Tears, drama, sob stories and pantomime, singing seems to take a back seat on ITV’s The X Factor.

It’s clear from blogs and message boards that backstage antics, feuds between the judges and gossip about contestants have more water cooler value than Leona Lewis belting out a Snow Patrol classic.

Not that important, some of you might say. But Simon Cowell, who makes the programme through his production company Syco, and ITV, might want to start monitoring social media to keep the viewers in and protect the TV show’s commercial value which includes a £20m sponsorship deal.

The week after Laura White was controversially voted off the show Simon Cowell himself said it was the public that placed her in the bottom two through phone votes. So if democracy is at the top of the agenda, then how about listening to online commentary of the show to shape the programme’s future?

After all, it is the viewers that make The X Factor an attractive sponsorship deal for the Carphone Warehouse. Cadbury utilised the power of the new democracy by bringing back the Wispa chocolate bar after taking notice of online petitions, helping them to increase sales by 11%.

Just by analysing some of the commentary on blogs, and messages on forums, it’s clear that viewers have strong views on who should and shouldn’t be on the judging panel. And after the weekend’s row between Dannii Minogue and Louis Walsh, the internet rumour mill has been awakened, with talk of a shake up for the judging panel planned for 2009.

The X Factor forum on Digital Spy is one of the show’s most active communities. Looking at commentary surrounding Cheryl Cole, the addition of the Girls Aloud singer has been mostly positive, though sometimes overshadowed by discussion of her up and down fashion choices…

“The dress was nice but I hated the head piece” – soapaddictDS

“Has Cheryl Cole taken fashion tips from Pat Butcher..?” – yarg74

“She’s by far the most hands on judge” – Nancy_Drew

And this week Louis Walsh planted the seeds for his own demise, helping to invigorate support for Dannii Minogue…

“It was the loathsome Walsh’s bullying, making Minogue cry” – nathanbrazil

“The nasty little man needs to go” – cazzz

“I am disgusted by the treatment of Danni this year” – Something Vague

“If I was Dannii, I would have walked by now” – Lucky Lock

“Dannii won’t quit, shes a minogue, they are fighters” – jamesdav

If one listened to the voices of the web, Louis Walsh would be a goner. More importantly, if the rumours are true and a new judge is being sought out, X Factor bosses could use social media to find out who would be a popular choice.

What’s key is for the new addition to be respected by the audience and influential in the music arena. All of which can be judged by monitoring the sentiment of online conversations i.e. are most online conversations about Gary Barlow potentially joining the panel positive or negative?

In a thread titled Replace Louis with… Gary Barlow, Robbie Williams, P Diddy, Kian Egan and Pete Waterman are all names suggested by fans of the show.

So, if 2009’s X Factor does see changes, will TV bosses listen to the voices of social media to choose the new judge? Let’s hope so.

Written by

Leon Bailey Green

– consultant to social media monitoring company

Market Sentinel