Three Ways Producers Can Improve American Idol's Voting System

By Drew Hendricks March 12, 2013

There's no question that American Idol is doing a lot of things right. Even without the caustic wit and dead-on criticism for which we came to love Simon Cowell, the show remains a television success of historic proportions and a game-changer for real talents who might otherwise never get a chance in the spotlight.However, it's hard to ignore the fact that, for all the show's success, the sales numbers that one would expect from careers that are launched so prodigiously have failed to materialize for most past winners. Yes, Kelly Clarkson is a legitimate star now, and Jennifer Hudson is one of music's most exciting talents, but what about Ruben Stoddard? In almost every season, there have been one or more American Idol winners who should have done more than they did after the season wrapped.One way to change this would be to improve the voting system in order to gain insight, not just about how fans vote, but also about who they are.

Capturing Demographic Information

The audience for American Idol is huge, and people of all different ages and walks of life vote for their favorite performer. (After all, there's Ryan Seacrest every week, smiling with those pearly whites of his and begging you to vote.) That creates a demographically vague voting pattern that doesn't necessarily translate to success in the real music industry.If every voter were required to provide a small amount of demographic information (age and gender, basically) then the vote results would become far more interesting. They would be more indicative of future success. And they would give the audience and contestants something to think about. If girls in the 13-16 age range are all voting for one contestant, that contestant has platinum in his future. If men in their 40s are voting for another contestant, she/he may have a mammoth voice, but she/he ain't gonna sell many records.

Identity Verification

So far, the Idol franchise has worked hard to get as many votes as possible, and they've succeeded to a degree that is almost awe-inspiring. A year ago, in March 2012, AT&T announced that it had logged over 600 million votes in the 10 preceding seasons of American Idol. That's almost double the entire population of the United States.But in its push for a massive quantity of voting, the show has failed to defend the quality of its voting. With the judging table looking more and more like a game of musical chairs and the show fighting to remain viable, perhaps quality voting is what's needed. Verifying the identities of voters using any number of systems would allow the show to control voting a little better. That might give the show back some of the credibility it lost with the exit of the irascible Cowell.

Creating Voter Profiles

By allowing viewers to create a voter profile and then only allowing votes through a verified profile, Idol could control its voting, deliver quality information to its viewers and contestants, and keep its winners connected to the fans that voted for them long after they've graduated from the show by taking advantage of the well-documented power of social media marketing.

Creating these voter profiles would also add a new twist to the show, which could be hugely interesting for the viewers. Entertainment isn't just about the spectacle on the stage. It's also about how people respond to that spectacle. The more information the producers have about who votes, the more they will be able to describe the audience to the audience, giving the Idol franchise an intriguing glimpse into the culture of its viewers.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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