Bring back Julia DeMato!!!

‘Idol’ voting strained nerves, nation’s telephone systems
A week after Fox received a record 24 million calls from American Idol viewers choosing the fate of Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken, fans are still debating the accuracy of the final vote. Studdard’s margin of victory was only 134,400 votes.
The confusion over the voting totals in Wednesday’s live broadcast was fueled by conflicting figures read by Idol host Ryan Seacrest. A spokesman for the show says Seacrest is not to blame. The first incorrect figure √≥ 13,000 √≥ was displayed on the teleprompter. The second √≥ 1,335 √≥ was written on a card given to Seacrest.
Many people received busy signals during the final three hours of voting on Tuesday, causing some to suspect that, in shades of the 2000 Bush vs. Gore presidential contest, the lost votes might have produced a different result.
But like a radio call-in contest, phone networks can handle only so many calls at one time. The Idol finale was like a local radio contest magnified many times, featuring two popular contestants, millions of fans and two phone numbers with equal capacity. All this adds up to a virtual deadlock.
“My daughter dialed more than a hundred times and couldn’t get through,” says Cynthia McGinnes of Chestertown, Md. “This is a show we all watch as a family, and I guarantee you we will never watch again. My daughter was in tears.”
But many opted for different technology. Dana Goldstein, 15, turned to her cell phone’s text-messaging option instead.
The Manhattan Beach, Calif., teen couldn’t get through by phone, so she switched to text voting. “It’s a lot easier, because you get through every time.”
AT&T, which supplied the text-messaging option for its 21 million subscribers at 10 cents a pop, supplied 2.5 million votes, or about 10% of the total. “And not a single message got rejected,” AT&T’s Andre Dahan says. AT&T did not provide a breakdown of votes, but text messaging could have made the difference.
Verizon, the nation’s largest phone company, says call volume was up on Tuesday by 116 million calls. “So many called, the network was flooded,” Verizon’s Daniel Diaz Zapata says. “It doesn’t mean the network was faulty, just everybody was trying to dial in at the same time.”
SBC, which operates in 13 states, says it received 115 million additional calls. “Our network engineers found that if people waited a half-hour after the voting started, they had a much better chance of getting through,” SBC’s Suzy Henderson says.
For all the griping about people not being able to connect with their potential votes, “24 million did get through,” Fox’s Scott Grogin says. “The system worked like it was supposed to.”
Last summer’s Idol produced 18 million votes, and Grogin says Fox talked about new voting procedures this time, such as using the Internet, but nothing came of it.
The Internet was used for CBS’ Star Search, which made its debut in January. That show used a similar system of celebrity judges and viewer votes. Instead of phone calls, CBS opted for online votes, but the show was live, so only viewers in the Eastern time zone could vote. CBS hasn’t said how many votes have been counted.
Will Fox try the Net, or alternative methods, in January for the next Idol? Fox isn’t saying. “We have seven months for that,” Grogin says. “It’s a long ways away.”
Still, “getting 24 million phone calls into one narrow, short period of time is not an insignificant number,” AT&T’s Dahan says. Text messaging, however, can handle bigger volumes more easily, because the messages are queued up and stamped with the time, he says. “It will be delayed momentarily, but it gets through and still counts.”
Christopher Saunders of the Instant Messaging Planet newsletter says that although Fox should look into instant messaging and the Internet as alternatives, its best bet is continuing with text messaging, because it can pay for itself.
“In Europe, where text messaging is more widespread, many shows charge 50 cents to use the system, and they get a lot of calls. And they always get through.”