by Pam Greenberg
Last week, Governing's Management Letter asked "a simple question:"
"A bunch of states are considering requiring audio or video recordings of government meetings. But who's watching? …all we want to know is whether states that put in the effort measure the number of people who actually look at the recordings afterwards."
For state legislatures, the answer is that many do have the numbers on how many people watch legislative proceedings on the Internet, and the numbers are interesting. Barry LaGrave, Director of Public Information Services for the Minnesota House of Representatives provided me with these figures:
For calendar year 2007, the Minnesota House had:
- 111,754 combined hits to the live and archive webcast streams, averaging 306 hits per day.
- 11,652 "distinct visitors" (This means the number of unique IPs. Each one could have watched one or 111 clips.)
- Average play duration of live and archive streams was 29 minutes, 27 seconds
- A relatively even usage pattern Monday-Friday, with a slight increase on Thursdays.
Barry notes that their top "hit" day was April 26, 2007 (6,024 hits), when they had a two-part, 10-hour floor session debate of the omnibus tax bill and the statewide smoking ban bill. The last day of the 2007 regular session also generated a ton of hits: 5,836. Minnesota's House Television Services and Senate Media Services televise and webcast the legislative proceedings.
Some numbers from other states:
Washington's TVW televises and webcasts government proceedings. TVW produces more than 2,000 hours of original programming annually, of which about 40 percent is legislative coverage. TVW reports that "2006 and 2007 statewide polls of registered voters by Elway Research show that 22 percent of registered voters in Washington State, some 800,000 people, had watched TVW within the last 2 weeks."
The Virginia Senate has about 70-100 daily users of its streaming video coverage (not including staff and others in the Senate, House of Delegates and Legislative Agencies who watch on the Capitol Campus). Jonathan Palmore of Senate Information Services also reports that the Senate has an audio only stream that has about 20 users daily.
Maine provides video coverage of legislative proceedings. Paul Mayotte, Director of the Office of Information Services, was able to report that from the beginning of January 2008 through January 24, the Maine Senate registered more than 700 connections, had close to 200 unique viewers, and averaged more than 30 daily viewers. Average play duration was close to 20 minutes. Keep in mind that Maine is early in its session--these statistics cover just eight floor sessions that did not average more than an hour.
We won't compare these numbers to the Nielsen ratings for The Oprah Winfrey Show, but all the same, the numbers seem pretty impressive to me. NCSL's list of states that webcast and televise legislative proceedings is at http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/webcasts.htm.