Page last updated at 07:10 GMT, Saturday, 16 May 2009 08:10 UK

Online with the Eurovision fans

By Ewan Spence
Technology journalist

Jade Ewen
UK entry Jade Ewen's song was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber

On Saturday, 16,000 people will be watching the 54th Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow's Olimpisky Stadium.

More than 100 million people are expected to watch it across Europe; many of whom will also be hooked up to the net, discussing the staging, songs, hosts, and everything else that people chat about during Eurovision.

And using the latest applications to achieve this, they will be continuing one of the original goals of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Established in 1956, by Marcel Bezencon and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the event was set up to promote harmony between the countries of Europe and the use of new technology to broadcast events across the continent.

The official website now contains live and on-demand streaming of the events through peer-to-peer technology, a portal for news articles, and a social network allowing Eurovision fans to create their own profile pages, blog their thoughts, and interact with each other.

"[It is] even more important to us to keep the spectators informed about the latest developments," says Bjorn Erichson,'s director.

This aim - to foster inclusiveness in the Song Contest - has seen the EBU embrace other sites, such as Facebook.

The official Facebook group has more than 37,000 fans and lively discussions can be found on the message boards, complementing Eurovision's main site.

Of course, Eurovision fans are not restricted to just official sites.

Russell Davies is the senior editor for esctoday, the largest independent Eurovision site, and this year has some 250,000 page views a day.

"That's not just during the Eurovision Finals period, but throughout the year," he is happy to point out.

Dima Bilan
Critics say Russia only won the 2008 event due to block voting

"The interest level is maintained throughout the year, but picks up tremendously when the National Finals start running in January to choose each country's song."

There are user comments on every news item, and the site has more than 36,000 registered members who discuss each and every story; the annual poll to find the fans' favourite song has seen almost 100,000 votes cast.

The site has also seen its content syndicated around Europe. A recent interview with Sakis Rouvas - Greece's entrant to the Eurovision Song Contest - was rebroadcast on the Greek national Star Channel.

The recent explosion in web services has meant that traditional websites are not the only avenue for discussions.

Christina Schilling - who co-wrote the Irish Eurovision song this year - has set up a Twitter account in advance of Saturdays event.

"I thought it would be nice for others to follow my time in Moscow," she said.

Ms Schilling is also a Facebook user, but says she uses the two services in a very different manner.

"I try to keep my Facebook personal, only connecting to friends and family I know. Twitter is more like a mini-blog that I can update quickly."

Many Twitter users will be following an account called Twumpet - organised by Father Ted writer Graham Linehan, it acts as a central conduit for shared Twitter happenings.

Starting off as the Bad Movie Club, where people around the world all pressed play on their DVD's at the same time on a selected film, and twittered their thoughts as the film (M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening) ran on countless screens around the world.

Could the next next big Twumpet event be the Eurovision Song Contest? We will find out on Saturday.

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