock.

I can hear the Tuesday morning talkback radio calls already.

And this is where the symbiotic relationship between press and pop TV comes in. If web editors are experiencing the same phenomenon that we have been this week, then by now they will know that The Shire drives clicks. Which means they’ll race to post more stories. Which means more anticipation for the show and bigger ratings.

That’s the theory anyway – at the very least, it’s going to be fascinating if viewing behaviour matches online behaviour.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, I actually found myself entering 8pm on Monday into my electronic calendar so I don’t forget.

The competition in the timeslot isn’t too bad – we’ll have to see if Nine holds its nerve and airs another US episode of The Voice as scheduled while Seven has The Amazing Race.

Ten of course, is trying to manage expectations and won’t give a ratings prediction. But if Being Lara Bingle can average 925,000 on debut, then The Shire has got to be good for a million. And of course, the demos will also skew young. So I’m going to bet 1.3m. (I’ll warn you though – that’s what I bet on Celebrity Apprentice and that only debuted with 900,000.)

But if I was a media buyer with a few last minute discretionary dollars, I think I might take a punt.

Tim Burrowes


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