Can Social Networking Accurately Predict Oscar Winners?

Feb 24 2014, 9:04pm CST | by

Can Social Networking Accurately Predict Oscar Winners?
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

Companies mine social media for all kinds of information these days. There’s data out there to show how popular a brand is, what people really think about Justin Bieber and whether we’re still going to eat Hot Pockets. But can social media accurately predict the Oscars?

Farsite Forecast believes it can. The analytics division of technology company ICC, Farsite looks at a combination of buzz, previous award wins and prior performance to determine its winners. Last year the company scored 5 out of 6 on the biggest categories. The only place it stumbled was Best Director where Life of Pi‘s Ang Lee beat out presumed winner Steven Spielberg.

Right now here are the company’s scientifically-based picks (numbers can fluctuate based on buzz level):

Best Picture: 12 Years A Slave

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto

To be fair, Farsite is not going our on a limb with any of these picks. Their choices line up nicely with Entertainment Weekly ‘s picks aside from Best Picture. The magazine has Gravity with a 19% chance of winning and 12 Years a Slave with an 18% chance of winning. Farsite gives 12 Years the edge.

While forecasts can get pretty close, it’s tough for them to get to 100% for something like the Academy Awards. Academy voters are a narrow group that is not reflective of the nation as a whole. They are mostly white and mostly male according to this analysis by the Los Angeles Times. And there are few enough of them that a couple of rogue voters could change the outcome.

Add to that the fact that voting for Best Picture has changed this year. Voters will rank their picks. If one movie earns 50% of the votes for Best Picture it will win. If not, the film with the fewest number of votes is eliminated and the second choice on those ballot becomes the first choice. That process goes on until there is a clear winner. Who knows how that will affect the final outcome? We may see a dark horse like The Wolf of Wall Street end up the winner.

For viewers, that’s fine. The Oscars are always more fun when there are some surprises. If all of Farsite’s picks win it will be a fairly boring night. But I’m guessing the makers of 12 Years a Slave and Gravity are wishing the process was a little more streamlined.

Follow me on Twitter at DorothyatForbes.

Oscars 2013: The Winners

Source: Forbes Business


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