Hurtigruten: A Norwegian Social Media Phenomenon

Here at Texifter, we are regularly impressed by the many ways in which our increasing number of end-users discover new ways to apply DiscoverText’s capabilities to their own research. With each new success story, we are – once again – reminded of the theories of MIT professor Eric von Hippel, who argues that end-users are often responsible for substantial innovations. For that reason, we will occasionally take time to highlight some of those innovative DiscoverText users on our blog, in hopes that you – too – will be so inspired. If you have a DiscoverText success story of your own that you’d like to share, feel free to write-up your own post or e-mail me at

On June 16 the “Nordnorge,” a Norwegian Coastal Express ship (or “Hurtigruten”), set sail from Bergen to Kirkenes for a historic journey around the Norwegian coastline. For its 134-hour journey, millions of Norwegians (as well as viewers from around the globe) tuned-in to ‘channel NRK2’ to watch a 24-hour feed from the ship, which sailed by stunning vistas, extraordinary wildlife, and mesmerizing landscapes. A Norwegian friend of mine told me that it invoked a sense of wonder and near-hypnosis.

Throughout Norway, “Hurtigruten – minutt for minutt” was dubbed a new media phenomenon, in which social media supposedly played a significant role in its vast popularity. But one Norwegian blogger named Jacob Christian Prebensen (with the technology and new media blog, NRKbeta) was particularly skeptical about the way in which Hurtigruten’s popularity supposedly spread. He suspected that while over half of Norway utilizes social media, only a fraction of Hurtigruten’s 3 million viewers were actually inspired by social media. Therefore, he used DiscoverText to tap into the “Hurtigruten – minutt for minutt” Facebook fan-page, which had been “liked” over 60,000 times. In spite of this number, the fan page did not shed any light upon how much communication had actually occurred on the fan-page itself; and so Jacob ingested every comment on the fan-page into DiscoverText, which counted approximately 10,000 comments.

Next, Jacob used a website entitled to calculate the number of tweets that included the hashtag #hurtigruten. Also on, he calculated the percentage of those tweets, which were neither messages nor retweets, but rather tweets that were specifically unique. While little did Jacob know that he could have easily accomplished this task in DiscoverText using the de-duplication and clustering features, he ultimately concluded that of the 30,000+ tweets that mentioned #hurtigruten, they originated from only about 6,000 users.

Jacob’s twitter calculation, taken together with his DiscoverText Facebook calculation, ultimately helped to disprove the popular Norwegian misconception that the popularity of “Hurtigruten – minutt for minutt” was solely a social media phenomenon, as only a fraction of the program’s Norwegian viewership actually utilized social media to spread the word.

(Special thanks to Mohammed Awed for his kind help in translation)

About Josh Sowalsky

Josh Sowalsky is the Director of User Support at Texifter, where he has worked since September 2010. He holds two degrees in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from UMASS Amherst, where he minored in History, Arabic, and International Relations. While at UMASS Josh designed and taught an advanced course that examined the intersection of technological development and national identity formation. Serving also as a research assistant in the UMASS Political Science department, he researched and published articles on electoral politics and political dissent in Jordan. Josh has conducted and presented multilingual field research on civil society development, democratization, and national identity formation throughout the Middle East - namely in Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. His honors thesis was entitled, "The Role of Women's Rights NGOs in Syrian Democratization." When not managing projects in QDAP or harvesting Arabic protest tweets in DiscoverText, Josh can be found strumming a ukulele, exploring Netflix, or swinging aimlessly at tennis balls.
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