The unwritten (and arguably unreasonable) rule against spoiler alerts was ignored en masse Sunday night, when East Coast viewers of MTV's Video Music Awards took to Twitter, not only letting their West Coast compatriots know what was coming, but setting a Twitter record.
As Miley Cyrus flashed her uvula, cavorted with teddy bears and twerked all over a Beetlejuice-channeling Robin Thicke, East Coast Twitter traffic for this year's Video Music Awards peaked at 306,100 tweets per minute.
Love it or hate it, the controversial duet between the 20-year-old woman and the 36-year-old man proved hard to describe for many social media users. And while Cyrus didn't win any of MTV's "Moon Man" awards, she holds the title of most tweeted-about VMA performance, receiving 4.5 million mentions in tweets sent out during the 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET airing.
Nevertheless, valiant attempts to describe and talk about the controversial performance, in 140 characters, or less filled the Twitterverse. Peak tweets pummeled last year's VMA records, which topped out at a comparatively measly 98,300 tweets per minute. To put that in perspective, Twitter points out in a press statement that the much-tweeted Super Bowl blackout last February peaked at 231,000 tweets per minute.
All of that's chump change compared to the all-time Twitter tweets-per-minute record, achieved just a few weeks earlier during a television airing of Hayao Miyazaki's 1986 film, "Castle in the Sky" in Japan on Aug. 3.
"At one moment they took to Twitter so much that we hit a one-second peak of 143,199 tweets per second," wrote Raffi Krikorian, Twitter's vice-president, platform engineering, on the site's blog. For those still in a daze over last night's performance, that works out to around 8.5 million tweets per minute. Twitter averages more than 500 million tweets a day, or about 5,700 tweets a second, according to the site.
So while Cyrus inspired the most tweets per minute during the VMAs, she's got a long way to go to beat "Castle in the Sky." What's more, the spike in VMA-related tweets likely has as much to do — if not more — with the growing popularity of tweeting while watching TV. A recent report from Nielsen confirmed that TV viewers do indeed enjoy live-tweeting about their shows.
Cyrus described her ambition to make the "We Can't Stop"/"Blurred Lines" musical mashup, "The best VMA performance of all time" in a pre-performance backstage interview with MTV. Whether she achieved that goal may be debated on the Internet for hours — maybe even days — to come. But on Twitter, she beats all comers.
Top Twitter moments for the 2013 VMAs. ( Data is based only on the East Coast airing of the show.)
Tweets per minute peaks:
- Miley and Robin Thicke perform: 306,100 tweets per minute
- Justin Timberlake’s performance concludes: 219,800 tweets per minute
- Drake performs: 194,500 tweets per minute
- Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech: 189,300 tweets per minute
- Kanye West performs: 181,200 tweets per minute
(For comparison, last year’s show had a peak of 98,300 tweets per minute.)
Most mentioned stars:
- Miley: 4.5 million
- Justin Timberlake: 2.9 million
- Lady Gaga: 1.9
- Drake: 1.6
- Kanye West: 1 million
And here are some of the tweets:
(Actually, the Smiths are watching Lady Gaga — note Gaga inset, lower right TV corner — but you get the idea...)
(Technically, Dawson didn't tweet this during the performance, but it's funny. So ... )