Rare photo of Jesus blessing Patricia Arquette during her acceptance speech. pic.twitter.com/C4nr8Pp9Az— Tim Lyzen (@TLyzen) February 23, 2015
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted its 87th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, honoring the best films of 2014. If you missed it, you're not alone: Nielsen said viewership dropped by 16% from 2014, from 43.7 million to 36.6 million, making the latest Oscar show the least viewed since 2009.
The viewership drop was to be expected considering the previous ceremony's Best Picture winner and most-awarded movie --12 Years a Slave and Gravity, respectively -- were box office hits, while this year's big winners -- Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel tied with four awards, with the former taking the Best Picture award -- were much less popular. The highest-grossing film in contention, American Sniper, was mostly shut out, only winning one award -- Sound Editing -- from its six nominations.
Host Neil Patrick Harris led a mostly forgettable ceremony, with John Travolta providing the only real -- but by now, expected -- cringe-worthy moment. The lack of box office winners and high-profile embarrassments proved bad news for Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), with the microblogging site only recording 5.9 million Oscars-related tweets, down from 11.2 million last year. But there was a marked difference on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).
Staggering growth with more engagement
If there was one huge winner, outside of the winning films, it had to be Facebook. In a blog post two days before the show, the company said 11.3 million people posted about last year's award show, with an overall total of 25.4 million posts, comments, and likes.
Furthermore, this year the company introduced its Trending Oscars experience designed to emphasize the event. It appears its efforts paid off: Facebook improved its number of posters to 21 million and interactions to 58 million, a year-over-year increase of 86% and 128%, respectively.
Not only are these increases amazing on a raw-numbers basis, but the implications are intriguing. First, a larger percentage increase in interactions than in number of posters suggests a more-engaged audience. Second, these users are providing event-specific data with their movie picks, celebrity fascinations, and product discussions that might not be discovered in day-to-day status updates.
For investors, this is good news. Due to its ad-based model, Facebook depends on growing timeline views by a combination of incremental users and/or increases in viewership, then monetizing that demand by delivering targeted, focused ads. Naturally, Facebook's Oscars-focused coverage accomplished both goals.
Facebook's getting better at live events; its Live Feed function could compete with Twitter
If anything, this shows Facebook is looking to erode one of Twitter's competitive advantages -- the live nature of its platform -- with its Trending feature. If the Oscars were any indication, Facebook did a better job this year than Twitter did of growing user interaction from the previous year. To be fair, this isn't necessarily a zero-sum construct, but Facebook is improving its capacity to compete with Twitter at its core competency.
It also appears Facebook is working on Twitter's other big advantage: distribution. While many users are content with discussing the event among friends and family, many want to contribute to the greater conversation and zeitgeist outside of their social circle. Facebook's design doesn't necessarily lend itself to wide distribution, and the media generally covers Facebook's privacy settings as a cautionary tale, but its Live Feed function could compete with Twitter.
Specifically, the Live Feed allows users to have their public posts about the Oscars scroll on everybody's Trending Oscars page. The function is rudimentary compared to Twitter's offering, but the potential is there to create a competing service if done correctly and broadened. While it is important to note this was just one night, Twitter should follow Facebook's Live Feed moves carefully.
Jamal Carnette owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Facebook, and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Facebook, and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.